George Washington Baines, Sr. (December 29, 1809 – December 29, 1882), a maternal great-grandfather of U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, was a Baptist clergyman in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas who served briefly as natural science professor and President of Baylor University at its first location in Independence in Washington County, Texas.
Early years, family, education
Baines was born near the Atlantic coast in Perquimans County, North Carolina, to the Reverend Thomas Baines and the former Mary McCoy. In 1817, the Baines moved to Georgia and then to Alabama, where Baines attended the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. He did not graduate because he left the institution his senior year as a result of the stomach ailment dyspepsia, which plagued him for the remainder of his life. Baines cut and rafted timber to pay for his college tuition. After leaving college, he taught school. Years later, the University of Alabama awarded him an honorary degree for his accomplishments.
Call to the ministry
Baines was baptized in the Salem Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa County in 1834. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1837. He married the former Melissa Ann Butler of North Carolina on October 20, 1840, and thereafter moved to northern Arkansas, where he founded three churches and baptized 150 converts. He was also a missionary for the Baptist Home Mission Society of New York City. Baines even served for three months in the Arkansas House of Representatives from November 1843 to February 1844 as the member from Carroll County.
A church schism in Arkansas
In March 1844, the "Hardshell" Baptist dissenters gained control of Baines' Crooked Creek Baptist Church, located south of Harrison, Arkansas, the seat of Boone County. Baines was a "Missionary" Baptist in orientation (not to be confused with the Missionary Baptist denomination). The Baineses and other mission-oriented members were ousted from the Crooked Creek Church. The "Missionary" Baptists were evangelistic and believed in the constant presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the propitiation for the sins of mankind and the sole source of salvation in the hereafter. The "Hardshell" segment, also called "Primitive" Baptists, embraced predestination, which took the view that while some individuals would accept the call of Christ, others most decidedly would not do so. The "Hardshells" eschewed revivals; they merely presented the Gospel, in some congregations only on a monthly basis, and left matters otherwise constant. The two groups were at odds in many locations across the American South.
Pastor in Louisiana
Baines and his family left Crooked Creek and moved south to Mount Lebanon in Bienville Parish in north Louisiana. He was the Bienville Parish superintendent of schools and also the founding minister of the Saline Baptist Church, constituted on September 7, 1844. The church was later named Old Saline Baptist Church and maintains a cemetery. Baines pastored at Old Saline until 1848, when he relocated to neighboring Webster Parish and served as the first pastor of the Minden Baptist Church, later the First Baptist Church of Minden, Louisiana. (In 1969, Major dePingre', a journalist-turned-businessman, published The History of the First Baptist Church of Minden, Louisiana.)
Baines was the third minister of the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and the moderator of the Red River Baptist Association. He assisted in the organization of the North Louisiana Baptist Convention in 1848. While in Minden, he helped to organize the First Baptist congregation in Marshall, Texas, the seat of Harrison County west of Shreveport.
Pastor of eight churches in Texas
After his service at Mount Lebanon, Baines relocated to Huntsville, Texas, where he was the pastor of still another Baptist Church. Later, in Independence, Texas, Baines met the legendary Sam Houston, who became a lifelong friend. Reverend Baines counseled Houston on the desirability of baptism after making a Christian commitment of faith. Consequently, Sam Houston was baptized in the last decade of his life on November 19, 1854, not by Baines, but by the Reverend Rufus C. Burleson, who had succeeded Baines as the pastor at the Independence Baptist Church.
During his ministry in Texas, Baines also pastored in Anderson, Fairfield, Springfield, Butler, Florence, and Salado. He founded the first Baptist newspaper in Texas, the Texas Baptist, and edited the publication from 1855 until 1860, when it ceased production with the advent of the American Civil War. He led churches in prayer days, distribution of Bibles, aid to families, and soldier relief work during the war.
The Baylor years
Baines served as Baylor's president from 1861 to 1863 at a salary of $1,600 per year. He struggled to keep the school afloat despite financial woes and problems with his own health. He also taught grades 7-12—Baylor educated all above the sixth grade—and his college science class as well as handling the administration of the school. Baines resigned from the Baylor presidency because he believed himself to have been more suited for a pastorate than a college administrative post.
Baylor was the first institution of higher learning in Texas, and in time the school became the largest Baptist-related institution of higher education in the world. Baines encouraged women students at Baylor, and he and Mrs. Baines helped to provide them lodging. In his later years, Baines was a trustee of the Baylor female institution, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton. The school has since gone coeducational. In 1886, four years after Baines' death, Baylor relocated to Waco, the seat of McLennan County.
On January 21, 1865, Melissa Baines died while the family was living in Fairfield. Baines' mother had died months earlier, after having come to live with the family. Melissa Baines is buried in an unmarked grave in Fairfield Cemetery. The grave was not located by family members until 1960. Baines made her coffin with his own hands. Six months later on June 13, Baines married a then 33-year-old widow, Cynthia W. Williams, also originally from North Carolina.
In 1866, Baines traveled as field agent for the Texas Baptist State Convention and in 1867 moved his family to Salado, where he pastored the First Baptist Church. In 1877, he became an agent for the Education Commission of the Baptist State Convention, but in 1881, the Salado congregation compelled him to resume the pastorate there. After the death of second wife Cynthia Baines on February 4, 1878, Baines lived with his daughter Anna Melissa Baines in Belton in Bell County until he died of malaria on his 73rd birthday. Baines is interred in Salado in Bell County. Joseph Wilson Baines, one of the ten children of George and Melissa Baines, was the father of Rebekah Baines Johnson, the mother of Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Fairfield church in Freestone County honored former pastor Baines with an historical marker unveiled in 1965.
Lyndon Johnson attended the 125th anniversary of the First Baptist Church in Minden in the fall of 1969, when the churched particularly honored the memory of LBJ's great-grandfather.
The George Washington Baines House has been restored and operates as the popular Baines House Bed and Breakfast Inn in Salado.