There is more than one “General Conference” in FWB history. This one met every three years from 1895-1910 and was initiated by Rev. Thomas E. Peden of Sciotoville, Ohio. He was first active in the Randall movement General Conference but resisted that body’s incorporation and changing its name from Freewill Baptists to Free Baptists.
Consequently, he led a number of churches from Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky to separate from that organization and take part in the formation of a new General Conference that included associations in the Southern (Palmer) movement. (This was well before the merger of the Northern Free Will Baptists into the Northern Baptists in 1910-1911.) Peden regarded this as the “true” General Conference and numbered the sessions according to the numbers being used in the North; thus the first session in 1895 was billed as the 29th session (since the 1895 session of the Northern General Conference was its 29th).
After the inaugural session in 1895 in Ohio, there was an adjourned session in 1896 at Cofer’s Chapel in Nashville, Tennessee, followed by regular sessions in 1898 (Ayden, NC), 1901 (Nashville, TN), 1904 (Dunn, NC), 1907 (Nashville, TN), and 1910 (Florence, AL). The organization grew: each session saw wider participation, as the following minutes will show (we have records for all the sessions except 1896). Another session was scheduled for 1913 in Georgia, but Peden, the spark-plug for the movement, died, and the organization did not meet again.
When John L. Welch and the founders of another “General Conference” in the Southeast began in 1921 they regarded the organization as a revival of this General Conference led by Peden.
1895 (transcribed by Dr. Robert E. Picirilli)