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Third Baptist Church was formed in 1896 as part of the temperance movement that occurred in Owensboro during this time. The congregation, lead by Pastor Fred Hale, broke off from First Baptist Church as result of a divide in members concerning the manufacturing and retail of alcohol. The church was designed and built by renowned Southern architect, Reuben H. Hunt, who also designed the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The building still retains much of its original exterior structure. It is renowned in the community for its acoustics. A tornado in October 2007 struck the church, causing the steeple to collapse into the sanctuary. It was restored and re-opened in April 2009.


  • Third Baptist Church, October 1993
  • Choir at Third Baptist Church, date unknown
  • Sign at Third Baptist Church, October 1993
  • Third Baptist Church, October 1993
  • Dr. Dwight A Moody, Pastor from 1991-1997
  • Damage from the 2007 Tornado, Third Baptist Church October 18, 2007
  • Sketch Drawing of Interior, ca. 1903

In Daviess County during the 1880s and 1890s, the county was divided over the temperance movement. Those supporting the temperance movement viewed alcohol as a “gateway drug,” which contributed to dancing, gambling, and prostitution, all of which they considered sinful. By 1893, Owensboro and Daviess County were already known for their many distilleries. The city directory at that time also recorded 67 saloons, versus only 16 churches of various denominations.

In protest of this, the Daviess County Baptist Association in their annual 1895 meeting adopted a resolution stating that none in their churches could retain their membership if they were engaged in the retail or wholesale liquor business. This deeply divided the members of First Baptist Church and in a special meeting in July 1896, another resolution was adopted which stated the impossibility of the two halves working together peaceably. They would separate with an equitable division of property.

Pastor Dr. Fred. D. Hale and 491 temperance members of First Baptist left to form Third Baptist Church. The pro liquor members remained at First Baptist. On August 9, 1896, the congregation met in the Sam Jones Tabernacle on the northwest corner of Locust Street to witness the formal ceremony recognizing the new church. Some 2,000 people gathered, and over $18,000 was raised to build the new church here on Allen Street. By 1904, the congregation had swelled to over 1,000 members, the largest of any denomination in the area.

Reuben H. Hunt from Chattanooga, TN was the architect. He designed many churches, courthouses, and auditoriums throughout the South. Some of the notable features of the church are the large and beautiful stained glass windows and the acoustics. It has been the site of the Owensboro Chorale Society’s annual Christmas performance of the Messiah since it's first performance on December 7, 1941. This first performance was interrupted by the announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Comparison between Third Baptist Church and the Ryman auditorium, another Hunt creation, have been drawn regarding similar acoustics.

On October 18, 2007, a tornado touched down in the downtown area of Owensboro, including at Third Baptist Church. The church was evacuated minutes before the tornado hit, causing the steeple to collapse into the sanctuary. The damages cost about $7 million. The sanctuary was restored and officially reopened on Easter Day, April 12, 2009.

Adkisson, Ken O. A History of Third Baptist Church, Owensboro, Kentucky 1896-1996. Owensboro, KY. Progress Printing Company, 1996.

Adkisson, Ken O. Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Third Baptist Church, August 9, 1896 to August 8, 1971.

Campbell, Joy. "Restoration." Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro) April 13th 2009. , A sec, 1-5.

Covington, Owen & Mayes, James. "Storm Hammers City." Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro) October 19th 2007. , A sec, 1-2.

Payne, Mack. Duffy, C.O.. A Glimpse at the Progress of Owensboro: A Sketch of the History and a Few Facts Concerning its Past, Present, and Future. Owensboro, KY. 1903.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Hubert McFarland Collection, Kentucky Room, Daviess County Public Library

Hubert McFarland Collection, Kentucky Room, Daviess County Public Library

Hubert McFarland Collection, Kentucky Room, Daviess County Public Library

Hubert McFarland Collection, Kentucky Room, Daviess County Public Library

Hubert McFarland Collection, Kentucky Room, Daviess County Public Library

Kentucky Room Vertical Files: Owensboro, KY- Tornado 2007

Payne, Mack. Duffy, C.O.. A Glimpse at the Progress of Owensboro: A Sketch of the History and a Few Facts Concerning its Past, Present, and Future. Owensboro, KY. 1903.