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HISTORY
OF THE
FIRST AFRICAN BAPTIST CHURCH.

CHAPTER I.

 

        The First African Baptist Church was organized on the 20th day of January, 1788, at Brampton's barn, three miles west of Savannah, by Rev. Abraham Marshall (white) and Jesse Peter (colored). The first fruit of this beginning was Andrew Bryan, Hannah Bryan (his wife), Hagar and Kate. These four Christians formed a nucleus around which the Baptist denomination twined in Savannah and in Georgia.

        Just here we insert an extract, as taken from Dr. Henry Holcombe's Analytical Repository, published in Savannah, Ga., in 1802:

        "The first ordained minister of color who came among these people was George Leile, who was liberated by Mr. Henry Sharp, of Burke county, and is now the pastor of a large church in Kingston, Jamaica. During the short time he was in this city he baptized Cate, an African woman, the property of Mrs. Eunice Hogg, Andrew, his wife Hannah, and Hagar, belonging to the venerable Mr. Jonathan Bryan. The three former have honorably obtained their freedom, and live comfortably; in fact, Andrew's estate is worth upward of five thousand dollars. Hagar is yet alive. By the joint and zealous efforts of these poor, illiterate slaves, it is rationally hoped, a concern was awakened for the salvation of precious souls which has produced many happy effects; and of what extent or continuance the salutary fruits of their feeble exertions may eventually be is beyond the power of calculation.

        "Like a city that is set on a bill and cannot be hid, soon after they began to call on the name of the Lord Jesus and stir one another up to love and to good works, they attracted the attention of the community, and Andrew, commonly called Andrew Bryan, with numbers of his followers, was whipped and imprisoned as means of putting a stop to their proceedings. But they found advocates and patrons among very respectable and influential characters, and, by well-doing, at length disarmed and silenced their bitterest persecutors.

        "At this period Andrew began to learn to read, and obtained leave of his worthy master to occupy his barn as a place of worship, at Brampton, about three miles from Savannah. Here he publicly and to great numbers endeavored to preach; and for two years, with very little interruption, had an opportunity of showing that 'Godliness is profitable unto all things.'

        "By this time their affairs were known to religious individuals at a considerable distance; and as destitute of any one authorized to administer the sacred ordinances, they were visited by the late Rev. Thomas Burton, who, on a creditable profession of their faith. baptized eighteen of Andrew's hearers. They expressed much gratitude to Mr. Burton for his instruction and other assistance, went on their way rejoicing, and showed increased solicitude to be still more perfectly instructed in the things of God.

        "The next visit they had by an ordained minister was from the Rev. Abraham Marshall, who, accompanied by a young preacher of color, Jesse Peter, not only baptized forty more of Andrew's congregation; but, on the 20th of January, 1788, constituted them a church and ordained him to both preach the gospel and administer its sacred ordinances to their proper subjects.

        "Soon after being thus systematized on the gospel plan, they were permitted to build a large house of worship on the suburbs of Savannah and to serve God as they pleased on the Lord's day, from sun to sun. In this situation their number as a church rapidly increased, and all suspicions of their being influenced by unworthy motives have long given place to an esteem of their humble virtues. They have several gifted men among them, and the mother church has enlarged her boundaries by the constitution of two sable daughters--one consisting of two hundred members, on the 26th of December, 1802, under the denomination of the SECOND COLORED BAPTIST CHURCH IN SAVANNAH; the other, comprehending two hundred and fifty, on the 2d of January 1803, called the Ogeechee Colored Baptist Church; the former to be supplied by Henry Cunningham, who was ordained to the work of the ministry on January 1st, 1803; the latter by Henry Frances. Diminished by these constitutions, the First Colored Baptist Church in this city, still under the pastoral care of the aged and pious Andrew Bryan, consists of but four hundred members. They have divine services three times every Sunday, and the Lord's Supper quarterly. On each of these occasions, for the three last years, they have received by baptism from ten to sixty-four souls."

        Great was the suffering of the pioneers of our denomination in this city. But under this terrible persecution this church thrived and was greatly blessed of God.

        The Second African Baptist Church is her first offspring, which is now a flourishing church with nearly two thousand members. There has nearly always existed between these two churches the most friendly feelings. Many families of worth and intelligence are equally divided between the First African And Second African churches. To-day the wives of three of the Deacons of the First Church belong to the Second Church. In very many cases the wife and some of the children belong to one church, and the father and some of the children belong to the other. This interchange of families in the two churches form almost a demand for the pastors of the two churches to be on friendly terms. The First Church has had untold suffering. At times she has been compelled to suspend service. Her doors were more than once closed by the civil authorities. God always brought them out by raising up some white man as an instrument.

        The church bought the present site on which the First Bryan Baptist Church building now stands the 3d of July, 1797. The property was sold by Rev. Andrew Bryan to a board of trustees for the First African Baptist Church, of which he was pastor, and had been for nine years and six months. He sold the land to white trustees, because it was not lawful for negroes to hold such property. We present here a copy of the deed, which we are sure will be interesting to our readers.

GEORGIA.

 

        This Indenture, made the third ....... day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven, and of the independence of the United States of America the twenty-first, between Andrew Bryan, a free black man and a preacher of the gospel by lawful authority ordained, of Savannah, in the State aforesaid, of the one part, and Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox and Josiah Fox ............ ..................................... . That the said Andrew Bryan, for and in consideration of the sum of thirty pounds sterling money .................................... to him in hand, well, and truly, paid by the said Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox and Josiah Fox, at or before the sealing and delivering of these presents, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, he, the said Andrew Bryan, Hath granted, bargained, sold, aliened, conveyed and confirmed, and by these presents Doth grant, bargain, sell, alien, convey and confirm to the said Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox and Josiah Fox, and the survivor and survivors of them, and to such successor and successors as may be appointed ...... to and for the use of the Baptist Church of blacks at Savannah, in ...............over which the said Andrew Bryan now does and for some time past has presided as pastor and minister, one equal moiety being the half of all that lot of land (most part of the said lot) situate, lying and being at Yamacraw, above the city of Savannah aforesaid, known by the number seven (7) in the village of St. Gall, fronting Bryan or Ordingsells street, containing ninety-five feet in front and one hundred and thirty-two feet and one-half in depth, bounded west and south by land of the late Dr. Zubly, deceased, East on a lot late Richard Williams, deceased, and North on the main street leading ..............Yamacraw to ....... brick meeting-house ...... with the meeting-house thereon erected and standing on all and ......... other the houses, out ............... premises and appurtenances whatsoever to the same belonging or in anywise appertaining, which said lot was bought by William Bryan and James Whitefield, as trustees to and for the use of the said Andrew Bryan, from one Mathew Motts and Catharine, his wife, by deed of bargain and sale bearing date the fourth day of September, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, and purchased by the said Mathew Motts of and from one Thomas Norton and Tamar, his wife, in and by a certain deed of bargain and sale to him duly executed, bearing date the twenty-first day of June, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, all of which by the said several deeds, reference being thereunto had, will more fully and at large appear, together with the meeting-house or building for public worship thereon erected, and being and all and singular the heredita ........., rights, members and appurtenances whatsoever to the same belonging, or in anywise appertaining, and the reversion and reversions, remainder and remainders, rent, issues and profits thereof, and of every part and parts .............the estate, title, interest, claim and ...... of him, the said Andrew, of, in and to the .................. or half part of the lot above described, and the premises hereinbefore mentioned and intended to be hereby bargained and sold unto the said Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox and Josiah Fox, and every part and parcel thereof, and on the death or decease of any or either of the said Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox or Josiah Fox, to which successor or successors, as they or a majority of the survivors shall appoint. In trust, nevertheless, to and for the only proper use, benefit and behalf of the said Baptist congregation of blacks at Savannah, now and for some time past under the direction and care of the said Andrew Bryan, forever. And it is hereby understood and declared to be the intention of the parties to these presents that the said lot and building ....... invested in the said Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox and Josiah Fox, and the successors as aforesaid, for the sole use and purpose of the public worship of God by the society of blacks, of the Baptist persuasion, and for no other use or purpose whatsoever; that on the death or decease of any or either of the above-named--Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox or Josiah Fox--the survivor or survivors may and shall within one year thereafter nominate and appoint a successor or successors in the room of such deceased trustee, which successor or successors so appointed as aforesaid shall be considered as a party to these presents for the uses and purposes hereby mentioned and intended. And the said Andrew Bryan and his heirs, the said half lot of land and premises, and every part and parcel thereof, unto the said Thomas Polhill, William Mathews, David Fox and Josiah Fox, and their successors to be appointed as hereinbefore directed, for the uses and purposes as hereinabove set forth against him the said Andrew Bryan and his heirs, and against all and every person or persons whatsoever shall and will Warrant and forever defend by these presents.

        In Witness whereof the said parties to these presents have hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals the day and year first above written.

ANDREW BRYAN.
his mark.

[L. S]
Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of

(NOTE.) The word (five) immediately after the word (ninety) in the first page between the sixteenth lines, and also the word (half) immediately after the words (the said) in the second page between the eighteenth and nineteenth lines, were both interlined previous to the execution hereof. In the presence of us.

-- HARRISON,

ELIAS ROBERTS.

CITY OF SAVANNAH. That the within deed was signed, sealed and delivered by Andrew Bryan for the use therein is attested on both by

ELIAS ROBERTS.

Sworn to before me on the 30th August, 1797.

HENRY PUTNAM.

Received the day and year first within written the sum of thirty pounds sterling money, being the consideration money as is within specified to be paid to me.

I say Received.

his mark.
ANDREW BRYAN.

Witness:
--HARRISON,

ELIAS ROBERTS.

Dated the 3d day of July, 1797. ANDREW BRYAN,
To
THOMAS POLHILL,
WILLIAM MATHEWS,
DAVID FOX, and
JOSIAH FOX.

Bargain and Sale of Lot No. 7 in Yamacraw, Village of St. Gall. Consideration, ?30.

MOSES CLELAND,
EDWARD COPPEE,
JOSIAH PENFIELD.

 

        The blanks in the above deed are caused by the worn condition and pieces of paper broken out in the creases. The deed is very old.

 
 
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