committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER XII.

        THE work of rebuilding now went on, and was industriously pushed forward. The old building had been taken down, and the foundations of the new one were built up to a height of four feet within thirteen days. The work was done exclusively by colored mechanics and laborers, under the direction of a white architect, whose presence was seldom required. The city of Savannah has ever been noted for first-class colored mechanics, especially in house building.

        Materials were readily furnished on credit, as the law gives a lien on the property to secure their payment. Thus all needful articles were procured and the work continued rapidly onward. The church starting out with strong faith, large desires, and a small cash capital, the struggle to meet the requirements and make payments when due was great, and compelled her members and friends to bestir themselves, and taxed their efforts to the utmost capacity. Yet, the will to do being in them, they, by the help of God, found the way, and adopted many means for raising funds. We mention the following as an example: A short historical sketch was prepared by the chairman of the finance committee, accompanied by an appeal for aid, which was printed and distributed to the citizens. Several of the best-known members and friends were then given books, with the name of the church printed thereon, to canvass the city among their friends. As one set would come in and report their success, another would follow. Many of the societies of the city among our people also made donations from their treasuries, and nearly every member of the church contributed such amount as he or she was able. We have received from the clerk of the church the following itemized statement:

        The foregoing is simply an approximation of the moneys secured in the several different ways suggested by the fertile brain of the pastor to the members who raised the means to build the church. While all were interested and impressed with the burden of this work, the greatest part of the responsibility devolved upon their under-shepherd of Christ, who fully proved himself equal to the occasion; and as a wise master-builder was always foremost in suggesting new methods for gathering necessary means as soon as those already utilized seemed unavailing, and so the church, as it should, drew supplies from many sources,--churches, societies, civil and military organizations, individuals, white and colored members of her own body, and of sister churches. They all, individually and collectively, contributed to her aid in this great work and came to her relief when compelled to contract debts; for with all these several resources from which she drew, the means did not accumulate sufficiently to meet the demands, and, therefore, with much regret, the trustees were called upon to borrow money from several institutions and individuals to meet the payment of bills when due, in order to save the credit of the church.

        The following is a statement of the amount borrowed and the sources from which it was obtained: From the Alabama State Life Insurance Company, $1000, at ten per cent. per annum; from F. Harty, $500, at seven per cent. for ninety days; from the Chatham Mutual Loan Association, on twenty shares of stock purchased, $4000; from the Savannah Bank and Trust Company, $1000, at seven per cent. per annum; all of which was paid up when due, according to their obligations. The church as a committee of the whole, with the pastor as chairman directing their actions,--and at periods mortgaging his personal property for security,--met every debt. A committee of the church, comprising the pastor, deacons, and trustees, was appointed to make a thorough investigation of the receipts, disbursements, and indebtedness soon after the building was up and enclosed sufficient for temporary use, who made the following report:

 

REPORT OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES FOR SIX YEARS AND EIGHT MONTHS, ENDING DECEMBER 28, 1879, ON THE FINANCIAL AFFAIRS OF THE FIRST BRYAN BAPTIST CHURCH.

SAVANNAH, April 30,1880.

TO THE FIRST BRYAN BAPTIST CHURCH:

 

        DEAR BRETHREN,--Your committee of pastor, deacons, and trustees would beg leave to report, in conclusion:

        From the somewhat unclerical manner of the amounts, which we have examined thoroughly, we have been very naturally detained in our report; but we will plead for this delay that the most through investigation has been made of all these accounts, and as critical report made herein as was possible; and respectfully suggest that this report be made the basis of a financial ledger, in which shall be recorded separately each future monthly, quarterly, and yearly report, that in future the financial condition of the church may be more readily ascertained. And it is the bounden duty of the officers who have exclusively the secular affairs of the church in their keeping to see to this matter whenever a report is made, although it is the right of the church or any member to inquire into and insist that this be done, that the generation to come after us may know where to find the oldest church of our race and denomination in this State.

 

Most respectfully submitted,

JAMES M SIMMS, Chairman,
DAVID WATTERS,
QUIVES FRAZER,

Board of Trustees.

Appended.--In the account of Treasurer Rahn we find that in his account for three years, up to January 1, 1880, he paid out thirty-six dollars and fifty-five cents more than his receipts.

JAMES M SIMMS,

Chairman.

 

        Since then they have continued their efforts up to the completion of the building as it now stands. The outer dimensions are: length, 75 feet; breadth, 56 feet; height from the foundation to the peak of the roof, 45 feet; with a belfry above containing a bell. On the inside the distance from the floor to the ceiling is 26 feet; a spacious gallery occupies three sides, which, with its lower audience-room, gives a seating capacity of about 1500 persons. It cost, in round numbers, about $30,000, not including an organ, valued at $1350,--all paid for excepting the latter (now [1888] being placed in position), which will be when it is completed according to contract.

        The church in 1885 wrote a letter to the Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, of which she is a constituent member, notifying them of her approaching centennial. The Convention, upon considering the subject, resolved to celebrate the planting of a Baptist church one hundred years coming (1888) with becoming ceremonies, and chose Savannah, where the church was constituted, as the place for the meeting. The church at a subsequent meeting of that body requested that their church should be the headquarters of the centennial committee on that occasion, and her monumental edifice built with the especial intention of commemorating the fathers, and showing gratitude to God for her glorious deliverance from moral as well as spiritual bondage within this century, they were also requested to dedicate to his praise. And the Convention which met at Brunswick, Georgia, in May, 1887, set apart a day in June, 1888, for that purpose, as the time best suited to the gathering of the large number of Baptists and their friends from over the State and country, While this seemed best to them under the existing circumstance of our people, the church also feeling unwilling that the date of the original organization, so precious to her memory, should pass unnoticed, held a special service on the evening of January 20, 1888, commemorative of that blessed event, and ordained Brethren J. L. James and J. H. Bateman to the ministry, and Brethren Hosea Green, Benjamin H. Renier, and Daniel B. Gadsden as additional deacons of the church, after the following programme:

        The building was filled to overflowing; the services were grand, impressive, and orderly in the highest degree, and seemed to meet the approval of the most high God in its solemnity and perfect success, and from men by the commendation of people and of press.

        And now, considering what has been accomplished by our predecessors laboring in the vineyard of our Lord, to whom he intrusted this glorious inheritance, his kingdom of grace below; what they have suffered for him; what they have achieved for his glory and our good, struggling in the darkness of the last closing century and the early glimmering and later glowing brightness of this in which we succeed and have been so wonderfully blessed, shall we not live and labor to build a structure of other human benefits as a crowning victory of their hopes and prayers, and all adornment to the gospel of Christ and our Christian religion by closer unity as a race, a denomination, a peculiar people, especially favored by God, one in every common interest, in the blending together of our resources, for the glory of Christ and the building up of each other, seeing that by the conversion of one man and three women of our race a church grew and flourished to the present day, out of its prayers, sufferings and labors? Our blessings have come, which we now enjoy only in part, though the higher and holier joys eternal yet await us above; and out of this one church builded as a temple to God so many others have come. Jesus the great Head of the Church has truly said that "I am the vine, ye are the branches." We note branching out from this older graft: the Second Church in the year 1802; the Ogeechee Church in 1803. Branching again from the Second, the First African Church at Philadelphia, organized by Rev. Henry Cunningham, with twelve members dismissed from the First Baptist Church of that city, Dr. Henry Holcombe, pastor, and whose influence called Rev. Mr. Cunningham to that work. This church was constituted in 1809; the Abercorn and White Bluff in 1831, the First African going out from this old plant in 1832; Drakey (now White Oak) in 1836; Oakland in 1848; Clifton out of the First African in 1849; Skidaway branch from White Bluff in 1850; St. Mary's, branch from the Second Colored, in 1850; Bethlehem, branch from First African, in 1860; St. Catharine's, branch directly from this old church, In 1862; and the First Bryan, West Broad and Waldberg Streets, going out in 1872;--all of which are bringing forth fruit for God in their fields of labor and usefulness. Some of them were organized by our white brethren, missionaries, yet each from members of some of the colored churches, dismissed under their direction, and so connectively to this first branch of God's right hand planting, known originally as the First Colored Baptist Church, and in these later days as the First Bryan Baptist Church, whose God is "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," for her and with her in this world, his kingdom of grace below, and to whom be "blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, unto our God; and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen."

        The present (1888) officers of the church are:

        Pastor.--Rev. Ulysses L. Houston.

        Deacons.--Honorary Brethren Grant, Simpson, Hazzard, McPherson.

        Active.--William Rivers, Edward Wicks, George B. Lewis, Amos Denslow, Henry R. Rahn, Oliver Foster, Hosea Green, Benjamin H. Renier, Daniel B. Gadsden, John W. Black, Lewis Holmes, W. H. Royal, Moses White.

        Trustees.--Rev. James M. Simms, Rev. David Watters, Deacon George B. Lewis.

        Treasurer.--Deacon Daniel B. Gadsden.

        Clerk.--Deacon Edward Wicks.

        The membership is over two thousand.

        O. Foster. Edw. Wicks. Wm. Rivers. A. Denslow. G.B. Lewis. H.R. Rahn.
M. White. W. H. Royal. L. Holmes. J. W. Black. D. B. Gadsden. B. H. Renier. H. Green.

 

Footnotes:
1 There was nothing collected to this account, but there was paid him from the treasury by Rahn $74.74, to be deducted from $1740.07.

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved