University Baptist Church

From HistoryWiki

50 W. Lane Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43201

Abigail Bartlett Cass Bunker graduated from the Connecticut Seminary for Girls in 1845. She was the valedictorian for her class and excelled in the course of mathematical astronomy, Greek, French, music and painting. These were classes definitely not associated with a finishing school education for young 19th century women.

Immediately following her graduation she married the farmer Cyrus Bunker. The next 37 years of her life were devoted to the typical pursuits of a farmer’s wife. She raised eight children (a ninth died in infancy) and entertained her gregarious husband’s many dinner guests.

The Bunkers bought a farm near London, Ohio and moved there from New England in 1856. In 1882 two of the Bunker daughters were hired as teachers in the Columbus Public Schools. Given the rough and tumble reputation of Columbus in the 1880s, there is a strong likelihood that the entire family decided to move to Columbus so the two daughters would have a secure home. The family purchased a house at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Neil Avenue.

Mrs. Bunker became an active member of the Russell Street Baptist Church, now affiliated with the Second Baptist Church of Columbus, OH. She served in the Sunday School, Young People’s Society, and the Missionary Organization. She also became very interested in attending programs and events at the Ohio State University located several blocks north of her home. She recognized the need for some form of religious opportunity in this rapidly growing neighborhood. On April 10, 1889 with the help of some of her Russell Street fellow members, Mrs. Bunker started a Sunday School in a store front at 1547 North High Street (at the corner of Tenth Avenue). The program consisted of Sunday lessons followed by a brief evangelistic service. This format soon evolved into a Friday evening prayer meeting and a Sunday evening service. The Sunday school received 24 professions of faith in its first four months.

Given such rapid growth, the next step was to form a new church in the university area. The Tenth Street Baptist Church was formally organized at a service on November 27, 1890. E.F. Roberts was called as its first pastor on March 22, 1891. A new chapel on a lot at Tenth and Highland streets was dedicated in 1894. Mrs. Bunker plated a leading role in the development of this new congregation.

Joseph Taylor served as pastor from 1901-1903. During his brief ministry, both his wife and daughter died. He boarded at Mrs. Bunker’s house and the two of them became close friends during Rev. Taylor’s tragic personal losses. From discussions with Mrs. Bunker, Rev. Taylor decided to enter the mission field and left Columbus to bring the message to the people of China. Mrs. Bunker was a strong advocate of Rev. Taylor’s work in China and raised financial support through the church’s Women’s Union (forerunner of today’s Women’s Society).

On September 27, 1913 Abigail Bunker died. Joseph Taylor returned from China to honor his dear old friend. He suggested to the Women’s Union the creation of the Bunker Memorial Scholarship Fund to assist missionary work with nursing student scholarships in China. Political changes in China in 1949 brought about the redirection of the fund to the nursing program at the Central Philippine University. As of late, the Fund was also used to support the Christian Medical College & Hospital in Vellore, India.