The Thomas Glade Baptist Church of Christ, predecessor of the First Baptist Church of Leonard, was organized sometime prior to 1875 in the Thomas Glade School House, about ½ mile northwest of the present city limits. Records show the Constituting Council was composed of Rev. S. Marshal of the Pilgrim Baptist Church, Pike, acting as Moderator; Elder N.A. Rogers, Pastor of the Liberty Baptist Church, Whiterock, Hunt County and Rev. Williams, of Arkansas, as members.
The proceedings of the 23rd Annual Session of the Sister Grove Baptist Association, held at Long Prairie, Fannin County, on September 17, 1875, show the Thomas Glade Baptist Church as being received into the Association. The Church letter was by Elder N.A. Rogers. The Association records show the Thomas Glade Baptist Church located in Fannin County with Valley Creek Post Office. N.A. Rogers is shown as the Pastor and B.C. Vinson, Church Clerk, and a Church membership of ten (10). The Church was a member of the Sister Grove Baptist Association until 1886, when it was dissolved and the Fannin County Baptist Association organized, of which the First Baptist Church of Leonard was a consistuent member.
In 1882, the Thomas Glade school building was moved into the new town of Leonard to become the town’s first school building. The Church moved with it and continued to use it for Church purposes utnil 1889. The Church changed its name to the First Baptist Church of Leonard. In 1882, Church records show T.J. Mauldin and a sister Saylers as member in 1875. Early day members on the 1886 Church roll were: Josephine Savage, Martha Braly, L.T. Van Cleve, Martha Deel, Mary Neal, Harvey Rogers, Allie Ready, Sallie Stuart, J.C. Neale, Thomas Shaw, Ella and Levi Braly.
In March 1886, a need was felt for a house of worship belonging to the Church itself. In July 1886, a committee was intrustced to “proceed with the building of a meeting house.” This building was placed on the site now occupied by the Pentecostal Church of Leonard. In May 1889, the dedicatory service was held with Rev. W.M. Gough delivering the dedicatory sermon. Fifteen years later, the Church again felt the need to build. On October
31, 1903, J.O. Kuyrkendall, J.N. Dotson and Thomas Shaw were appointed to solicit funds for a new Church building, to be built on the same property as the Church building of 1886. The building was dedicated in 1904. The first marriage performed in the new building was that of Miss Blanche Ferguson and Mr. Ellis Giles in 1904.
In 1904 Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Kuyrkendall presented the Church with its first communion service. It bore the inscription, “From J.O. and Mary Kuyrkendall to the Leonard Baptist Church, 1904.” In 1926, the ladies of the W.M.U. raised $100 from the operation of a booth at the Leonard Community Fair. They used the money to purchase the start of the individual service now used in the Church.
After the sudden death of a former Pastor, Rev. W.E. Ray, the parsonage was left vacant for several months. The Kuyrkendall communion service was forgotten because of its non-use. In the spring of 1939, Mr. Jim Trusty, of Nobility, bought the service from the junk dealer for $1.90. On account of the inscription, he brought the service to Leonard merchange C.A. Kuyrkendall (no relation of Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Kuyrkendall) who recognized the prized pieces, had them cleaned and polished and returned them to the Church.
In 1892, a Baptist Sunday School was organized with an enrollment of 90 members and nine officers and teachers. Dr. J.C. Woodson was the Superintendent. In 1893, the enrollment was 124. The Superintendent was B.M. Hunt. In 1895, J.O. Kuyrkendall became the Superintendent and served in that capacity until 1908. Miss Ruby Grimes was elected Church Clerk in 1922 and served longer than anyone else.
The first budget found in the minutes was for 1922 and amounted to $2,425. In 1932, it reached an all time low of $1,643. The Church budget for the year 1975-76 was $46,737. In 1927, it was voted to place envelopes in the pew holders. Gas was installed in the parsonage in 1927 and in the Church building in 1928.
Probably as a result of the 1926 Leonard Baptist Encampment, on July 4, 1926, the Church receied into its membership 61 persons by baptism and seven by letter. Another important day in the Church’s history was March 18, 1917, when 50 members were added to the Church by baptism and letters.
The First Baptist Church of Leonard celebrated its 75th Anniversary on Sunday, June 18, 1950 during the pastorate of Rev. Eugene Skelton. The Anniversary sermon was brought by former Pastor R.H. Cagle. In the early 1950s, the Church purchased the present Church site from the Leonard Independent School District and a new Church building was erected. This building was dedicated May 15, 1955. The sermon of dedication was brought by former Pastor, Dr. J. Carroll Chadwick.
On Sunday, November 19, 1962, the Church honored Brother J.B. Taylor on the occasion of his 100th birthday by designating the day as “J.B. Taylor Day” and dedicating the morning service to him. Rev. James R. Swedenberg, Church Pastor, delievered the sermon. Brother Taylor had been a teacher and deacon in a Baptist Church for over 80 years. He was a member of this Church almost 50 years and the only known member to have lived more than 100 years.
In 1968, the Church, during the pastorate of Rev. Ed Russell, build a new santuary. It was dedicated July 21, 1968. The prayer of dedication was given by Rev. John Riggs, former Pastor. The dedication sermon was delivered by another former Pastor, James Swedenberg.
On July 4, 1976, when the Nation was celebrating its 200th Anniversary, the First Baptist Church of Leonard celebrated its 100th Anniversary. Rev. Paul Hunt brought the Anniversary sermon.
In the early 1990s, the Church elected a Building Committee, which after much prayer and study, made the decision to keep the Church at the present site rather than buy a larger acreage on the outskirts of town. With this direction, the Church embarked on a three phase plan. In 1993, the Church completed a 5,000 square foot building housing a Fellowship Hall, bathrooms and a commercial kitchen. This project, just a dream for many years, w
as made possible in part by the generous gift in the Last Will and Testament of a devoted Christian couple, Earl and Pearle Hopkins. A few years later, a 10,000 square foot educational building was completed for children and y
outh activities. By 2003, the Church had completely renovated adult classrooms, and purchased several lots to the south of the sanctuary for parking and future expansion. A lot located on the east side of Parmele and Thomas was given to the Church by Jimmie Evans. Glory to our Lord who financially blessed us during this time and with the exception of the 1993 building which was paid off in two years, all the rest was accomplished debt-free.
Pastors of the Church have included T.P. Reece, N.A. Rogers, J.L. Connelly, W.J. Owens, R.L. Kirkland, J.L. Mayes, I.N. Crutcher, J.M. Wright, H.F. Jones, J.F. Black, E.D. Reece, Z.T. Manis, F.L. Brooks, J.G. Taylor, W.L. Crain, W.E. Davis, W.W. Morris, H.S. Crow, H.T. Money, R.E. Cornelius, W.E. Ray, R.H. Cagle, Arthur DeLoach, David Phillips, J. Carroll Chadwick, Charles Myers, Max Cheppell, M.W. Rogers, Eugene Skelton, Jimmie H. Heflin, Bruce Cushman, James Swedenberg, John Riggs, Ed Russell, Morris Robbins, Curtis Smithson, Ted Eaton, Leonard Payne, Abe Ogea, and Chris Cowen. Under Pastor Cowen, the Church had not only given money toward various missions efforts but had also participated in short-term foreign mission trips to Russia, India, Mexico and several African and South American countries. Many of these trips were in partnership with International Commission, a parachurch organization located in Dallas, Texas.
Our current Pastor, Denilio J. Gorena, also known as Brother Denny, was called July 31, 2005. He has continued various missions’ efforts in Tanzania, partnering with e3 Partners, a parachurch missions organization located in Plano, Texas, Mexico and the United States, which includes New Orleans, Louisiana, Joplin, Missouri, Galveston, Texas, and New York City, New York. Over thirty (30) current Church members have been involved in these missions’ efforts. Brother Denny has been married to his wife, Cheryl, for over twenty-three (23) years and has two young sons, Elijah and Giovanni.
In addition to these efforts, an extensive ministry of Disaster Relief with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has been implemented at First Baptist Church of Leonard. Current Staff members, Dewey and Glenda Watson, have helped to lead the Church in these Disaster Relief efforts. Both of them have been trained in every aspect of Disaster Relief and have helped to train others around the State Convention and even when other disasters have struck in other parts of the United States. They have also helped to train no less than thirty-five (35) Church members in Disaster Relief.