Edgemont Free Will Baptist Church

35.986684, -78.887098

Cross Street
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Year demolished
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Edgemont Free Will Baptist, looking southeast from East Main St., 1930s
(Courtesy Charlie Gibbs)

Edgemont Free Will Baptist church originated in a meeting on November 19, 1922 called by Reverend RV (Bob) Self and Reverend WE (Uncle Bill) Anderson. Per a church brochure, the church was "born in an old-time Holy Ghost revival." Reverend Anderson would become the first pastor of the church.

A site was selected at the southwest corner of Holman St. and East Main St. after 1 1/2 years, during which time services were held in a temporary location. The original church, the wood frame structure pictured above, was built in 1924.


Edgemont Free Will Baptist, 1930s
(Courtesy Charlie Gibbs)

In 1939, the original frame church was demolished and replaced with a stone Gothic Revival structure. Per church records the building was "dedicated free of debt on October 6, 1946."


Edgemont Free Will Baptist, 02.19.62
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

When I asked Charlie Gibbs, who grew up in and across the street from the church, what was happening in the picture I located above (I assumed some church social event) he gave me the details of a dramatic split of the church. Per Charlie:

The church had an on-going difference of doctrinal 'opinions' ("eternal security" for one) for several years and it became so devisive and intense that one group, the Creech Faction (pastor Ronald Creech at that time) literally walked out one Sunday morning and marched to the site of their future new church (a planned event – after they had made plans to secure property on Liberty St to build a church and form a new congregation). It became the Liberty Street FWB Church and has since splintered to a couple other locations.

The other group was the Teasley Faction, named for one of the leaders in the group, Jamie Teasley. This group was made up of original charter members of the Edgemont FWB Church and other descendants and supporters. My grandmother Dora Wilder Joyner, mother Mabel J. Gibbs and aunt Lois J. Cannady (Mother's sister) were the 3 remaining charter members. My grandfather Frank E. Joyner died before the split of the church. Daddy, William L. Gibbs, Sr. was not a charter member. He was the
Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout Troop 26 for years and a deacon and Sunday School teacher. (for me one of the most contentious, disappointing things that happened during the troubled times was that a pastor made a decision that the scouts shouldn't be camping and away from church services on Sundays. Some of the most spiritually meaningful memories of my young life were spent on the hillside chapel at Camp Durant. Daddy always held church in the woods on Sunday morning…. and I'm so thankful for it.)

Anyway, back to the church split. The Teasley group maintained the EFWBC bldg for years after the split (including the Sunday night service radio broadcast – I'm trying to remember the name of the broadcast…I'll always remember the theme song)

There were all kinds of issues between the two factions and I don't remember them all - each faction retained lawyers- I. Beverly Lake for the Creech group and Art Vann for the Teasley group.

But my heart will always remember the growing up years there across the street from the church (seeing Army trucks going down Main St., bombers squadrons in the air during the War) along with the great times with all my friends at church.


Edgemont Free Will Baptist, looking west down East Main Street, 02.19.62
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

In 1968, the name of the church was changed to "First Free Will Baptist Church" in anticipation of an eventual move. On December 1, 1974, the First Free Will Baptist Church held its final service at East Main Street, and subsequently moved to Chandler Road.

The building currently houses the Church of the Apostolic Revival International; the church property encompasses ~1.6 acres, extending through this block south to Angier Avenue.


Former Edgemont Free Will Baptist / Current (2011) Church of the Apostolic Revival International, 10.20.10 (Kueber)

This church was heavily damaged in a fire on 5/2/2024 and will likely be demolished by the current owner, the Durham Rescue Mission.



It looks as if not much is being "revived" at the Church of the Apostolic Revival International as of late.  I know it's rained a lot recently and everything is lush, but it was a little too overgrown. I went by last Sunday at about 1PM and there was no sign that church had just gotten out. I'd wager a guess that it's been 3-5 months since much has occurred in this building. I'm hoping I'm wrong.

It's in my top 10 list for buildings that intrigue me in Durham.  It has seen so much history and is such a beautiful building. It breaks my heart it's not being used to it's full potential. 

In reply to by Karen

The church is actually still being put to use. We currently only use it for Baptism. Out congregation has grown tremndously since the beginning years at that location. We currently reside on the building behind the church. Come visit anytime.

Love the pictures - it has seemed empty for a long time. First thing I'd usually do is check the property tax records to see if someone is falling behind, but they are exempt from property tax. The two great Craftsman houses next to it and the church really give the sense that you're entering a neighborhood as you head east on Main from Alston.

I lived a block down on N. Blacknall St. which I am discovering is not listed. It appears one of the persons walking down the street may have been Ralph A. Glenn, who was my Sunday school teacher around 1959. He was later shot at IBM by a disgruntled employee who had entered the building and just started shooting.]
I only hope I can print out some of this, but am finding it difficult, not to mention my own house at 108 N. Blacknall was demolished and now I have no pictures.

Hi Phillip - thanks for your comment. No one has added any content on Blacknall Street - I wish you did have pictures of 108 N. Blacknall! If you ever run across any, it would be great to add your old house to Open Durham.

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