In 1819, Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church met for the first time in a hewn log dwelling house on the farm of Jarardus Ryker. Among the charter members were Samuel J. Ryker and his wife, John J. Ryker, Jarardus Ryker, John Lott and his wife, two families by the name of Yates, possibly a Mr. Carr and some members of his family, and probably a family by the name of Hoagland.
The first official church building, which was also used as a school house, was a block house that the earliest settlers erected as a defense against Indian attacks. Later, the church worshiped in a log meeting house on the farm of John Lott. Originally, the congregation sat on benches of undressed lumber consisting of heavy planks laid across trestles. The original pulpit was an empty whiskey barrel while the worship center was illuminated by candles that the various families brought from home. On November 15th, 1842, John Lott deeded a little more than an acre of land at the southeast corner of his farm to the church. On this lot, a stone church building was erected at a site about 1 mile north of our facility today.
It is interesting to note that during this period, the church building was used as a station on the Underground Railroad to Canada. An official church record reads:
"A blacksmith who lived at the mouth of Eagle Hollow would signal when the fugitives could safely be brought across by pounding at night on his anvil. Cow bell signals were also used. John Carr and a number of the prominent men of the church were helping in hiding the slaves, so they soon began taking them to the church and putting them into the garret. The Negroes were provided with food and firearms with which to resist arrest. Meetings were sometimes held in the church while fugitive slaves lay concealed in the garret."
In 1878, what we now refer to as the “old sanctuary” was erected on land donated by Jared Ryker. In 1890, the church upgraded from candles and individual lamps brought from home to kerosene lamps with reflectors behind them which were mounted on the walls next to the windows.
During the early 1920’s there was a need expressed for additional Sunday school space because all the classes had been meeting in the auditorium. Plans were drawn up and were presented on August 25th, 1924. On March 8th, 1925 the addition was built and dedicated to the Lord. Later, in the 1960’s, another addition would be built. Then again in 1996, a larger addition was built for more Sunday school space and fellowships. Finally, the newest addition to our church facility is our new worship center, which was dedicated to the Lord on September 30th, 2007.
Like any church, Ryker’s Ridge Baptist has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years. But God has been faithful to preserve a witness on Ryker’s Ridge for two hundred years, and we celebrate that faithfulness. Our history is full of stories of God using normal, everyday people to do His extraordinary work. We are thankful for what God has done, and look forward to the future knowing that He is still at work among us!