Calvary Baptist Church
Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Calvary Baptist Church, located on East Ridge Road near Salisbury, North Carolina, was founded in 1871 during that very difficult decade following the Civil War.   It was founded by a group of Christians from the Jerusalem Baptist Church in Davie County under the leadership of Mr. Calvin Bessent.   The first meetings were held in a one room log school house.   It was a time when the South was prostrate.   There was little money.   Many homes and farms had been burned as Sherman’s Army came through the area.   The early years were years of great financial struggle.   There were times when no worship services were held except when a visiting minister passing through could hold a service.
It was 24 years after its founding that the Church erected its first building.   The Church was still struggling financially.   The first Church was a wood structure that was painted white.   The Church served for church services and as a school.   The bell from the original bell tower still hangs in the present bell tower of the Church.   The building was heated by two “pot bellied” stoves and was lighted with kerosene lamps.   Music was provided by a pump organ.   The Church joined the South Yadkin Association in 1895 and Dr. J.N. Stallings was called as the first full time Pastor.   Dr. Stallings was a lawyer as well as a minister.   The Church continued to struggle financially.   The total expenditures for the year 1895 were $334.60.   The average per member contribution for that year was $1.70.   The pastor’s salary for that year was $22.15.
It was during the ministry of Rev. Floyd Fry that the Church began to conduct week long singing schools and the membership began a steady growth.   He was known for his evangelism and conducted tent revivals over a wide area.
During the ministry of Rev. C.S. Cashwell (1923-24) the Church decided to enter upon a building program which is the present auditorium structure for the Church.   Many of the brick were made by the members with brick machines they had purchased for that purpose.   Before deciding that the task was too great, the men of the Church had made enough brick to form the foundation and the basement of the present building. The first contractor declared bankruptcy and a new contractor was secured to finish the project.   The final plastering was finished in August of 1924.
From its’ earliest days the Church has engaged in missions.   At one time, members conducted services at a Chain Gang Camp located on Ridge Road.   They also provided New Testaments for the Prisoners.
In February of 1927 the Church voted to build a Sunday School Building with four assembly rooms and 22 classrooms.   It was built at an approximate cost of $5,500.   The interior work was completed by Church Members.   It was in September of that same year that Calvary withdrew from the South Yadkin Association to join the young Rowan Association.   This happened during the ministry of Rev. R.N. Honeycutt.   The finishing touches on the Church Auditorium were finally completed in 1929 and the Sunday School Building was finished in 1930 during the ministry of Rev. E.F. Eagle.
During the Depression years the church was often unable to pay the Pastor. During these years the women of the Church formed a HELPERS CLUB for the purpose of supplementing Church finances and beautification of the church grounds.   They sponsored such activities as Box Suppers, Chicken Suppers, Cake Sales and Barbeques to bolster Church finances.
It was during the ministry of Rev. D.H. Lowder that the Baptist Training Union was organized.   He also conducted the first Vacation Bible School.   He pastored the Church from 1937 – 1944 and was a strong supporter of world missions.
During the ministry of Rev. N.C. Teague (1949 – 54) the Church constructed a Baptistry.   The Teagues were the first occupants of the new parsonage.   It was also during his ministry that the Church Choir began wearing robes made of materials donated by North Carolina Finishing Company.    During the Teague ministry, membership reached 422.   WMU enrollment rose to 103.   Sunday School enrollment grew to 490.   The Sunday School attendance reached its’ highest peak up until that time.  
In 1956 the Church called Rev. Dale Hooper as Pastor.   It was during his ministry that the Church experienced a great increase in missionary outreach.   During Rev. Hooper’s ministry at Calvary the Pastor and his wife felt God’s Call to become Foreign Missionaries.   They left the Church in 1959 to prepare for the Foreign Mission field.   They were later appointed to serve in East Africa.   The Hooper’s were followed by Rev. J.D. Whisnant who became Pastor in July of 1959.
It was during Rev. Whisnant’s ministry that Calvary and Enon Baptist Church formed a joint committee to study the possibility of a mission in the Franklin Community.   After a survey of the community, the Franklin Mission held its’ first service in the Franklin Community Center in January of 1961.   After land was secured and a grant from the North Carolina State Mission Board of $2,500 was applied for, the Enon Church decided to withdraw as a sponsor.   Calvary continued as sponsor of the Mission until it was constituted into a Church and voted to support the Mission up to $30,000.   The Ground-Breaking for the new building was conducted in December of 1963.   The first service in the new building was in November of 1964 with 84 members present.   In October of 1968, the Franklin Mission was constituted as the Franklin Baptist Church.   Calvary met with the Franklin Church at their first Sunday Night Service to express sincere thanks to God for permitting them to have a part in helping to establish the new church.  
Several members of the Church have gone out into full time Christian Service.   In 1961 Church Membership reached 572 and Sunday School enrollment reached 475.   During the remainder of the 60’s and on through the early 80’s Church ministries remained strong.   The longest tenure of any Pastor of the Church has been that of Rev. J.A. Richardson Jr. who served as Pastor for 17 years.   The Church remained strong during his Ministry which spanned the years of 1969 - 86.
During the remainder of the 80’s and through the mid 90’s the Church was characterized by special mission projects and the installation of a carillon system. The Church is presently experiencing a period of steady and healthy growth under the leadership of Pastor Rick Cockerham.   Baptisms have reached their highest level since 1930. Church membership has rebounded to 510.   There has been a recent surge in stewardship that is unparalleled in the Church’s History and the Future Planning Committee is now making plans for future expansion.   The Church has a Full Time Assistant Pastor in charge of Youth Ministries and all programs of the Church are strong and growing.   A recent addition to the Church’s programs is WORD OF LIFE, with separate programs designed for aiding in the growth of the children and young people.  A new Nursery Building and additional Rest Rooms have recently been completed.   Two new 15 passenger vans have been purchased to compliment the existing van service.
[A special "Thanks" to Rev. Robert M. Tenery for researching and writing this historical sketch of Calvary Baptist Church.]