The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1872, under the leadership of Reverend Charles Oldham. This newly organized Church was named the Saint John Baptist Church. The starting membership was twelve people. From 1872 to 1900, the Church sailed steadily forward. During these first 23 years, the church changed pastors 22 times. Some of our pioneering pastors were: Rev. Charles Oldham; (organizer and founder who later, helped to organize the Little flock Baptist Church in 1867), Rev. E. P. Marrs; (the second pastor who was also, the first president of State University, now known as Simmons College of Kentucky), Rev. Robert Breckenridge, Rev. D. Wheeler, Rev. J. Riley and Rev. William Johnson.
In the beginning, the church had no permanent place of worship. The most noted place was the old “Park House” located at Seventh and Ormsby Streets. While meeting in another location at the rear of the northwest corner of Eighth and Oak Streets, Robert and Amanda Simms were baptized under the leadership of Rev. J. Riley.
In June 1895 while meeting at the “Park House” location, Rev. William Johnson was called to pastor Saint John. During Rev. Johnson’s pastorate, G. F. Watson, Will Berry and Kye Davidson were ordained deacons. Deacon G. F. Watson later was ordained as pastor. During Rev. Johnson’s three-year pastorate, the church’s name was changed from the Saint John Church to the Antioch Church. The name was changed for inspirational reasons. In 1898, Rev. Johnson accepted pastorate of the Ninth Street Baptist Church, located then at Ninth and Magazine Streets, which later became, the West Chestnut Street Baptist Church.
Rev. G. F. Watson succeeded Rev. Johnson in September 1898 and was ordained one year later. Rev. Watson, in 1901, urged and encouraged the church to purchase a building. The first permanent building of the church was located at Eleventh Street and Wilson Avenue. The total cost for the ground and erection of the building was $1200.00. The church grew in number from twelve persons in 1872 to 250 persons in 1898. For the next 20 years the church remained at Eleventh and Wilson Avenue. The church grew numerically and spiritually. Rev. Watson was elected Moderator of the Central District Association of Kentucky. In April 1915 with Rev. Watson as Moderator presiding, five members organized the Antioch Mission. The mission later became the Bates Memorial Baptist Church. The five members were: C.C. Goods, Isaac Ferguson, Will Gerly, Jerry Minor and Lena Taylor.
Because God kept adding people to the membership, Antioch moved to 1700 Dumesnil Street. This location including the parsonage was purchased from the St. Peter’s Methodist Church for $15,000.00. On April 6, 1921 the Antioch Church family marched to their new building at Seventeenth and Dumesnil Street. The ceremonial march began from Eleventh and Wilson Avenue, north to Eleventh and Oak Street, west to Seventeenth and Oak Street, south to Seventeenth and Dumesnil Street. Final ceremonial services were held and Antioch’s cornerstone at the southeast corner of the building as installed.
Since 1921, Antioch’s members were involved in organizing or helping to organize other churches. On July 25, 1925, Rev. Watson and twelve members organized Saint Stephen Baptist Church. Rev. B. J. Miller later became the pastor. The Mount Horeb Baptist Church is a split from the Antioch Church. Our history records another church coming to birth; the Thessalonian Baptist Church.
Rev. Watson pastured Antioch for 47 years. He gave away to death in April 1944. During his pastorate he wrote a book of sermons and baptized over 500 converts. Mrs. Watson and two other minister’s wives helped to organize the Baptist Minister’s Wives Council for the Louisville area, on November 1, 1925. After the death of Rev. Watson, Rev. Eugene Fields and Rev. William Martin presided over the church until the calling of Rev. J. W. Adams in April 1946. He pastured Antioch for 11 ½ years. Rev. Adams accepted another charge November 17, 1957 at Evergreen Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The church was without a pastor from November until May 9, 1958 when Rev. E. B. Dunbar became the pastor. Under Rev. Dunbar the church grew numerically, spiritually, financially and morally. He pastured Antioch for 21 years, retiring in 1978 when his health began to fail. Upon the resignation of Rev. Dunbar, Rev. Prince Hatchett, a son of Rev. Dunbar’s ministry, was called in 1979. Rev. Hatchett pastured Antioch for six years, resigning November 1985.
Rev. Curtis Crawford, Jr., another son of Rev. Dunbar, was extended the call. Rev. Crawford became the acting pastor in November and accepted the pastorate May 1986. He was installed on July 29, 1986. Under the pastorate of Rev. Crawford we were blessed to purchase land on Dixie Highway where we constructed this $2,000,000.00 edifice where we are worshiping now. Rev. Crawford tendered his resignation January 2004 and we were without a pastor once again. On July 10, 2004 another son of Rev. Dunbar was called to fill the vacated pulpit, in the person of Rev. Woodie Morris McElvaney.
Rev. McElvaney was installed on August 22, 2004. Under the pastorate of Rev. McElvaney, the church has grown in number and in spirit. We are blessed and highly favored. During Rev. McElvaney’s tenure as Pastor of Antioch, many new members have been added to the church and their names added to the rolls of heaven. We also purchased a new Church Van and a Twenty-six passenger bus that has proven to be a great blessing to our Church family. One of the greatest blessings has been the liquidation of our Church Mortgage. On April 3, 2016, the members and friends were a part of history in the burning of the Church Mortgage. Antioch is now debt free.
In November of 2016, Rev. McElvaney under the inspiration of God announced to the congregation his desire to retire because of health reasons. He also shared with the congregation that God had revealed to him that Rev. Eric T. French, Sr. would be his successor. On January 3, 2016, Antioch elected Rev. Eric Timothy French, Sr. as the next Pastor of Antioch. In a demonstration of God’s grace and guidance, Rev. McElvaney and Rev. French co-pastor Antioch from July 1, 2016 until Rev. McElvaney’s retirement on June 30, 2017. The result was a smooth and blessed transition of leadership. On July 23, 2017, Rev. French was installed as Pastor of Antioch on by Dr. F. Bruce Williams and the Bates Memorial Baptist Church. Together, Rev. French and Antioch have begun the journey of a lifetime to continue the long history of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church helping nonbelievers become fully devoted followers of Christ.