Many German families were settling in Texas in the mid-1800s, and the Texas Baptists recognized the need to minister to these people so they hired Dr. Kiefer as their first missionary. Dr. Kiefer and his first convert worked so successfully in the Brenham area that the first German Baptist Church was organized in Greenville, about 12 miles from Brenham, in 1861. Over time, 22 churches were organized.
In about 1884, Heinrich Engelbrecht, who had been baptized into the Baptist denomination, moved to this area from the Brenham area. Engelbrecht was able to sell his farms near Brenham for $25-30 per acre and buy 1600 acres here for $8 per acre. Soon, several other families moved here from Brenham and from Austria. The community became known as Prairie Chapel.
About the same time that Engelbrecht purchased his property, Rev. Julius Sydow moved from Brenham to King, a community about 25 miles west of Prairie Chapel. Rev. Sydow served King and Prairie Chapel on alternating Sundays. Since no church had been established, early settlers met in area homes for worship and Bible study.
On October 25, 1891, Canaan was officially organized with about 47 charter members. Before the charter meeting, Rev. F.J. Gleiss was dining at the home of Engelbrecht and noted the abundance of milk and honey on the table and suggested that the church be called Canaan since the Bible refers to Canaan as the land flowing with milk and honey.
At the time Canaan was organized, members had moved their worship services from area homes to a schoolhouse located where the cemetery is now located.
Because of travel distance, some services were held without a minister, so the congregation used books of sermons, which the members read during the service.
At an 1893 meeting, members decided to call a pastor at an annual salary of $150. In these early days, the pastor would supplement his salary by raising cattle and growing crops on land that the church provided.
In 1894, the congregation decided to build a church that would measure 50×30 feet. A parsonage also was completed by the end of the year.
Church customs at this time differed greatly from the present. The men would sit on the right side of the church, the women on the left, and the children in the front. At Canaan, the men and women sat on different sides of the church until the mid- 1970s.
The first remodeling project for the church took place in 1928 as side wings and drop doors were installed to provide four Sunday School rooms. Also at this time, the tower and steeple were built, and the fence around the cemetery, church, and parsonage was installed. The fence along the road in front of the church was subsequently removed years later. A Delco light plant also was installed to furnish electricity to the church and parsonage; however, in 1936, a power line to the church made the light plant unnecessary.
As the church became more established in the community, the greatest period of growth took place from 1927 to 1943. Under the direction of Rev. C.C. Gossen, seventy persons were baptized.
In the early 1950s, the church underwent further remodeling as the steeple was repaired; walls and ceiling were covered with acoustical paneling; hardwood flooring was added; the pulpit, the electric organ, and cushioned seats in the sanctuary were donated; and the fellowship hall was built.
In 1966, the seventy-fifth anniversary was celebrated. A photo taken of the group in attendance can be seen above.
In 1969, the Canaan Baptist Cemetery Association was formed to provide perpetual care for the cemetery. Money was accepted from interested parties, and the church’s farmland was sold in order to place a sufficient amount of money in a trust fund.
Other remodeling projects have continued over the years – in 1971 interior paneling was added to the sanctuary; in 1982 the educational wing connecting the church and fellowship hall was built; in 1989 a suspended ceiling was added in the sanctuary and new chandeliers were purchased; in the late 1990s vinyl siding was placed on all structures, playground equipment and an electric piano were donated, and a pavilion was donated to the cemetery association. During the last several years, church pews were donated to replace the individual seats in the sanctuary, and new carpet was installed throughout the church, educational wing and fellowship hall.
Being the closest church to the Bush ranch, Presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush have attended Canaan Baptist Church.
In October 1991, the church held its centennial celebration as we observed 100 years – proclaiming God’s word. Later, a historical marker commemorating the church’s longevity was erected at the front of the church.
In 2001 and 2002, President George W. Bush and his family participated in our Easter Sunrise Services. In more recent years, he and his father, President George H. W. Bush have attended morning services as well as the annual Christmas Eve program.
One tradition that members carry on today is decorating the church for Christmas following our Thanksgiving meal on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Members also hang the star on the church steeple. The shining star can be seen at night from almost ten miles away as travelers drive west from Crawford.
In spring of 2010 a new handicapped entrance with a cover was added to the fellowship hall.
In October of 2016 we celebrated our 125th anniversary. Shortly after, new Hardi-plank siding was added to the buildings with a fresh coat of paint. New windows were installed in 2022.
Currently, approximately 40 people attend Sunday worship services as new members to the church and community along with fifth-, sixth-, and seventh- generation descendants continue to proclaim God’s word in the Prairie Chapel community and beyond.
Canaan Baptist Church invites you to visit and consider joining our God-centered group.