By Tom Balcom, Church Historian
While no past record or proof exists, it is very likely that Harry Wild Jones is responsible for naming our church. Because he was an architect and a long-standing member of our parent church, Calvary Baptist at 26th and Blaisdell Avenue, Jones was commissioned to design both our original chapel and our current church building. Now for the rest of the story!
Harry Wild Jones was involved in a near-fatal car accident in 1906. For his recuperation from a fractured skull, Jones took an around-the-world cruise, including an extended stay in Burma. He specifically went to Burma because his grandfather Jones did missionary work there with Adoniram Judson during the early to mid-1800s. He learned firsthand about the valuable contributions to the well-being of the Burmese people and their country by Judson, his grandfather, and other 19th century Baptist missionaries in Burma.
Upon Jones’ return to Minneapolis in 1907, he designed a chapel for Calvary’s mission church two miles to the southwest in a new growing neighborhood. At that time, I’m convinced that Harry Wild Jones gave our church the name “Judson Memorial Baptist Church” because of his admiration for the missionary work of Adoniram Judson and his grandfather Jones. In addition, Adoniram Judson was a famous graduate of Brown University, a college deeply rooted in religion, where Harry attended before getting his architecture degree from MIT. Finally, using “Memorial” in a building name was a common practice for recognizing important people and their role in founding institutions such as churches, schools, and hospitals in the early 1900s. Coincidentally, for over 40 years, Jones lived just a block from the Washburn Memorial Orphan Asylum (where Ramsey Junior High School is today).
Harry Wild Jones was chosen to design our current church building at 41st and Harriet in 1914. He conducted the cornerstone laying ceremony in June. Eight months later, he gave a religious architecture address at the opening service of Judson Church in March, 1915. Even though Judson Memorial Baptist Church was his personal architectural work and it was two miles closer to his home at 51st and Nicollet, Jones continued to attend and maintain his membership at Calvary Baptist Church for the rest of his life.
Our church cornerstone is right around the corner, literally, to the right of the 41st Street entrance to Judson Church. The huge block of limestone is inscribed with our church name, our 1909 year of incorporation, and the year 1914 when our cornerstone was laid and construction of Judson Church began at 41st and Harriet. Judson’s first minister, Justin Wroe Nixon placed a sealed box in the cornerstone containing paper records relating to the history and organization of the church in the prior five years, the merger of Judson and First Free Baptist Churches, and building committee members and officers of the church.
More than a month ago, with the help and equipment of an architect friend, Tom Balcom drilled into the side of the cornerstone and with a boroscope was able to view a portion of the box. A short time later, a much larger hole was drilled to allow the removal of the box. Unfortunately, the box was totally rusted out and falling apart. The papers had absorbed moisture over the years and were a congealed pile of mush. Curator staff from the Midwest Art Conservation Center determined that the paper records could not be recovered and restored.
On June 8th after the church service, we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the cornerstone laying ceremony at the 41st Street entrance. The rusted box and paper contents were on display. We are planning to place a new, much better-sealed container in the cornerstone at another ceremony after a Sunday service this fall. We will then seal up the cornerstone for another 100 years. We want to put in small items, photos, and papers no larger than 8 and a half by 11 inches. Please email your ideas to Tom Balcom or Eileen McLaughlin this summer before the end of August.
Judson 75th History put together by Tom Balcom. Click Here