Peace Creek Baptist Church has the distinction of being the oldest Baptist Church in Polk County, Florida, and it is one of the oldest in the state. It had its beginning the same year as the Florida Baptist Convention.
During the 150 years since its founding on September 3, 1854, the church has lived through many problems - and received matchless blessings - typical of most Baptist churches.
History explains that there were pea patches bordering both sides of a little winding creek, aptly call Peas Creek. It was in this area of Bartow that a small Baptist church was established with eight members, including one negro slave, named Jim. The church was fittingly called Peas Creek Baptist Church.
Subsequently, the creek was renamed Peace Creek and the name of the church was changed also. Today Peace Creek is, of course, Peace River.
Figuring in the establishment of the church was a circuit-riding minister, the Rev. J. M. Hayman. He preached the first sermon on January 7, 1855, and the first baptismal service for new converts was held on January 8, 1855.
In 1868, Peace Creek was reported to be meeting once a month with 81 members. By 1888, however, the membership had dropped to 17 and the pastor's salary was listed as $4.25 per year. Church property was valued at $120, but after more construction, it was boosted to about $550.
The first union meeting of South Florida Baptist Association was held at Peas Creek Baptist Church in October 1868.
In 1900, the membership had dropped to 11, but soon began an upward trend. The church building which had stood since the mid-1880's was blown off its foundation in a hurricane in the 1920's; but members of the congregation set it back on its foundation and repaired the damage. The small wooden building was used until 1950 when it was razed for a new structure.
In April of 1939, the church was reported as "completely penniless", and an appeal was made for 25 cents per family simply to pay the light bill. At a later time, "Gold Key" coupons were also collected to be used by the church.
The addition of a new sanctuary was started in May 1973, after several months of planning and after securing a loan of $15,000. On July 6, 1979, a mortgage-burning service was held to burn the existing mortgages on the building and the organ.
After many years of discussion, in September 1986 an agreement was reached with International Minerals and Chemical Corporation for the sale of the church property on East Peace River Road. As part of the acquisition, IMC acquired five acres of land on Highway 60 East from the C. Wilson Ranch for relocation of the church, and the committee began to formulate plans for the new facility. In late March 1987, construction was started and in early October the building was completed.
Construction was begun on the new pastorium in 1990. This was completed in 1991 with the help and efforts of church members.
We are grateful to God for His goodness in making it possible for Peace Creek Baptist Church to have such an excellent facility, for a loving spirit of harmony, and a desire to serve others and glorify God.
Our church has established a scholarship fund to assist active members who are attending college full-time.
A budgeted contribution is given monthly to the Bartow Church Service Center, which ministers to those in need within our community. The Florida Baptist Children's Home, of Lakeland, receive budgeted monthly contributions. This special ministry is in addition to a budgeted percentage of our tithes and offerings contributed to the Cooperative Program and the South Florida Baptist Association. We also participate in scheduled convention ministries such as Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Maguire State Missions, etc.
Many of our members have had the opportunity to work in mission projects such as construction and teaching in places such as Jamaica; North and South Dakota; Mozambique; Africa; Honduras; Guatemala; Montana; South Florida; and Eustis. Some of our members serve as consultants to the Florida Baptist Convention traveling voluntarily throughout the state. As a church family we are all involved in outreach ministry. Praise God!
Pastors who have served Peace Creek Baptist Church . . .
1855 to 1892 Rev. J.M. Hayman
1893 to 1895 Rev. Peter Brown
1895 Rev. Pinkston, Rev. Murrell, Rev. Johnson, Rev. Miller
1896 Rev. C. Viekers, Rev. McClelland, Rev. Bascom Sutton, Rev. Anderson
1921 Rev. R.E. Reed
1927 Rev. Dease, Rev. W.W. Forbes, Rev. Boseman
1935 Rev. Owen Reynolds, Rev. Henry Alderman, Rev. W.W. Dossey, Rev. Durrance
1939 Rev. Fred Burnette, Rev. Cornell
1940 Rev. Roy Forbes
1942 Rev. Sam DeVane
1943 to 1945 Rev. Owen Reynolds
1945 to 1946 Rev. L.W. Milles
1946 Rev. William Stanley
1946 to 1947 Rev. Jessie Gilbreath
1947 to 1948 Rev. Richard Rightmire
1949 to 1950 Rev. Roy Forbes
1951 Rev. Rufus Phelps
1951 to 1952 Rev. Hubert Ward
1952 to 1953 Rev. R.L. Lampe
1953 to 1954 Rev. W.W. Dossey
1955 to 1958 Rev. Andrew Boney
1959 to 1966 Rev. Tom Burge
1966 to 1970 Rev. Kermis Frost
1970 to 1971 Rev. Paul Murray
1971 to 1975 Rev. Bill Burris
1975 to 1978 Rev. Henry Stamey
1979 to 1983 Rev. Ray Etherton
1983 to 1992 Rev. John Scarborough
1992 to 1999 Rev. Paul Parrish
2001 to 2003 Rev. Jerry Stokes
2004 to 2008 Rev. Robert C. Knowles
2009 to 2012 Rev. Shane Rodriguez
2013 to 2016 Rev. Matt Monroe
2016 to present Rev. Stephen Thomas