In 1871 a small group of Christians had a desire to worship together in one centrally located place and under the leadership of the Reverend Billy Cox and H. E. Cleveland, the Bethlehem Baptist Church was organized. The first church was built on the estate of Mrs. Annie Garrett. The plot of land is located between Preston and Lee streets in the five hundred block. The building was made of logs.
As the membership grew, the members saw the need for a larger and better place of worship, so in 1872 the present location was purchased and given to the church by the Missionary Society. Mrs. Calllie Davis was the president of the Society at that time. They also purchased a small building which was used until a larger building was purchased during the pastorate of Reverend H. L. Wirdlow. In 1924 the church was rebuilt under the leadership of Rev. R.E. Jones.
The men and women who were pioneers in this movement were Brothers Jordon Lightfoot, Henry Garrett, Sr., Henry Perry, John Edmond, T. T. Thuston, Ike Johnson, Ike Shipley, Sam Seay, Jordon Douglas, Ellic Brown and George Perry. Sisters Callie Davis, Edeline Christian, Emma Edwards, Myra Smith, Annie Garrett, Lina Murphey, Harriett Shipley, Mariah Hays, Mille Ingram, Phyllis Williams, Charolet Stimson, Bertha Perry, Polly Howard, Jennie Williams, Caroline Wagoner, Febie Cowens, Matilda Brown, Phillis Dejournett, Elivira Perry, Ann Johnson, and Lou Dupree.
The first Missionary Society was organized in 1871. Callie Davis was the first president. Other members were Sisters Edeline Christian, Secretary, and Mrs. Emma Edwards, Treasurer. Sisters Callie Davis, Edeline Christian, and Emma Edwards signed the deed to the lot along with the following trustees and deacons: Rev. E. S. Silas, J. D. Locke, Littleton Knighten, John Blackman and Green Edwards.
Several years after the deed was signed other men were added to the deacon board and their names were added to the deed: B. K. Johnson, Dock Johnson, Sam Harp, Peter Johnson, Will Morley, L. G. Stull, and R. B. Chapman.
From 1875 through 1886 the following men were added to the board: Dave Lock, George Moore, Arch Beasley, Jordon Douglas and John Daily were added. About 1930 other men were added to the board: L. D. Swindall, Harrison Phillips, Edward Dupree, Charlie Phillips, and H. M. Miles. In 1945, J. L. Holford was added to the board. In 1957, Jessie Higgs and Herbert Chapman were ordained as deacons, and later Matthew Jackson. From 1966 to 1969, Joe C. Dale, Roosevelt Ross, and Cecil R. Jones was added. In subsequent years the following men have been added to the board of deacons: Alvis Ryan, Dwight Mason, and shortly after Charles Bowen.
The cafeteria was built in 1941 under the leadership of Rev. H. W. Cunningham. In 1949, the church was rebuilt during the pastorate of Rev. U.S. Cornelius. On April 27, 1978 the church elected its first Historical committee, with Mrs. Mattie Lee Roberson as Chairman. Mrs. Roberson passed before she had an opportunity to work with the committee. She conceived the idea of preserving the history of the church. In February of 1979, Mrs. Noble Chapman presented the church a Historical Case in loving memory of her late husband, Herbert S. Chapman. Mrs. Noble Chapman was named Mother of the Church in 1986.
On August 26, 1979 the church extended the Call to Reverend L. S. Wilson, Sr., of Dallas, Texas. He came the following Sunday and accepted the Call. He preached his first sermon as Pastor on October 7, 1979. During 1977 to 1979, the church purchased a new van, cushions for the pews, and added a new front concrete front porch with steps and side railings. The fellowship annex was built in 1981 under the leadership of Rev. L. S. Wilson. Extensive renovation of the entire church was completed in the fall of 1988.
Bethlehem has been blessed with thirty-two (32) pastors in its one hundred fiftieth (150) years historical existence: Rev. Alvin Walton was Pastor of Bethlehem when N.W. Dist. Ass'n was organized in 1875, Billy Cox, H. E. Cleveland, C. H. Shaw, F. G. Davis, H. E. Curry, Abner Taylor, W. H. Claiborne, W. L. Balay, J. C. Sweendy, N. L. Wirdlow, J. W. Gray, A. Benjamine, W. H. Lynch, Felix Jones, T. H. Wilkins, Prince Jones, R. E. Jones, D. T. Trammel, Joseph Wilson, H. W. Cunningham, E. B. Hurd, E. W. Crigler, U. S. Cornelius, V. P. Perry, A. B. Simmons, B. J. Bradford, L. A. Kesse, E. J. Rhodes, James T. Thompson, L. S. Wilson, Sr., E. R. Spencer and our current Pastor, Rev. Stuart P. Courtney.
Former Associate Ministers: Charlie Phillips, Rodney Peterson, James Henson, Cecil Jones, Alexander Prabakaran, Aaron Williams., and Charles Woods. Current Associate Ministers: Tiffany Mathenia, Ronald Braxton and John Bragg.
A constant source of strength and spiritual influence in the community, the church was presented our One-Hundredth Historical Marker that was dedicated on Sunday May 21, 1972. Bethlehem Baptist Church has been and will continue to be God's church doing God's work God's way.
Bethlehem Baptist Church is working towards expanding our current campus that will be located in the central area of Bonham. Bethlehem’s Building Committee (Focus of the Future) is meeting regularly as Bethlehem moves towards building a ministry facility. Since the church unanimously voted in 2012 to move forward with our building project and saw a need to add more space. The new chapter begins at The HOB! Our Sanctuary renovations debt was paid in full with a note burning in 2015. We were very blessed to be approved by the city to expand our campus in 2018 and that's when our capital campaign officially kicked off!
The Church has continued to progress and mission through the years. We're grateful to all the men and women who put their all on the altar for our Church. We shall work hard to continue to make history for Bethlehem Baptist and hope that the next generation will be as proud of us as we are of the old saints who pioneered this wonderful church. Continue to keep us in your prayers as God continues to grow our ministry at The House of Bread for years to come.