The Madison Baptist Church, organized November 13, 1834, was located originally on the site now occupied by the Calvary Baptist Church on Academy Street. Twenty-four years after its founding, the church moved in 1858 to its present location on Main Street when its new building was completed. Costing $11,436.89 (plus $1,900 for the purchase of the lot), the new structure, and the fence, which stood in front of it, was built of handmade brick monogrammed “J.B.W.” for John Byne Walker, who contributed the brick made on his plantation, probably by slaves. Eventually, the fence was dismantled and the bricks were used in the construction of the chimneys for a pastorium, which was erected, where the Educational Building now stands.
In the years since the building’s completion in 1858, the outside of the structure has undergone several renovations and modifications. Initially, the front of the building was flat, with access to the second-floor sanctuary provided by inside stairways. In 1917, however, the front of the church was remodeled and the outside steps, which now lead to the sanctuary, along with the columns across the front, were added.
While the present sanctuary maintains a close integrity with the initial structure in design and appearance, it reflects several modifications, which have been made over the years. The slave gallery remains as it was; but the baptismal pool in a front corner of the sanctuary, constructed in 1896 and still used regularly, replaced the old baptismal pool, which had been built in the basement of the church in 1869. The other part of the front of the sanctuary remained largely unchanged through the years until a new pipe organ and console were purchased in 1965, and the choir loft was remodeled to accommodate the changes necessitated by the purchase. The new organ replaced the pipe organ, which had been installed initially in 1919, and the new console replaced the console, which had been in use from 1956.
Most observers agree that the most striking feature of the sanctuary is the beautiful, large, memorial windows, which grace the church’s worship center. Installed in 1906, the leaded, stained glass casts a diffusion of rich color from the penetrating rays of the sun which permeate the worship environment each Sunday morning. Just here, it might be noted that, while ten stained glass windows are visible from the outside of the building, only eight can be seen from the interior of the structure. This is because of the modifications made to the front of the building, which dictated the closing off of two of the windows in the vestibule.
A recurring question asked by visitors to the church is about the reputed stabling of Sherman’s horses in the church during the general’s “March to the Sea” in 1864. While factual data is not readily accessible in this regard, tradition has it that horses from Sherman’s army were quartered in the basement area of the church, perhaps as part of the concession made to spare the town. Whether this be true or not, it has certainly been the desire of the Madison Baptist Church throughout its history, and even now, to help “save the town,” and the world as well, by proclaiming through its life and work its Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.