Early in 1947, a farmer from Estherville, Iowa, Mr. Simon Frey, became concerned about the lack of a fundamental Baptist testimony along the I-90 corridor between Blue Earth and Worthington, MN. After consulting with Rev. Forsell, pastor of the Estherville Baptist Church, and John Siemens, then Executive Secretary of the Minnesota Baptist Association, an ad was placed in the Fairmont Sentinel and work began on organizing a church. Rev. Barney Cunningham held a two-week revival meeting, and the first prayer meeting was held at the Lloyd & Glee Morrison home. Other meetings were held in the home of Harold & Gwen Nord.
Baptismal services were held in early August and the Fairmont Baptist Church was formally organized on August 17, 1947 with a total of 27 charter members. The only surviving charter member as of this writing (6/2009) is Mrs. Rose Conklin who resides in Blue Earth, MN. Initially, services were held at the Armory, the American Legion Hall, and then at the chapel on N. North Avenue. Merlin Smith, Erwin Peyman, and Harry Currans were licensed to preach during the early days of the church.
In the fall of 1947, a call was extended to the Rev. Orval Peterson to become the first full-time pastor. A women’s missionary fellowship was organized soon after the Petersons were settled in their apartment on Lake Avenue. The church also began a half-hour live radio program on KSUM called, “A Look at the Book.” This program featured a men’s quartet (Bob Kleinbeck, Alvin Kleinbeck, Lawrence Swenson, and ?) and a message of hope from Pastor Austin Sorenson.
On July 9, 1948, a parsonage was purchased at 1016 N. Elm and was dedicated on August 22, 1948. In the fall, evangelistic meetings featured Phil Ward, a former gangster who had been converted to Christ. The spiritual response to these meetings resulted in the need for a larger meeting place. Negotiations for the church building on First Street and Prairie Avenue transpired. A purchase agreement from the Grace Lutheran Church for $30,000 was signed on March 1, 1949, and title to the building was received on June 24, 1950. Dedication services were held on June 30, 1950.
As the church began to grow, so did opportunities for ministry. A child-care center was started in 1969 with the first full-time teacher hired in 1971. Also in 1971, the AWANA Bible Club for boys and girls began. Many children were led to receive Christ as their personal Savior.
In 1970, 6.5 acres of land was purchased and cleared on Albion Avenue, the present day location of the church. In addition to an expanding Sunday School department, the church began a Christian school in 1972 which operated until 1989.
The building committee developed plans and a ground-breaking ceremony was held in September of 1975 with construction beginning in October. The dedication of the present building was held November 13, 1977. The former facilities on First & Prairie were sold the following year to the Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran congregation who continue meeting there today. The second phase of the current facilities was completed in the fall of 1981. The bank note for the church was paid in full on July 10, 1995 with a “Mortgage Burning” service held on August 20, 1995.
Recent improvements to the property include a new storage shed (2000), concrete parking lot (2006-07), new landscaping (2008), and remodeling the auditorium (2009). –June 2009
Pastors of Fairmont Baptist Church
Charter Members of Fairmont Baptist Church