Ensley Baptist Church

william bruce
church pastors

Ensley Baptist
7077 120th St

Sand Lake MI 49343






History of

Ensley Baptist Church


The following is from the Ensley Township History Book,

"The Pioneer Parade"

Use with Permission from the Ensley Historical Society



1st Baptist Church of Ensley

Around 1884-90

The coming of Elder Niram Stilwell to the Ensley area marked the beginning of the Ensley Baptist Church. Elder Stilwell was a circuit riding preacher (on horseback) who established churches in other areas as well as Ensley, notably the Cedar Springs Baptist Church and the Howard City Baptist Church.

Picture: Niram Stilwell



The first meetings in Ensley were held in a schoolhouse a mile north of Ensley Center and later in various other school buildings. Some of Elder Stilwell’s first converts were the William Hillmans, the Smith Cooks and William Bruce. In 1863, with the help of Elder Stilwell, a nucleus of about fifteen members joined together to organize the First Baptist Church of Ensley. Meetings continued to be held in schoolhouses and baptismal services were held at Baptist Lake. With the continued encouragement of Reverend Stilwell plans were made to construct a building in which to worship. With the help of his brother, Cyrus, Niram Stilwell did much of the carpentry himself. A bell was installed at a cost of $94.60 (less 27 for prompt payment in 30 days). The bell was purchased in October and on Thanksgiving Day, 1884, the first service was held in their own building.

The Church, Horse Barn and Parsonage around 1890's

The edifice was heated by a wood stove placed near the door, the men holding wood bees to furnish the fuel. In 1905 the stove was moved to the center of the building. Kerosene lamps furnished lighting and a pump organ provided music. Sheds were built to shelter horses during services. In 1910 a well was driven at a cost of $75.00.

In 1903 a proposal to enlarge the church or build a basement under the church met with defeat. It was a postponement of the inevitable. In 1917 a basement was built under part of the church, the first of several projects to provide more space. With the work of the basement completed, a furnace was installed. A piano was purchased in 1917.




Picture: Four buildings

Sometime Before 1912


From Left to Right, The Baptist Church, Parsonage, The original Ensley Center School (Later the Women's Hall), and the back of the original town hall






In 1928 an electric lighting plant was installed and ten years later it was sold. From then on Consumers Power Company has furnished the electricity for the church. In 1932 a telephone was placed in the parsonage.


In 1949 the church was remodeled and enlarged to accommodate an increasing number of worshippers. With summer visitors from the lake resorts the building soon was filled once more to capacity.



In 1957 it was again necessary to expand. A new addition was built on the east side of the church, doubling the auditorium space. A full basement was constructed and upstairs a nursery and a balcony were added. Dedication services were held December 15, 1957. In 1959 a new brick parsonage was built and the old parsonage dismantled.







A new organ and piano were purchased to enhance the worship services.

Hardly another decade later the church again experienced growing pains. In anticipation of the need for further expansion, 38 acres across the road were purchased. In 1971, at a cost of $128,000.00 a new auditorium, seating 470 was erected on the newly acquired property. A generous gift to the church of a new Allen organ and shrubbery for the lawn was made.

A number of activities and programs are regularly observed. Since early in the history of the church, the ladies met regularly in the interest of missionary support. Calling themselves the Ladies Missionary Society they met twice monthly. For many years they had their own building, the former Ensley Center School. There they held meetings, tied quilts, and at election time served dinners for the election board and anyone else who cared to partake. In 1959 their building was razed to make room for the new parsonage. The Missionary Society continued to meet thereafter in the church or in a member’s home. Failing to interest many of the younger women of the church, their number dwindled and finally disbanded. With the encouragement of Rev, and Mrs. Donald Keesler a new group involving the younger women was organized. It was named the Ladies Missionary Guild and functioned somewhat the same as the earlier group. They take on various projects for the benefit of those missionaries who derive support from the church.

Missionary Group 1951

Ensley Baptist Church

1st row left to right: Ina Heiss, Ethel Woodman, Jessie Miles, Pearl Larson

2nd row: Laura Hills, Lottie Hawkins, Martha Tawney, Maggie Carr

3rd row: Tessie Truman, Alice Cochrane


The receipt for the bell in the bell tower 1884



Church roof being fixed