Florida Baptist Historical Society’s Gallery of Historic Baptist Leaders
The story of Florida Baptists is a saga of God’s people who migrated to the Florida Territory and brought with them their missionary Baptist perspective of Christianity. It is also a story comprised of native born Floridians, who as God-called men and women used their talents, skills and resources to share the claims of Jesus Christ to a spiritually lost world. The following person is representative of those men and women that comprise the great multitude of historically significant Florida Baptists.
Historic Florida Baptist: ANN B. HESTER BAILEY
Ann B. Hester Bailey (1841 – 1886) was the first Secretary of the Woman’s Mission Work for the Florida Baptist State Convention having served 1881-1886.
Mrs. Bailey’s involvement in a local church mission society had been cultivated as early as 1875 at the First Baptist Church of Talladega, Alabama. After organizing a ladies mission society, Mrs. Bailey led the group to raise money to build a home for missionaries in China. During the ensuing years she led in the establishment of mission societies in Alabama and Georgia.
Subsequently, her husband, Rev. Napoleon A. Bailey (b. Sept.5, 1833), was called as pastor of the Baptist church at Micanopy in the early 1880s. Mrs. Bailey quickly established at Micanopy in 1881 one of the first church woman’s missionary societies in Florida.
Attending their first Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting held at Ocala in 1881, Ann Hester Bailey was among four women who were permitted to serve as delegates representing their respective churches. The State Convention voted to permit the women the first-time ever privilege of speaking and voting on “the same terms as brethren.”
At the same 1881 State Convention Rev. N. A. Bailey reported on the work of state missions and highlighted the importance of women in the promotion and collection of funds for missions. He recommended that the Corresponding Secretary of the State Board of Missions be authorized to appoint a woman to serve as state secretary of woman’s mission work. W.N. Chaudoin, as corresponding secretary, appointed Mrs. N. A. Bailey as state secretary of Woman’s Mission Work, as it was then called.
Mrs. Bailey took her task seriously and set about organizing women’s missionary societies in local churches and in the associations. Although plagued by ill health, she traveled as much as possible under trying and difficult conditions. During her first year of leadership, Mrs. Bailey organized 26 missionary societies in nine of the 13 Florida associations. She used her pen – in personal correspondence and in articles carried by the Florida Baptist Witness – to inform and encourage Florida Baptist women to take up the cause of missions’ support. Additionally she encouraged churches to organize children’s mission bands.
The efforts of Mrs. Bailey were soon recognized by W.N. Chaudoin. “The work accomplished in three years by the ladies missionary societies organized by Sister Bailey, has been almost without parallel and has exceeded all expectations,” the corresponding secretary reported.
Mrs. Bailey’s last official report was made to the 1885 State Convention. She noted that in four years the women’s work had increased to 109 societies and bands from the four societies and one children’s band that existed in 1881. Gifts to foreign missions had grown to $1,225.38 given in 1884 from the $74.38 raised four years earlier.
Although she was re-elected as the leader of Woman’s Work, she was only able to serve six months before her untimely death September 16, 1886. The 1886 Florida Baptist State Convention Report on Woman’s Mission Work noted, “We acknowledge, with gratitude to God, the earnest, persevering labor of our late Sister Bailey, in awakening so largely the missionary spirit among the Baptist Christian women throughout the state, and in establishing mission bands among the children.” The report concluded, “We pray that her mantle may fall on some one chosen of God who, under him, may carry forward to perfection what she had so well begun.” At another point in the annual meeting, W. N. Chaudoin observed, “She was a choice spirit. She died in the harness. . .”
Ann B. Hester Bailey was born 1841 in Fayetteville, Tennessee. At the age of 17, she married Napoleon Alexander Bailey of Alabama on January 18, 1858.
The couple faithfully served in the ministry for many years. Among the early Baptist churches Rev. Bailey served was the congregation at Monticello, Florida, beginning in 1860. Following the Civil War, he served several rural Georgia churches and as principal of the Houston Female College in Perry, Georgia. His other significant Georgia pastorates included the Baptist churches at Milledgeville, Albany, and Dalton. In 1873 the Baileys, responding to a missionary call, traveled to California where they served for several years. Due to climate-induced health problems experienced by Mrs. Bailey, the couple returned to Alabama in 1875 where he served as the pastor of the First Baptist Church, Talladega.
Primary and Secondary Sources:
Florida Baptist Convention Annuals, 1881-1886.
Lelia Boring Lassiter, On This Foundation.
Mrs. O. R. Mays, The Life and Work of Mrs. A. B. Bailey.
Martha Pope Trotter, Faithful Servants.
Earl Joiner, A History of Florida Baptists.
History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia with Biographical Compendium.