News Articles

Church’s founder among Titanic’s 1,500 victims

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–All the church knew, like so many of the friends and family of victims aboard the Titanic, is that Earl D. Sims was among the 1,500 passengers declared lost at sea after the massive ship struck an iceberg the evening of April 14, 1910.
Sims was traveling aboard the ill-fated ship back to the church he had helped start — Phoenix Baptist Church in Milldale, Fla., now North Main Street Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
The church organized in 1908 after Sims had led a series of tent revival meetings in a sawmill community on the outskirts of Jacksonville. Mill owner W.W. Cummer, the namesake of Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum and Gardens, allowed revival-goers to meet on his property, then later deeded the land to the church and supplied lumber for its construction.
Sims led the congregation for three years before traveling to England to visit his parents, English missionaries to China who were on furlough. Born in China, Sims was a missionary in Michigan before moving to Jacksonville. Jennie Phillips, who had known Sims in Michigan, had encouraged him to hold tent revivals in Jacksonville’s mill community.
Phillips was a distant cousin of North Main church’s current historian, Martha Thompson, whose parents were charter members of the Jacksonville church. Thompson was 4 years old when the Titanic sank.
“I remember that the church was sad about losing him,” Thompson said. “I’ve heard about him and his story all of my life. It was part of my heritage — I was a member of the church he started.”
Sims’ commitment to missions has been carried on in the church, Thompson said. “We were organized by a missionary and have kept that focus. We have always been a missions-oriented church.”
North Main Street Church will remember Sims and others who have contributed to the congregation’s life when the church celebrates its 90th anniversary May 3.