Baton Rouge Seventh-day Adventist Church

A Brief History of Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Work Begins

Elder B. F. Purdham and his wife, Laura (Ancestry, 2015)

The first work in Baton Rouge was done in 1890 by a company of canvassers. Elder Benjamin Franklin Purdham and his half-brother, Fountain Thomas Purdham, held a short series of tent meetings there in the summer of 1891. They had some good interests but it rained nearly every day and the people were afraid of any stormy-looking cloud because they had just been through a destructive cyclone a few weeks prior (Purdham, 1891). In July 1892, Elder Robert M. Kilgore reported that he had spent the night with the family of a lady who was the only Sabbath keeper in that city (Kilgore, 1892).

Baton Rouge Church Organized IN 1925

Benjamin and Bessie Webb (Ancestry, 2017)

In 1916, Mrs. R. W. Clevenger, an isolated member in Baton Rouge, wrote to the conference office that she had organized a Sabbath school and it was meeting in Benjamin F. and Bessie Webb’s home (Worker, 1916). Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Talbert and C. W. Pennock came to Baton Rouge in 1922 and colporteured there, reporting sales averaging $100 per week, which was high in those days (Worker, 1922; Kinney, 1922). On Sabbath, May 2, 1925, Elder W. R. Elliott visited Baton Rouge where he organized a church with nineteen members and elected officers (Elliott, 1925).

A New Church in 1927

Elder Ira C. Pound ca. 1937

Beginning May 27, 1926, Elder Ira C. Pound began a series of meetings (Worker, 1926). A number of people were baptized. In July 1926, the church had twenty-five members (Shroader, 1926). Plans were being laid for the purchase of a lot off Plank Road at Jefferson Avenue, and the erection of an inexpensive building to meet the needs of the congregation (Elliott, 1925). In July 1927, Baton Rouge completed a new church on Jefferson Avenue and Elder Pound held a series of meetings in their new building (Worker, 1927). Elder Pound was the pastor from 1926 to 1933, and through his strong evangelism efforts and leadership the church became firmly established (Beeler, 1996).

Tent meetings held in 1930 by Elder I. C. Pound. Photo courtesy of the Baton Rouge church.

A New Church in 1944

In 1940, the members at Baton Rouge repaired and repainted their church, making it look as nice as possible, but by 1942, they sold the property on Jefferson Avenue so they could begin building a larger church. The members were without a meeting place for more than a year, using temporarily a public school, a tent, and a Carpenter’s Union hall. Due to war restrictions and scarcity of materials, it took quite a while to build the church. On Sabbath, July 15, 1944, over 175 people gathered for the first time in the basement auditorium of the new Baton Rouge church on Government Street. The new church was dedicated that same year (Wilson, 1944).

The Baton Rouge church on Government Street built in 1944. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference.

A New Church in 1965

Ground-breaking for the new church. Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.

By 1955, there were some serious concerns about the condition of the Baton Rouge church building. The Government Street wall had moved out several inches, so they could no longer use the front steps and would possibly need to quit using the lobby. It was voted to sell the church and relocate (Minutes, 1955). In February 1963, property was purchased on Winbourne Avenue. On August 16, 1964, the Baton Rouge church had a ground-breaking ceremony to begin construction of their new church. Participating in the ground-breaking ceremony were: Elder O. D. Wright, president of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference; John F. Speyer and Rex E. Callicott, elders of the Baton Rouge church; Elder H. W. Klaser, treasurer of the Southwestern Union Conference; and the pastor of the Baton Rouge church, C. F. O’Dell, Jr. Also participating in the ceremony was the mayor of Baton Rouge, the Honorable Jack Christian; and Elder H. J. Carubba, the church development secretary of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference (Record, 1964). The building was designed to seat about 550 persons in the main sanctuary section, with a separate chapel to be used for other services of the church. Each Sabbath school department had a large room for their programs. Several adult Sabbath school classrooms were provided in the structure that had an estimated value of $200,000. Mr. S. A. Brown was hired by the local church to be the superintendent during the construction (Record, 1964). In May 1965, the church and property on Government Street had been sold (Minutes, 1965) and the first services were held in the new church on June 26, 1965, with over 600 members and guests present (Elder, 1965). The church was dedicated debt-free on September 26, 1970 (Heglund, 1970).

Baton Rouge church on Winbourne Avenue in 1965. Photo courtesy of the Baton Rouge church.
Inside the Winbourne Avenue church. Photo courtesy of the Baton Rouge church.

A New Church in 1996

Construction of the new church in 1994 (Carlson, 1994)

In 1991, land on Jones Creek Road was purchased which had an existing school building. On February 13, 1994, Baton Rouge members held the groundbreaking for a new church and church school addition. A 3,800 square foot gymnasium and kitchen were added to the school, which they hoped to have completed by the first of October 1994. Construction of the church began in February 1995. The 11,000 square-foot church building would seat up to 400. The one-story, octagonal design incorporated a sanctuary, choir loft, classrooms, and fellowship hall. The congregation also planned to add stained glass windows to the building (Carlson, 1994). The Winbourne Street property was sold in September 1993, so members met for prayer meetings and other meetings at the newly named Jones Creek Adventist Academy, which was on the same property as the church (Fortner, 1994). On January 6, 1996, a grand opening was held for the church and six years later on January 12, 2002, the church was dedicated (Fautheree, 2016).

Inside the Baton Rouge Church at the 90th anniversary celebration April 4, 2015. Photo courtesy of the Baton Rouge church.
Baton Rouge Church on Jones Creek Road in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo courtesy of the Baton Rouge church.

Pastors of Baton Rouge SDA Church

Ira C. Pound1926-1934
J. Lee Neil1935-1941
W. D. Frazee1941-1942
J. Lee Neil1942-1942
M. L. Wilson1942-1948
T. B. Westbrook1948-1949
E. D. Nelson1949-1953
Robert Wood1953-1953
J. R. Hoffman1954-1955
Robert Wood1955-1960
Henry Carubba1960-1962
Wally Welch1962-1964
Charles O’Dell1964-1968
Don Houghton1968-1969
V. L. Heglund1969-1970
W. A. Clarke1970-1974
Ken Schelske1974-1978
Harold Heath1978-1982
Charles Ferguson1982-1985
Ben Boggess1985-1991
Don Fortner1991-1998
Burnham Rand1998-2002
Reggie Phillips2003-2006
John Bridges2007-2010
Werner Gil2010-2011
Paul Vunileva2012-2012
Mike Martinez2013-2021
Michael Cerda2021-


(1916, Jan. 6). Southern Union Worker, p. 6.

(1922, May 25). Ibid., p. 4.

(1926, Jun. 2). Ibid., p. 3.

(1927, Jul. 20). Ibid., p. 4.

(1955, Jan. 25). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.

(1964, Sep. 16). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.

(1965, Jun. 13). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.

(1990, May 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 13.

Ancestry Family Trees. (2015, Jul. 12). Benjamin Franklin Purdham. Retrieved from

Ibid. (2017, Jan. 19). Benjamin Franklin Webb.

Baton Rouge Church (2015, Apr. 4). DVD of the 90th Anniversary of the Baton Rouge Church provided by Joycelyn Fautheree.

Beeler, Charles R. (1996). A History of Seventh-day Adventists in Arkansas and Louisiana 1888-1996. Keene: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, p. 105.

Carlson, Kathryn. (1994, May 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 7.

Elder, W. H. (1965, Jul. 21). Ibid., p. 3.

Elliott, W. R. (1925, May 28). Southern Union Worker, p. 4.

Fautheree, Joycelyn. (2016, Jan. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 17.

Fortner, Don. (1994, Jul. 1). Ibid., p. 7.

Heglund, V. L. (1970, Dec. 26). Ibid., p. 7.

Kilgore, R. M. (1892, Jul. 26). Review and Herald, p. 476.

Kinney, C. Ray. (1922, Oct. 19). Southern Union Worker, p. 3.

Purdham, B. F. (1891, Aug. 18). Ibid., p. 522.

Sherrill, E. Frank. (1967, Jul. 8). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.

Shroader, A. B. (1926, Jul. 28). Southern Union Worker, p. 3.

Wilson, M. L. (1944, Aug. 9). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.

%d bloggers like this: