About Our History
Memorial Baptist Church has a wonderful history dating back to the turn of the century. It is believed that Mrs. Georgie Hickman Schmelz saw a need for a greater Christian influence in the west end of Hampton. This idea was presented to our Mother Church (Hampton Baptist) who established a committee who went to work immediately after that meeting of April 4, 1900.
On January 8, 1902 it was reported that the West End Mission had an average Sunday School attendance of 28 1/2 and collections of $204.30. With this seed money, a one room dilapidated school building (on the corner of Newport News Ave. & Stewart St.) as well as furniture and a new organ were pruchassed. Repairs were soon to be made for what became a growing Church. On Sunday, July 12, 1903, Memorial Baptist Church was organized from 25 persons with letters of transfer in hand from Hampton Baptist. It was in that same year that the Peninsula Baptist Association was organized and Memorial was one of those first 20 Churches who organized this Association.
Our first pastor was J. L. Rosser. The little school building was soon moved to the rear of the lot and used for Sunday School and a new sanctuary was completed (1905) at a cost of $30,000. True to missions, the first report of a Woman's Missionary Society was in 1906. By 1909, growth demanded the addition of a two story education building whose folding doors allowed additional seating for the sanctuary. The entire church was often filled as speakers such as W. H. Wharton or "Billy" Sunday would speak.
Memorial's local witness and sense of missions continued to grow. Early baptisms were held in Hampton Baptist as well as in the river at "Fishing Cabins" known now as Merrimac Shores. Early converts included a girl named Olive Brinson, (Mrs. George R. Martin) who became the President of Woman's Missionary Union, auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention and President of the Woman's Auxiliary to the Baptist World Alliance. Members who became missionaries include Jean White to Yemen, Jean Trimble to Japan, and Violet Wolfe to Arizona. W. S. Booyette was set aside in 1924 by Memorial as a local preacher, followed in 1946 by the ordination to the ministry of Claude Lee Gatling, Aubrey J. Rosser in 1951, Fred King, Jr., in 1958, William Knight in 1964, and Clyde Waters, Jr. in 1976. In 1939 Memorial sponsored the Baptist Mission Sunday School in Speeglesville later to become Pine Chapel Baptist in 1942. And then in the 1960's we sponsored the Tide Mill Lane Mission which became Riverdale Baptist. In that same period we established a Mission House that we still provide to Missionaries on furlough.
To effectively minister the Church continued to impact lives and add on to the facility. Memorial Christian School was even established for a period of time. Notable to the history and minutes of the Church is the fact that even during the tough times like the Great Depression, "Records went low, but the spirit of the people rose to new heights." And when speaking of its pastors the Church records that it, "was successful and fortunate in securing" them. Such is the spirit and history of this people known as Memorial Baptist Church.