History

Jones HouseWhen Samuel Wait first visited North Carolina in 1826 he wrote that, "The state of the ministry all around in that region is deplorable." Wait became one of only five trained Baptist ministers in the state when he moved to North Carolina in 1827 to assume the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in New Bern. Wait saw the best and brightest of North Carolina leaving the state in search of education, often never returning. Along with men like Thomas Meredith, John Armstrong, William Hooper, and William Biddle, Wait worked tirelessly to create the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. The purpose of the Convention was to provide education for young men interested in training to be ministers through the creation of a Literary Institute and other outreach programs, such as the organization of Tract and Missionary Societies. The minutes from the organizational meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina held on March 26, 1830 in Greenville state that the "primary objects of this Convention are, the enlargement and intellectual improvement of the Ministry, and the supplying of destitute Churches and sections of the country, within the limits of the State."

The desire to organize all the Baptists of North Carolina into a single organization with the stated goal of "intellectual improvement" did not happen, however. There were differences among and within the churches regarding the Convention's goals, the education of ministers, compensation for pastoral service, and the Tract and Missionary Societies. The Kehukee Baptist Association first raised their objections in 1826 and in 1827 issued the order to "…discard all Missionary Societies, Bible Societies and Theological Seminaries, and the practices heretofore resorted to for their support, in begging money from the public…" In a letter by Samuel Wait dated April 30, 1830 he acknowledges this tension, "Late in March I attended the Anniversary of the Benevolent Society of this state. This was in fact a Missionary Society; but our Baptist friends avoided the use of the word Missionary Society, merely in consequence of the unreasonable prejudices which exist against Missions."

The disagreement over the Baptist State Convention literally tore churches in two. While a discussion of the diversity of the Baptist denomination, beliefs and practices is beyond the scope of this project, reference to the views held by a group of Baptists known as Primitive Baptists is helpful. As George Pascal noted in The History of North Carolina Baptists Volume II, nowhere are the views of the Primitive Baptists more clearly stated than by Jesse A. Ashburn in the History of the Fisher's River Primitive Baptist Association From its Organization in 1832 to 1904. Many of the issues that divided Baptists in North Carolina over the establishment of the Convention appear in an episode from the records of Abbot's Creek Primitive Baptist Church and Abbot's Creek Missionary Baptist Church, both in Davidson County, North Carolina. Acting as the General Agent of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, Wait visited Abbot's Creek Baptist Church of Christ in 1832. The controversy surrounding Wait's visit and events following it eventually caused the church to split into the two separate churches whose records are cited above. Both groups continued to meet in the same building but at separate times until 1834 when Abbot's Creek Missionary Baptist Church constructed a new building. Both churches stand side by side, divided now by a road.

When the Convention held its second annual meeting in 1832, the Education Committee recommended purchasing a farm for the purpose of creating a school. "The Committee have ascertained that such a farm as will be well suited for carrying their views into immediate operation, can be had in the county of Wake, within 15 miles of the city of Raleigh, for the sum of $2000; a sum which they believe it to be well worth." The farm was that of Dr. Calvin Jones and in 1834 the Wake Forest Manual Labor Institute opened with an enrollment of 16 young men and with Samuel Wait as president.

Further reading regarding the history of North Carolina Baptists and Wake Forest University can be found in George Washington Pascal's books The History of Baptists in North Carolina Vols. I & II and The History of Wake Forest College Vols. I-III and Bynum Shaw's History of Wake Forest College Vol. IV.