Resources for the Study of Baptists in the Northwest in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives

By Sumners, Bill | Baptist History and Heritage, Summer-Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Resources for the Study of Baptists in the Northwest in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives


Sumners, Bill, Baptist History and Heritage


Examining the general historiography of Baptists in the Northwest is beneficial before venturing into specific sources located at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA). This examination will be selective and not nearly exhaustive, but several sources should be mentioned.

Histories of Baptists in the Northwest

Two works on the early Baptist endeavors in the Northwest are: Baptist Annals of Oregon, 1844-1900 by C. H. Mattoon, and Baptists and the Oregon Frontier by Clifford P. Miller. Mattoon described the difficulty in being one of the first to write such a history: "Indulgence is asked, because this is the first effort to write a detailed history of Baptist work on this field and because much of the data, especially the earliest, has been exceedingly hard to find. Many records are lost, and, with solitary exceptions, brethren contemporary with the events, are far removed or dead." (1)

Miller, in his preface to this 1967 book, observed about the use of research material, "Whether one examines a dusty church record book, leafs through brittle pages of old associational minutes, peruses the crude diaries of unlettered preachers, or explores a forgotten, weed-choked cemetery, he will find variety and color, unexpected surprises, and fresh insight into human nature and conduct." (2) Another study of Oregon Baptists is Albert Wardin's exhaustive study published in 1969.

Wardin's work covered the broad scope of all Baptists in the state. A quick look at his bibliography reveals the vast sources found in this impressive study. (3) Any serious look at Baptists in Oregon has to begin with Wardin's volume.

Roy Johnson's Northwest Southern Baptists chronicled the influence of Baptists from the South on the Northwest and the development of the Baptist General Convention of Oregon and Washington in 1949. Johnson's history included particular information on southern-oriented associations and churches in the Northwest. (4) A more recent history, Northwest Southern Baptists, 1884-1998, traced the influence of Southern Baptists on the Northwest. The makers of much of this history, Cecil Sims, Roy Johnson, and Max Daley, authored the volume. (5)

A final book source is a seventy-two-page paperback volume entitled Southern Baptists, Westward Ho! by R. E. Milam. This small book is an apologetic for Southern Baptist influence in the Northwest. Milam dedicated his book to Texas Baptists and to the Baptist Standard for their influence on his life. Milam wrote of the coming of Southern Baptists into the region and some of the conflicts that ensued. (6)

Northwest Baptist Sources at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives

The sources on Baptists in the Northwest housed at the SBHLA are useful but somewhat limited. The collection holds only ten Northwest Baptist Convention church records. All of these are located on microfilm. The collection of associational annuals is more extensive. The archives contains a few nineteenth-century annuals, including the following Oregon associations: Central, Middle Oregon, and Willamette. In Washington, our earliest annuals are from the Northwestern and Palouse associations. Most all of the other holdings of annuals are related to Southern Baptists and begin in the 1950s. The Siloam Baptist Association of Regular Predestinarian Baptists annuals has a scattered, but significant, run from 1879 to 1920 in the archives. The SBHLA also houses a complete series of state annuals for the Northwest Baptist Convention (NWBC) from 1948.

Holdings of publications and newspapers related to Baptists in the Northwest are also modest. Yet, several of these publications merit attention. The Pacific Baptist (and its predecessors, North Pacific Baptist and the Baptist Beacon) began in 1877 and continued until it ceased publication in 1919. This newspaper documented much of early Baptist actions and endeavors in the Northwest. …

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