Thursday, August 9, 2012

A BAPTIST PIONEER: Freeman Smalley, the first Texas Baptist preacher

(Adapted from the TBC Baptist Briefs video series, Texas Baptists Who Made a Difference)

Freeman Smalley, according to the Texas State Historical Association, was born in 1790 in Pennsylvania and grew up in Ohio. He was already a Baptist by the time he enlisted in the army and fought in the War of 1812. After the war, he began preaching, and his church eventually – in 1817 – ordained him to the Gospel ministry.

In 1822, while visiting cousins in Pecan Point, Texas, he preached to the community there, becoming – most historians believe – the first Baptist minister to preach in Texas.

But Smalley didn’t move to Texas for good until about 1848. Two years earlier, his son had moved to a site just south of what is now Round Rock, Texas. So Smalley, Sr., sold his land in Illinois – where he had established a Baptist church in his home in 1834 – and followed his son to Texas.

Smalley preached wherever he could, but he had a hard time holding a congregation in Texas, because he preached against slavery – not a popular stand, to say the least, in Texas at that time.

In 1849, he boldly organized the first antislavery Baptist church in Texas, Union Baptist Church located in Williamson County. Union Baptist Church indeed! Years later, when the Civil War began, Smalley remained in Texas but stood foursquare in support of the union cause. For this, he was robbed, and he lived under constant threat of danger to him and his family.

Today a historical marker stands on the site of Anti-Slaveholding Union Baptist Cemetery in Williamson County near Round Rock. The marker notes that the graveyard has also been referred to as Smalley Cemetery because of its connection to Freeman Smalley’s family, and that it is believed that Freeman Smalley, Jr., was the first person buried there in 1849.


  1. Members of the Baptist church are encouraged to read the Bible and get their own interpretation of the scriptures. They are expected to follow the instructions and commandments that they read in the Bible. A common belief for followers is in the Second Coming of Christ. According to this belief, Jesus will return to Earth. He will judge followers based on their actions and how well they obeyed the instructions in the Bible.

    1. Actually, we are saved by faith, not by our "actions" or our obedience to "the instructions in the Bible."

      "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).

      Our obedience is to God, not to the Bible. Good works - good "actions" and obedience - are important; they are evidence of our faith. But Christ is coming back to gather His children - we who have repented of our sin and trusted in Him - to live with Him eternally, on the basis of our faith in Him, not our works.