In 1882, while razing an old adobe church building in Santa Fe, New Mexico – a building which had been used by the Presbyterians for years – the demolition team found the original cornerstone. On it, along with other information, was the date May 21, 1853. It proved that the building was the first Baptist meeting house in New Mexico.
Hiram Read and his wife were headed to California as missionaries in the year ‘49. When they arrived in Santa Fe, Bro. Read was so worn out and sick he was scarcely able to walk, and his hands had swollen to twice their normal size. So the couple decided to stay and recuperate. When the local governor heard of their presence, he met them and pleaded that they begin their work right where they were. Santa Fe at the time had a population of 6,000, in a territory of 100,000 people, without a single non-Catholic church. After three days of prayer, Brother Read determined that it was the Lord’s will that he begin his missionary labors there. He quickly learned to speak Spanish and began to go from house to house, sharing the gospel with the people. Not only did he start a church in Santa Fe, but also in Albuquerque, sixty miles to the south. He ministered to the Indians in neighboring pueblos, and was captured by renegades who threatened to burn him to death. During the War between the States, Brother Read served in the Union army and was captured, spending time in a military prison. After the war he ministered in Arizona as well as New Mexico, eventually retiring in El Paso, Texas. I haven’t learned if he ever reached his intended destination in California. But he did oversee the erection of the first Baptist meeting house in New Mexico which began construction on this day 170 years ago.