committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER II.
The Church from 1818 to 1832.

 

        Not much is known of the church from 1788 to 1818, embracing a period of thirty years that comparatively nothing is known of this grand body. The Savannah Baptist Church nor the Sunsbury Association seem to have been careful about preserving records. We are indebted to Holcombe's Repository for facts preceding 1818. He informs us that the Second African Baptist Church was organized the 26th of December, 1802, with 200 members, and that it went out from the First African Baptist Church. The Ogeechee African Baptist Church was organized also from this church January 2d, 1803, with 250 members. Rev. Henry Cunningham, who was ordained January 1st, 1803, was called to the pastorate of the Second African Baptist Church, and Rev. Henry Frances was called to the pastorate of the Ogeechee African Baptist Church. The First African Baptist Church was represented in the Sunsbury Association (white) in November, 1818, by Adam Johnson and Josiah Lloyd. The total membership was 1712. At this time there were only two colored churches in the city, viz., First African and Second African. At the session held at Hines' meeting-house, Effingham county, in November, 1819, no delegates from the church appear, nor is the church mentioned. At the session held with the Savannah Baptist Church, November, 1820, the First African Baptist Church was represented by Adam Johnson and Adam Shuftall. The total membership was 1836. At the session held November, 1821, at the Baptist meeting-house, Upper Black Creek, Effingham county, the First African Baptist Church was represented by Evans Great. The total membership was 1916. At the meeting of the association, November, 1822, at New Port, Liberty county, Ga., the First African Baptist Church was represented by Adam Shuftall and Evans Great. The total membership does not appear. At the meeting of the association held at Powers' Church Effingham county, November, 1823, the First African Church was represented by A. Shuftall and Jack Simpson. Total membership was 1888. At the session held at Sunsbury, Liberty county, November, 1824, the First African Baptist Church was represented by A. Shuftall and A. Johnson. The total membership was 1912. At the session held at New Providence meeting-house, Effingham county, November, 1825, the First Church was represented by A. C. Marshall, A. Johnson, A. Shuftall and Jack Simpson. The total membership was 1886. At the session held at Salem meeting-house, Chatham county, November, 1826, the delegates were A. C. Marshall, A. Johnson, A. Shuftall and Jack Simpson. At the session held at New Hope meeting-house, November, 1827, the First African Baptist Church was represented by A. C. Marshall, A. Johnson and Jack Simpson. The total membership was 2,275. At the session held at the Little Canoochie Church, Liberty county, November, 1828, the delegates were A. C. Marshall, J. Clay and C. Ross. The total membership was 2,311. The session held at Newington Baptist Church, Screven county, November, 1829, the First African Church was represented by A. C. Marshall, J. Clay and C. Ross. Total membership, 2,357.

        At Power's meeting-house, Effingham county, November, 1830, the First African Baptist Church was represented by A. C. Marshall, J. Clay and Jack Simpson. The total membership was 2,417. At the session held with the Savannah Baptist Church, November, 1831, the First Church was represented by A. C. Marshall, A. Johnson, Jack Simpson and S. Whitfield. The total membership was 2,795.

        During 1832 a terrible confusion broke out in this grand old body. Rev. Andrew C. Marshall led a part of the church his way, and Deacon Adam Johnson led the other part his way. The trouble started because Rev. Marshall seems to have been influenced by one Rev. Alexander Campbell's preaching, who visited Savannah about this time. Deacon Adam Johnson opened war on Rev. Andrew C. Marshall. Deacon Adam Johnson and Rev. Marshall had been life-long friends, living together as twin lambs. They were both influential and great. When these two men met as opponents the result was fearful. Two lambs had turned upon each other with all the strength and fury of lions, and the cause of Christ suffered greatly by this unfortunate affair. Because of this trouble the church sent no delegates to the association in 1832. The Second African Baptist Church is the only colored church that was represented from Savannah at that session. If it is claimed that the First Bryan Baptist Church is the oldest church in this city, we ask where was she then?

        We have no disposition to justify Rev. A. C. Marshall for adhering to the doctrines preached by Alexander Campbell, nor to deny that he did do so, but our inquiry is after the original church organized in 1788. We have traced it up to 1832 as the First African Baptist Church, under the leadership of Rev. Andrew C. Marshall. Our object will be to ascertain if it continued to exist, and in what manner and under what name.

        At the session of the association held at Walthourville, November 9th and 10th, 1832, a resolution was adopted appointing "Brethren Jones, Southwell, J. S. Law, Harmon and Furman to investigate a difficulty existing in the First African Church of Savannah." Notwithstanding she was in trouble she was known as "the First African Church of Savannah." These were dark and stormy days for this old ship on the high seas. Her existence was threatened, but she was sustained by an unseen hand, and that hand was divine. The Almighty God plead her cause, and she sailed majestically once more upon a placid sea, with her snowy sails unfurled, kissing the pleasing breezes, bidding defiance to her enemies, and in their hearing, with humble joy, sung triumphantly "Deliverance will come."

        The committee appointed to investigate the difficulty existing in the First African Baptist Church of Savannah reported:

        "Your committee, after a serious consideration of the painful and difficult task assigned them, would present your body the following resolutions as the result of their consideration:

         "Resolved, That we approve highly of the recommendation of the Council of Ministers that was called, viz., that A. C. Marshall be silenced, and we concur in the opinion that he be silenced indefinitely.

         "Resolved, That the First African Church, as a member of this association, on account of its corrupt state, be considered as dissolved, and that measures be adopted to constitute a new church as a branch of the white Baptist Church.*

         "Resolved, That we advise our colored brethren in the country, now members of the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, to take letters of dismission, and either unite themselves with neighboring churches of our faith and order, or to be constituted into separate churches."*

        In the same resolutions the Second African Church of Savannah was complimented for its Christian deportment, and a copy of the resolutions ordered transmitted to the Mayor of Savannah.

        At this session, therefore, it will be seen that the association adopted resolutions considering the First African Church as dissolved. Let us see, as we go along, if it was dissolved. Even in those terrible days of slavery everything our white brethren considered as being so, was not necessarily so; note, they did not dissolve the church, but considered it as dissolved. It appears that they did not attach much importance to this consideration, for in the same resolutions they advised that members of the First African Church should take letters of dismission and either join other Baptist churches or form other Baptist churches. If the First African Church was dissolved because of its corrupt state, how could it give letters of dismission? It requires no difficulty to see that this bears inconsistency on its face. We do not find at this session any other church taking the place of the First African Baptist Church. We have her up to her expulsion from the Sunsbury Association as the First African Baptist Church of Savannah.

 

* When the First Bryan Baptist Church, then the Third African Church, entered the association in 1833, it did so as "Third African Church," and not as "First African." Whence this claim?

* This new church was the Third African Baptist Church, now the First Bryan Baptist Church. It is strange that it does not claim even the name but now, as always, they themselves have recognized the First African Baptist at Franklin Square, as First African Baptist Church.

 
 
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