Baptist Collection

Founded as a Baptist institution, Kalamazoo College throughout much of its history has received support and encouragement from members of the denomination. The Kalamazoo College Archives Baptist Collection is comprised of materials relating to the history of Baptists in Michigan and the Midwest, and to the early relationship between the college and the Baptist Church.

History and Scope of the Collection

The Baptist Collection makes up Record Group 2 in the Archives. It began with materials used by Mary Trowbridge for her book History of Baptists in Michigan (1909). These materials were deposited with the college and added to as time passed. The collection is now largely annual reports of administrative organizations within the American Baptist Society and the Michigan Baptist Convention. One of the most useful of these is the annual reports of the Michigan Baptist State Convention, which the Archives has for the years 1859-1966.

In addition to published annual reports is a group of early letters and documents relating to the Baptist Church in Michigan and the early years of the college. The guide to this part of the collection, A Calendar of the Baptist Collection of Kalamazoo College, was published in 1940 by the Michigan Historical Records Survey Project, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Works Progress Administration. It gives an annotated description of all the documents then included in the collection. Unfortunately, some of these documents are now lost, while others have been added. The electronic version of the Calendar is the original; the paper copy on file in the Archives has had notes penciled in regarding missing items and additions to the collection. Researchers should note that some of the existing letters in the collection are in fragile or faded condition, and may not be suitable for copying. The Calendar does provide good descriptions of the contents of each letter, so copying may not be necessary.

The papers of two important 19th century Michigan Baptist leaders are an important intellectual part of the Baptist Collection. The collection includes sermons of E.J. Fish, a Baptist minister, and three-time president of the Michigan Baptist Convention, and for many years a trustee of Kalamazoo College. The Archives also holds the papers of T.Z.R. Jones, Baptist missionary in Michigan from 1835 to 1876 and financial agent for both the Michigan Baptist State Convention and Kalamazoo College. There are sermons, college and Convention correspondence, personal correspondence, ledgers and record books in this record group.

The Kalamazoo College Archives is listed in various directories as a repository for Baptist records. Two important things about the Baptist Collection should be noted:

  • While the collection is of historical importance, it is no longer added to regularly.
  • The material housed in the Archives is not genealogical in nature (very few records from individual churches, etc.). One exception to that is obituaries of prominent Baptist clergy, which were sometimes published in the minutes of the Michigan Baptist Convention.

For more information about the Baptist Collection, contact the Archives.