Founded by Germans who fled oppression in Russia for the inhospitable climate of Brazil and who then found the cool mountains of Central PA to their liking, the church is located in the tiny community of Forest along the road between Winburne and Munson in Cooper Township.
Of the 20 founders, 19 were German from Russia that traveled by ship to Brazil, where they had been told they could find a good life working in coffee and sugar beet fields. The 20th founder was from Poland. Of the 52 in the group who died en route from Russia to Brazil, many were children. A number of adults and children also died in Brazil.
The travelers to Brazil kept in touch with Germans who came to what is now Clearfield County and who advised them that life would be much better if they moved here and found jobs in coal mines.
They came by ship to pass the Statue of Liberty and land at New York City on July 4, 1892 and became the settlers of Forest, where the thick stands of virgin timber that was the origin of the community’s name also gave rise to sawmills. Despite the hardships of their journeys and pioneer life, they held tightly to their religion, at first gathering in homes to worship before they had a building for what was originally known as the German Baptist Church of Munson.
Forest Baptist Church (formally German Baptist Church of Munson) was completed December 15, 1895 and dedicated. The land the church is on was purchased for $1 from Orrin L. Schoonover. In 1901 the Forest Church changed its mission station to an organized church and got its pastor, Johannes Gottlieb Baum, who served for two years before returning to Germany. An associate pastor, Valentine Wolf of NYC had German Bible School classes to teach children of the congregation to read and write German while learning the Bible. German hymns and German language services were the norm at the church until around 1941.
The Forest Baptist Church grew to a congregation of 110 at its peak in 1906. But coal mine strikes hit the area and many people moved away to avoid the strife and the church remained smaller, with about 40 attending the weekly services in 1992.
On April 1, 1969 it noted an important event; the church became self-supporting after many years of mission support.
In 1954 the church building was remodeled and the interior literally turned around. Previously the entrance was right off the highway, but as traffic became heavier, safety became a problem. What is the back of the church was previously the front. The pastor stood in the back of the church facing towards the highway. With the remodeling of the church, the many steps were eliminated and it was possible to go into the building from the parking lot. To this day, the pastor stands at the front of the church, with her back to the highway.
The Progress May and June 1993