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First Baptist Church of Reno Records

Identifier: NC1108
The Records of the First Baptist Church of Reno, Nevada thoroughly documents two aspects of the Reno Baptist Church community: that of the Board of Trustees; and the numerous organizations.

The largest series in this collection is Series 1, "Administrative Records." This series documents the growth of the church, from its mission status in 1875 to creation of branch missions in Verdi and East Reno (Sparks), to its position today as one of several Baptist churches in Reno. As one of Reno's leading churches, the First Baptist Church reflects the history of Reno itself, illustrating the economic and social changes which were happening in the community at large as well as in the church. Series 1 consists of minutes of general congregational and Trustees' meetings, beginning with the organizational meeting in 1875 and continuing to 1999. The volumes, marked Records, additionally contain covenants, constitutions and bylaws, statistics, and membership rolls. The membership rolls contain useful information about who belonged to the Church, dates that individuals joined or left the church, the marriage of women members, and deaths. Other information inserted into the minutes includes financial reports and some correspondence, principally concerning the resignation of ministers and lay leaders. The minutes themselves contain committee reports; accounts of general church and organization activities; and discussions pertaining to the physical and financial management of the church. This series is arranged by type and in chronological order.

Substantive documentation of church activities is contained in the minutes of the many women's organizations. The oldest of these was the Ladies' Serving Society/Ladies' Aid Society, for which there are minutes from 1896-1915. The longest existing women's organization was the Dorcas Circle/Women's Auxiliary which was active from before 1899. Both the Ladies' Aid and the Auxiliary were important adjuncts to the Board of Trustees, assisting in the spiritual, physical, and financial maintenance of the church. Minutes of their meetings provide evidence of the prominent families in the church: the Frazers, Coffins, Sawins, Wedekinds, Churches, and Adams, to name a few. These societies and circles were major opportunities for social interaction in Reno, with regular meetings held several times a month and committee meetings in between for specific functions such as bazaars and church suppers.

Other records worth noting are the church histories written by Maude Sawin Taylor; the newspaper clippings; and the photographs. The church histories provide accounts of the several church buildings; lists of ministers; and events of note. The clippings supplement the histories and also provide published accounts of the Women's Auxiliary activities and prominent church members such as Dr. James Edward Church, Jr., known as the founder and developer of snow surveying, his wife Florence Humphrey Church, and the Rev. Brewster Adams.

The photographs depict early, prominent members and ministers, and the several church buildings occupied by the First Baptist Church of Reno, Nevada. Other images include a photo of the Verdi mission church; the interior of the railroad chapel car used for the East Reno Baptist mission; a church camp session at Sugar Pine, 1960; early Reno streets and buildings; an early Reno bridge; and scenes at a church dinner.


  • 1869-2009



Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


8 Cubic Feet (13 boxes)


Included are minutes of the Board of Trustees, Board of Christian Education, Dorcas Circle/Women's Auxiliary, Ladies' Serving Society/Ladies' Aid Society, Mission Circle, Philathea Class, Junior Guide Girls, Baptist Young People's Society, and Friendship Circle. Also in the collection are manuscript church histories by Maude Sawin Taylor; clippings about the church, Rev. Adams, and James Edward Church; photographs of the church and its missions, downtown Reno, and several ministers; and three Bibles, 1869-1879. Mentioned frequently in the minutes of women's organizations is quiltmaking.

Administrative History

The First Baptist Church of Reno, Nevada, was organized in November 1875 and held its first meetings at the Reno Opera House at 209 North Virginia Street. By May of the following year, the first church building was constructed at 25 West 2nd Street. The first pastor was the Reverend C. L. Fisher. After a March 1879 fire destroyed the church and many downtown buildings, a new church was built on the same site and completed in June 1880. That building was the victim of a second fire in 1889 and was replaced by a new church at 2nd and Chestnut Streets. By 1958, the congregation had outgrown the Chestnut Street site so the property was sold and a church was built on Foster Drive, just off Hunter Lake Drive.

As the church grew, several branches, or missions, were established in the area; first one in Verdi in 1896, and then a second in East Reno (now Sparks) in 1903. By 1911, the church had become self-supporting and no longer needed aid from the American Baptist Home Mission Society. The Baptist Church was also growing regionally. Two ministers of the Reno church, the Reverend A. G. Sawin and the Reverend Brewster Adams, were instrumental in organizing the Nevada-Sierra Baptist Convention which held annual meetings in northern Nevada and northeastern California.

One of the best-known of the church's ministers was the Reverend Brewster Adams (1879-1959), who served from 1910-1946. For many years he authored a column in the Nevada State Journal called "Values in the Rough," served on the Nevada Fish and Game Commission, and was a member of the Reno Chamber of Commerce, Civil Air Patrol, Reno Rotary Club, Elks, Oddfellows, and Shriners. Active in welfare work, he helped persuade the state legislature to create the State Board of Charities, Relief, and Pension Control, and the Welfare Board. He was a recipient of an honorary LL.D. degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1945.

The church was governed by a Board of Trustees which defined general church policy and administered fund raising, financial affairs, and church maintenance. There were several subcommittees, including Deacons and Deaconesses, and the Board of Christian Education. Church members, particularly women and older girls, were active in many church societies and circles. They included the Dorcas Circle, later renamed the Women's Auxiliary; the Mission Circle; the Ladies Serving Society, also known as the Ladies' Aid Society; the Philathea Class; the Junior Guild Girls; the Baptist Young People's Society; and the Friendship Circle. There were also several men's groups, few of which are documented here.

The sources for much of the above history of the First Baptist Church of Reno, Nevada, are unpublished manuscript histories of the church by Maude Sawin Taylor, located in Series 1 of this collection, and notes taken from the minutes of the Trustees and various women's organizations.


The records of the First Baptist Church of Reno, Nevada, are arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Administrative Records

Series 2: Board of Christian Education

Series 3: Dorcas Circle/Women's Auxiliary

Series 4: Ladies' Serving Society/Ladies' Aid Society

Series 5: Women’s Mission Circle

Series 6: Youth Organizations

Series 7: American Baptist Women’s Ministries

Series 8: Friendship Circle

Series 9: Men’s Organizations

Series 10: Women’s Missionary Society

Series 11: Publications

Series 12: Bibles

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records of the First Baptist Church of Reno, Nevada, were initially donated to the Special Collections Department in 1977 by Marjorie Olsen on behalf of the church. In 2009, Marjorie Olsen again donated an additional set of records that cover the years 1958-2009.


Materials in this collection were donated in two separate installments, first in 1977 and again in 2009. The second set of documents filled many gaps in the collection as well as enhance the coverage of the original material. Because of the content of the second donation, some series were changed or added from the original organization to better reflect materials received. Therefore, the collection now consists of eight cubic feet of records which date from 1875-2009; and three Bibles, 1869-1879.

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the photo archives of the Special Collections Department as collection number UNRS-P1991-47.
A Guide to the First Baptist Church of Reno Records
Susan Searcy
August 1991
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)