Then & Now
by Janet Teitsort
A huge Building Centennial celebration was held in the summer of 2015 as the church celebrated not only 100 years on the corner of Main & West, but also a rich history dating back to 1851, when the Baptist decided to start a church in Westport.
The first Westport Baptist Pastor was Brother Hiram Pond. A total of forty-five men have pastored the church with two of the most outstanding being Reverend John Cassady and wife, Grace (twenty-nine years) and Reverend David A. Scaggs and wife, Candace (thirty-one years.)
The church met in homes or in a vacant store while the first church building was being erected. The first church was located in the northeast corner of town on lots that John and Catherine Cann donated. The first church was made of brick and was used until 1884, when it was torn down. The second building was a wood frame built on the same spot as the former brick. The building served the church until 1916.
The third building is our current one, which is 100 years old. The architect was Oscar W. Holmes, a member of the church and renowned architect. He freely donated his skills for the building. The lots were dedicated by Isaac Shera with the understanding that the building would cost at least $10,000.
The building was to be the “talk of the town”. Excerpts from the “Greensburg Evening Times” tell us how outstanding the building was at the time of its building in 1915. “The flourishing little city of Westport is to have a modern church that will compare with the edifices of worship in cities may times its size”. The final cost of the building was $22,000.
According to a local historian, Isaac Shera did not arrive at the dedication. When some folks went to check on him they found him praying. The church still owed several thousand dollars and he was considering paying it off. Due to Isaac Shera’s generosity, they had a mortgage burning ceremony shortly after the dedication.
Through the years, the people of the Westport Baptist church have maintained a vision from growth in 2004; the church purchased the hardware store, which sat adjacent to the east side of the church, from Russell and Linda Wilson. The church tore down the hardware store, for they aimed to build a new family life center, but they soon found the cost too high. Instead, they purchased the NAPA building which sat across from the church. Purchased on May 6, 2009 at a cost of $90,000, the building was renovated by members and our trustees into a very useful facility we have aptly named “Westport Baptist Outreach Center.”
The church continued its desire to provide handicapped restrooms and access by a lift style elevator to the main and basement levels. Money was raised and on Sunday, August 26, 2012, a groundbreaking ceremony was held with the first shovels of dirt being turned by Jean Conwell and Richard Maddux. On August 4, 2013 the Cornerstone addition was dedicated. The ribbon was cut by Richard Maddux and he received the first ride of the day on the new lift.
Through the years the Westport Baptist Church has had several pastors who have been dedicated servants of God. Two that come to mind are Reverend John N. Cassady who moved to Westport in In July, 1949. Rev. Cassady and his wife Grace were involved in the running of the Southeastern Baptist Youth Camp and he served the community as well as the church. Rev. Cassady served at Westport Baptist for forty-nine years until his health failed. Fast forward several years and Rev. David A. Scaggs and his wife Candace were called to the church. They, too, served the community well and the church grew and expanded many programs.
After thirty-one years of faithful service, Reverend David Scaggs retired from Westport Baptist November 20, 2016. A pitch-in lunch in recognition of David and Candace Scaggs was held at the Westport Community Building. Many expressed their well wishes to the Scaggs family.
Since that time the church has experienced two transitions, one following the retirement of Reverend Scaggs. The church then called Pastor Paul May who has since resigned. Facing transition again, they are currently (August 2020) under the leadership of Transitional Pastor Dennis Bickers. He has served as a pastor for many years, then as an Area Pastor. Reverend Bickers is also an author of numerous books that can be found on Amazon.