Updated: Dec 16, 2020
When traveling around the world, one of the most popular destinations for tourists are old churches. Think Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, St. Basil’s, etc. Of course, these are much older and larger than anything local, but Folsom’s churches are also worth taking a look at for their beauty and history and you do not need a plane ticket to see them! This week, I am going to introduce you to one Folsom church in particular, Landmark Baptist Church.
Landmark Baptist Church located at 609 Figueroa street was originally a Methodist church and then Folsom Presbyterian before becoming the more familiar Landmark Baptist church.
It was built in 1860 from kiln-fired brick and cost $9,000 dollars, the first minister was named William Blakely and the church was his first charge. However, the earliest Methodist minister in the area was A.L.S. Bateman who traveled between several different towns including Folsom. William Blakely was moved to Nevada City after only a year and a long stream of ministers followed after him including D.A. Dryden, J.A. Bruner, C.H. Lawton, W. Gafney, S. Clayton, C.W. Dowe and J.H. Peters, most of which were assigned several other towns besides Folsom By 1887, the church was still without a regular minister. Reverend J.E. Wright recalled that after the church service was dismissed for the night, he and his wife slept on the pews and used their buggy robes as blankets to stay warm because it was too late to make the trip back to Penryn. J.E. Wright was given $11 dollars for each visit to Folsom and an addition $5 dollars from Warden Aull at the prison for each service held there.
The church did not have a bell tower until 1907. The bronze bell was purchased by the Ladies Aid Society and shipped from Michigan and was used to signal the start of church, funerals, call for volunteer firefighters during a fire. Starting in 1922 the bell called for the start of school. In 1922, Folsom started its first official high school with 26 students, all of which were freshman. Prior to this, high school students had to go to Sacramento for school. The principal was C.L. Hargrave and there was one teacher, May Crosno who was replaced by Mrs. Grace McCabe the following year. Vivian Kirby was one of the students at the high school and recalled the school board asked her Aunt May to get permission for the school to be held at the church since she was involved. Aunt May agreed to ask if they could guarantee all the church's chairs could be put back where they belonged by October 30th, 1924 for her funeral, although she wasn't even sick. They agreed and sure enough, Vivian's Aunt May passed away on October 30th, 1924 and her funeral was held at the church.
The school was created by putting a partition down the middle of the church to create two separate classrooms. Sharing a space with the church was not feasible for long (plus Aunt May had her request!) and in 1924 the high school was moved to the IOOF Hall before moving to its own building. The bell hung at the church until the when the Presbyterian church built a bigger facility on Blue Ravine and had the bell moved there.
The original Methodist church was often responsible for many events in Folsom. They hosted festivals near the railroad, organized picnics, concerts, and bazaars and of course more typical church events such as weddings and baptisms.
In 1934, the Methodist church switched buildings with the Presbyterian church in Orangevale because many members of the Methodist church moved to Orangevale and Presbyterian members had moved to Folsom. The first pastor at the Presbyterian Church was Philip Laselles. After the Presbyterian church outgrew its facilities in the 1960s, the property was sold and became the Landmark Baptist Church in 1969 with Doug Perdue serving as its first pastor. Today, the church is working on restoring the bell tower to hang the original bell.