First Baptist Church was founded in 1888 when the small, sawmill town of Laurel was just four years old.  A preacher named S. O. Y. Ray lead in the organization of the church with twenty-eight charter members.  The small congregation met in a railroad box car until a church house costing $375 could be built.  That building later became the city hall.  The next building was erected and then sold for use as a school.

In February of 1901, a lot was purchased on Fifth Street and another church was built for $3,750!  As the church grew so did the church buildings.  The current church is located on this same plot and today consists of a two-story educational building, a chapel and a large sanctuary.  In 1973, the Family Life Center was built containing a gym, family room, classrooms, the youth department and other amenities.

First Baptist facilities have grown exponentially since its beginning over one hundred and thirty years ago in the old box car.  Today, the church’s home is one of the largest and most beautiful structures in Jones County.  Even though the church has grown way beyond what the founders ever imagined, it has not lost sight of its mission….to serve as a center for outreach to the community, to provide fellowship with one another, to worship with fellow Christians, and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our facilities are humbly dedicated to the Glory of God.


Submitted by

Priscilla Sumrall


Samuel O. Young Ray* (1884-1900)

Oscar D. Bowen*  (1886-1900)

George Knight  (1900-1901)

L. Low  (1902-1905)

Lewis Gee Gates  (1905-1945)

James W Parrish (1945-1949)

Thomas R. McKibbens  (1949-1967)

Robert Marsh  (1967-1973)

James Keith  (1974-1977)

Larry Wells Kennedy  (1978-1991)

Randy Turner  (1992-2022)

John Knox Helveston (2023-Present)


* Ray and Bowen overlapped because they were traveling ministers and they covered a lot of surrounding territory, neither resided in Laurel.
 The first minister to which the church actually issued a call was George Knight.

-Submitted by Priscilla Sumrall-