Excerpts from In My Own Lot and Place, An Autobiography by S. P. Meads (1928), as they pertain to the founding of the Oakland Free Baptist church that later united with the First Baptist Church.
I have written a brief outline of my life hoping it may be of interest not only to my friends, but possibly to some who never knew me personally. This book may appeal to those that have sympathy with human life and its "ceaseless toil and endeavor." In these pages appear joy and sorrow, triumph and defeat, life and death,----all briefly recorded, but deeply experienced. We often wonder at the brevity of some lives, but we have quite as much reason to wonder at the duration of other lives. The balances are in the Almighty's hands. He sees the end from the beginning and "doeth all things well." Trusting God for whatever the future holds in store for me, I send forth this humble volume. May it do some good to those who read it.
I was born in South Limington, Maine, on the eleventh day of January, 1849. Four feet of snow covered the earth. My father died of typhoid fever in October before I was born in January. He was a strong, robust, Christian man, 26 years of age, when he was taken down with the fever. ...
The only church in our part of the town was a Free Baptist church and this we attended. During the winter of 1863-4 special meetings were held at our village church and a revival began in December. In the old abandoned home, where my great-grandmother had lived, I kept a testament under the mat in the attic and I used to go up each day and read a few verses and pray. I did not want anybody to know this. One day, as I was reading, one of my brothers came running up the stairs after something and I quickly hid the testament under the mat and pretended to be looking for something in a box of old iron. As soon as my brother was gone, I took the testament from under the mat and started to read from where I left off. The passage was "Whosoever therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." It did not seem right for me to hide the testament any more. ...
I arrived in San Jose, California in June, 1876. When I got off the train at the depot in San Jose, I walked up town to a barber shop opposite the park. After having a hair cut and a good brushing, I asked the barber where the Congregational church was. He pointed diagonally across the park to a church and said, "That is the church." There being no Free Baptist churches in California, I had partially promised my brother-in-law, A Congregational minister, that I would attend a Congregational church out here in California. ...
I came to Oakland early in November, 1876....
Our Free Baptist denomination opened work upon the coast when the Union Square Open-Communion Baptist church, Rev. N. L. Rowell, pastor, joined our denomination. Mrs. Meads and I sent for our letters and united with this church. We attended there for a year or more. On March 16, 1884, we opened a mission on San Pablo Avenue, near 20th Street, Oakland. A little later we rented a lot on the south side of 21st Street, near Brush Street with the privilege of buying. We erected a church building and dedicated it March 28, 1886, the lot having been paid for. A church was organized in February, 1887.
Dr. Joseph A. Benton, a Congregational clergyman and a professor in the Pacific Theological Seminary supplied our mission many Sunday mornings and gave an address of welcome at the dedication. I had asked him some time before, if he thought it wise for us to organize a Free Baptist church. He replied, "By all means. We need such a church in Oakland, especially for your stand on Prohibition and your liberality on the Communion question." A close relative of his had gone down from the pulpit drinking "California wine" and was entirely disqualified for further service. This, I think, caused him to mention our Prohibition position.
We held association meetings of which I was clerk. We organized a mission in Sacramento, built and dedicated a small church there but lost the property later through the fraud of the man we had put in charge. The supreme court at its first decision gave us back the property. A rehearing. In which for incidental reasons the Standard Oil and the Souther Pacific companies were interested, secured a decision against us.
The Baptists and Free Baptists throughout the country had been considering union for some time. Dr. Alfred W. Anthony led the forces for union on the Free Baptist side and Dr. A. S. Hobart on the Baptist side. The latter preached a great sermon in favor of union before the Northern Baptist convention. His arguments were something like this, 'You cannot tell whether you are in a Baptist or a Free Baptist church from the services. Our prayer meetings are alike, our ministers are alike, our deacons are alike, our members are alike." His last point was, "Even our cranks are alike."
The first Sunday in May, 1910, our little church of 81 members united with the First Baptist church of Oakland. Selling our property, church building and parsonage, we took over $2000 to pay on the first church debt and turned over $1500 to our Free church in San Francisco. This church afterwards followed the denomination in uniting with the Baptists.
Dr. Homer J. Vosbough, an able and eloquent preacher, was pastor of the First church, when we
united there. A crowded church building welcomed us. Our people have been happy and
satisfied in the fellowship with this church and we have been properly recognized. Dr. John
Snape is our present pastor and he is an ideal Shepherd of the people.