Orison Allan and his wife were the first known Baptists in the territory of Michigan, settling in the wilderness where Pontiac is now located.
Nine years later, on this day (July 2) in 1827, Henry Davis, a young graduate of Hamilton Theological Institute, arrived to minister to another community on the banks of the Detroit River, 40 miles from Pontiac. Most of the population of Detroit at the time was either French or Irish Catholic. In October he wrote home: “Our assemblies were rather small at first, although sufficiently large to afford us some encouragement… Baptists were never known in Detroit until we commenced our meeting. Consequently we could not expect to find a people prepared for us. Since my arrival I have had the pleasure of baptizing three persons… We have called a council to meet on the 20th of October with a view of organizing a church.”
Historian Albert Finn later wrote, “The Detroit River has never witnessed a more impressive scene than that which took place on its banks in 1827 when Elder Henry Davis, the young and fiery shepherd of the Baptist believers in Detroit, baptized a group of converts in the waters of the strait to which our city owes its name. A picturesque and colorful group of fine ladies, fur traders, and Indians, as well as the sober, first citizens stood reverently by.”
Brother Davis was able to secure a few lots on which to build a meeting house, but sadly a shortly thereafter he was seized by sickness and died, and the congregation was left leaderless for several years.