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Negro Baptists of North Carolina


        The Baptist State Sunday School Convention of North Carolina was organized in the First Baptist Church in the city of Raleigh, May, 1873. The object of this organization, as set forth in the call, was to prosecute Sunday School missions; to cooperate with the American Baptist Publication Society in its work already well under way in the State, and to establish an orphan asylum for the protection and care of the colored orphans of North Carolina. The Convention was organized with Rev. A. Shepard, President, and Sherwood Capps, Secretary.

        But little was accomplished in the first few years of the organization; in fact the Convention was comparatively inactive until the appointment of Rev. A. Shepard, the President of the Convention, missionary and colporter for the American Baptist Publication Society.

        New life and interest was soon manifest in the Sunday School work of the State, as the President of the Convention and the missionary for the society came in contact with the Sunday Schools and the Christian workers of the State. From that time continuous development and improvement was made, until it became the most intelligent organization for the Baptists of North Carolina. The fifth annual Convention was held with the church and Sunday School of Weldon, N. C., September 21, 1876.

        Extensive reports were made at this session by Rev. A. Shepard, in behalf of the Convention and the society; also by Rev. C. Johnson, in behalf of the American and Foreign Missionary Bible Society.

        These reports showed rapid and decided improvement in the work of the State. Rev. C. Johnson was elected President at this meeting. Seventy dollars was realized for all purposes.

        In the sixth annual session, which was held at Battleboro, N. C., an auxiliary committee was appointed to correspond with the Sunday Schools in each county of the State. The purchase of a printing press was considered at this meeting. The constitution was so amended that each person represented in the Convention was required to pay two cents per annum. Rev. N. F. Roberts was elected President at this meeting. Hon. J. T. Reynolds, who was the most proficient Corresponding Secretary the Convention ever had up to that time, was elected at this meeting, and served in this capacity for twelve years. During these years the Corresponding Secretary threw himself into the work, and soon his influence and usefulness was manifest in the growth of the Convention financially and otherwise. In connection with his duties as Corresponding Secretary he was also appointed as Sunday School missionary for the eastern section of North Carolina. The next meeting of the Convention, which was in Wilmington, N. C., increased its collections to one hundred and seventy dollars. A donation from this amount was sent to the yellow fever sufferers in the valley of the Mississippi River.

        In the annual session at Goldsboro one hundred dollars was appropriated to the distribution of books and other literature in the poorer sections of the State. It was at this session that the Convention voted to incorporate at the next session of the Legislature with the following named persons as trustees: N. F. Roberts, A. B. Williams, A. Shepard, E. E. Smith, J. T. Reynolds, J. J. Worlds, C. Johnson, P. T. Hall, L. H. Wyche, R. I. Walden and A. J. Walker. This incorporation dates from March 14, 1879.

        During the following year the Middle Ground Union District Convention was organized with all the schools east of the Chowan River auxiliary to the State Convention. This union at its organization had eleven thousand enrolled. Rev. R. I. Walden was appointed to labor in the East Roanoke Union, another auxiliary to the Convention; Mr. J. T. Reynolds in the Middle Ground Union bounds. Under the incorporation the name of the Convention was changed at the Tarboro meeting to the North Carolina Missionary Baptist Sunday School Convention. A bright and promising young man, Prof. Jerry S. Lee, represented the Caswell County Convention at the Tarboro session. To the deepest regret he soon passed into the beyond. At the next annual session

        During the interim of the Convention Revs. Joseph Perry and M. C. Ransom were appointed by the Executive Board missionary colporters, one for the western section of the State and the other for the eastern section. A western Convention had been organized somewhat antagonistic to the regular Convention, and at this Convention a committee was appointed to try to effect a union of the two Conventions, but their work was without avail, only to the extent as to bring about a spirit of harmony. Col. J. H. Young held the place as President two years. Rev. A. P. Eaton was elected the following year at Louisburg, and he held the place but a year, being succeeded by Dr. N. F. Roberts, who, like Mr. J. T. Reynolds, seemed to be indispensable to the success of the Convention. He held the place with honor to the Convention for many years with Dr. A. W. Pegues, its able Corresponding Secretary. There were many and important changes in connection with the Convention during their administration. The Girls' Education Fund was the most important feature. Through this means several hundred dollars were raised annually and partial support was given to deserving girls in Baptist schools of the State. As many as twenty girls received help from this fund during a single year. No object appealed to the support of the Sunday Schools of the State as did the Education Fund for the girls. By a wise and discreet appointment every section of the entire State was reached and with each year this fund increased. A book store was set apart in the city of Raleigh through the plans and management of Drs. Pegues and Roberts, which greatly increased the revenues of the Convention besides greatly helping the missionary forces, as the surplus was given to the missionary work of the State. Not only was the Convention enabled to contribute annually to the Foreign Mission work, but a donation was made to the Church Convention for its missionary work in the State. Although the two Conventions, as we have stated, met at different times and at different places, perfect harmony prevailed and each was mutually helpful to the other.

        It was at this Convention in Greensboro that the death of Dr. H. C. Crosby, of Raleigh, was made known. Dr. Crosby was the first colored man to make a bequest to Shaw University, and the Convention passed strong resolutions commending his life work, and especially this splendid gift of all his earthly possessions to Shaw University.

        Rev. G. W. Moore was elected missionary at this session, and, like the officers about whom mention was made, Rev. Moore labored faithfully and long in the interest of the Convention in North Carolina.

        In the Durham meeting delegates were sent from the Western Convention which had previously stood apart. These delegates were gladly received as an expression of the growing unity of the two Conventions. This was the beginning of the kindly feeling which finally terminated in the joint appointment of certain of its missionaries and a oneness of aim and of purpose. In the Raleigh meeting which followed the Baptist Young People's Union was organized in connection with the Convention, and for many years held its annual session at the same place and time of the State Sunday School Convention.

        In the Charlotte Convention six hundred and ninety-nine conversions were reported as the direct result of the Sunday School work through its State organization. Rev. E. H. Lipscombe was appointed mountain missionary to labor west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

        As an evidence of the Convention's appreciation of the work of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, and realizing the great work of Dr. T. J. Morgan, its Corresponding Secretary, learning of the death of this Christian man, passed suitable resolutions on his splendid life and the great interest he had manifested in the advancement of the colored people, not only of North Carolina, but of the entire country. Dr. S. N. Vass, who had held the position of District Secretary of the American Baptist Publication Society so admirably, was appointed in connection with his general work Superintendent of Missions for North Carolina. Rev. A. B. Vincent, for many years missionary in connection with the plan of cooperation for church work, was appointed missionary for the eastern section of the State. Rev. G. W. Moore, whom we have already mentioned, was missionary in Central North Carolina,

A. W. PEGUES, Ph.D., D.D., Formerly Dean Theological Department, Shaw University. Now Supervisor Colored Department State School for the Blind and Deaf. Corresponding Secretary of the Baptist State Sunday School Convention.and Rev. B. B. Hill, appointed conjointly by the Western Convention and the State Convention, was appointed for the Piedmont and western section of the State. These men, covering almost the entire State, greatly strengthened the Convention by their able services.

        The reports of the different auxiliary conventions, together with the State Convention in 1908, showed that a hundred and sixty thousand persons, old and young, were gathered in the different Sunday Schools, and in a few of the schools of the State more money was realized in one year than was realized in the first ten years of the Convention's existence. The great misfortune in the schools, with few exceptions, they were composed of the children with now and then an old man or woman. In many of them not a single young man was to be seen. This was not only true in the Sunday School, but largely in the day school. In fact the Convention itself was largely composed of young women. It was encouraging, however, to find so many of the professional men of the State falling in line with the Sunday School work and helping to fill up the ranks depleted by the young men. In the First Baptist Sunday School of Raleigh was Col. J. H. Young; in the White Rock Sunday School of Durham was Dr. A. M. Moore, most earnest Sunday School superintendents. In the Providence Sunday School, Greensboro, Dr. J. E. Dellinger; in the Ebenezer School of Charlotte was Dr. A. A. Wyche, and others, who did very much not only in the Sunday School work but in the church work.

        The work of the Convention and the Sunday School became greatly helpful to the younger people and the school itself, but with the growth of the Sunday School came the growth of the church and better pastors and officers were demanded; the Associations were better, the Conventions better, and in every way the State Sunday School Convention and the Sunday School work became helpful to the general and religious uplift of the people.

        For one to have been present at the Convention held at Smithfield, N. C., after following up the Convention for twenty-five years of its previous history, he would feel like exclaiming as one of old, "What hath God wrought!" The wrangles which one heard in that early period had entirely ceased; intelligence had come in the place of ignorance, peace and harmony in the place of contention and strife. A more harmonious Convention was never held anywhere; a greater manifestation of intelligence was never known. Encouraging reports from all the missionaries, an increase of money with which to carry forward the work for the ensuing year, enthusiastic and able addresses from each and every one on the program and everything which bespoke a bright future for the Negro Baptist Sunday School workers of North Carolina.


        The Baptist State Sunday School Convention of North Carolina in its annual session at Tarboro, N. C., adjourned to meet with the Dixonville Baptist Church and Sunday School of Salisbury, N. C. For some reason the Executive Board during the interim of the Convention changed this decision and determined on Louisburg. The people of Salisbury and the west had made preparation, and did not regard the reason as given by the Executive Board sufficient for the change. They held the Convention to its decision at the Tarboro meeting, and hence friction ensued. A part of the Convention met at Louisburg and a part met in Salisbury. All the officers, together with the Board, met at Louisburg, which necessitated the election of new officers for the Salisbury wing. This marks the beginning of the Western or Piedmont Convention, for it has been composed altogether of Sunday Schools from the Piedmont section. It may be said, therefore, that the Western Convention dates from 1884, in the month of September, Salisbury. The Convention for several years after its reorganization was rather crude, compared with its previous record; but its leaders were determined, and finally it took form and began to show decided gains for improvement and development. As soon as this was manifest it was also seen that one of its chief aims was better Sunday Schools, and progressive in every respect. After ten years of its existence this Convention realized the necessity for some kind of educational institution for the Piedmont section among the Baptists. A meeting was called at High Point, and the following was encouched in the Constitution of the Convention:

        "To encourage, foster and stimulate the Sunday Schools of Western North Carolina; to organize new schools; to teach the doctrine and principles of the Baptist Church; to educate our people to a free use of the Bible and Baptist literature; to foster and encourage mission work, and to formulate general plans to systematize and unify the Sunday School work of Western North Carolina."

        In the ten years from 1899 to 1908 there was a great increase in the number of schools represented and in the number of persons in the individual schools. This was largely due to the men at the helm. In the time of its greatest weakness the Convention elected R. W. Brown, of Winston-Salem, N. C., for its President, and J. W. Paisley, of Winston, for its Secretary. These two young men, associated in Sunday School and church work, and in fact brought up side by side in the schoolroom, were very much suited to each other in the development of the great Sunday School work of the Piedmont section. J. H. Elam, for several years Treasurer was also of the same city and Sunday School. While it was thought that too many came from the same church and Sunday School, it was conceded that the wonderful growth and progress was due to the untiring energy of these men more than to any other single cause. Possibly this unusual ability of these young men, coupled with P. S. Smith, W. J. Poindexter, L. M. Morton and others, enabled the First Baptist Sunday School of Winston-Salem to take its place in the lead, not only of the Sunday Schools of this particular Convention, but of the schools of the entire State.

        One thousand was its enrollment in 1907; $812 its collections; six hundred and twenty-five the average attendance. Soon after these workers came to the front the first improvement was seen in the superintendency; its teaching forces; its methods, and in the increase of finances. Two hundred per cent was the general increase. The number of teachers in the various schools was soon increased to three hundred and fifty. The increase in membership was in proportion. The Convention soon found it necessary to appoint a missionary, although considerable missionary work was done previous to this time, largely by voluntary service. Rev. B. B. Hill, a man of considerable experience as pastor, both in the western section of the country and in North Carolina, was appointed the first permanent missionary. With his rich experience Rev. Hill added great strength to the Convention, both in its annual councils and in the destitute sections, carrying to them the open Bible and giving instruction, comfort and encouragement. The Convention was greatly aided in the accession of such men as Revs. F. R. Mason, of Salisbury; A. S. Croom, R. L. File, J. P. Alexander, of the same city; J. W. Hairston, of Advance; D. J. Avery, of Reidsville; O. S. Bullock and Jordan, of High Point; R. H. Harris, Watkins and Hairston, of Greensboro, and others. The reports of the schools showed not only that mere teaching had been conducted but practical evangelical work had been done as seen in the conversion of three hundred and twenty-two precious souls. These were some of the direct results; what the indirect results were we have no way of ascertaining only in the final accounts of the lives and deeds of men. We have mentioned the educational movement in the meeting held at High Point. The Rowan Normal and Industrial Institute, conducted in Charlotte a number of years and at Salisbury, was in part the result of this awakening through this Convention. The Convention aided these projects at each of its annual sittings. In the light of changed conditions, and in that feeling of compromise which comes to all Christians after mature deliberation, the two Conventions, which we have said went apart in 1884, were brought into more harmonious relations, and, regarding the other body as parent, the Western Convention sent correspondents and finally delegates to meet the parent body from year to year. In fact the appointment of Rev. B. B. Hill, about whom mention has been made, was made conjointly by the two Conventions; the parent body paying one hundred dollars of his salary and the Western Convention paying the rest. In the providence of God an orphanage was established near Winston-Salem. The Convention regarded it as a Godsent opportunity, and an object upon which to bestow its charity. The Winston-Salem Orphanage had no better friend than the Western Sunday School Convention. The Baptist Sentinel, the Home and Foreign Mission work, in fact every work which meant the furtherance of the Master's Kingdom found a hearty response in the Convention. The great State Sunday School Convention came to regard this not as a mere expression of difference and indifference formed, fostered and encouraged to hinder, but an arm of might and of power, intended to strengthen the forces in Zion and hasten that day when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ."


        The New Hope Sunday School Convention was organized by Revs. L. H. Hackney and M. W. Brown in the year 1877. The object of this Convention was for the purpose of strengthening the weaker schools, helping to prosecute missionary enterprises, and building up a secondary school within its bounds for the better education of the young men, women and children. After the organization had grown to the number of thirty-five schools, with a membership of twenty-five hundred, a school site was purchased at New Hill, N. C. Not only did this Convention provide for the young people within their own bounds but many other similar enterprises, together with missionary objects and charity, receive help, and hence the Conventions as well as the Associations contribute generously from time to time.


        The Western North Carolina Sunday School Convention was composed of the larger number of the Sunday Schools within the territory of North Carolina west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

        The object of this Convention, as set forth in its Constitution, was for educational and missionary purposes, especially in the Sunday Schools and churches of the Blue Ridge section. In 1891 the Western Convention agreed to unite with the regular State Convention of Sunday School workers, which held its annual session of that year in the city of Charlotte. Prof. E. H. Lipscombe came from the Western Convention as its first representative.

        The representative was received with open arms, and the day was hailed with gladness when the wall of separation between the two Conventions was broken down. Mr. Lipscombe made a strong appeal for aid for his mountain section, and the Convention responded gladly to the appeal. They agreed to give support in part to a missionary to do Sunday School mission and colportage work in that section of the State.

        Prof. Lipscombe was named as the missionary for the Blue Ridge section and served several years in that capacity, doing acceptable work in the spread of gospel literature and awakening an interest throughout that region for the uplift of the Master's cause.

        At that time there were about seven thousand Baptists beyond the mountains. Compared with their numbers they gave much aid to the missionary. One great hindrance, as in the eastern section of the State, it seemed hard to get the proper union and cooperation of the few scattered here and there in the mountain fastnesses and made the work of the missionary quite difficult. The President and officers of the Western Convention were in hearty sympathy with the Sunday School missionary work, and did much to foster the spirit of missions. Much of the same difficulties were met with by the white brethren in trying to do work in the mountain section of the State, but being much abler and having superior advantages made better headway.

        At that time too there was considerable division even in that small company of Baptists. A contention over the literature and over the two Foreign Mission Conventions had reached that section and stood somewhat in the way of the proper union. With the growth of time so much of the bitterness which at first existed passed away, and a spirit of union began to grow, which meant better churches and Sunday Schools. Rev. J. R. Nelson, of Asheville, and Rev. A. H. Wilson, of Waynesville, were leading spirits for many years both in the church and Sunday School work, although the foundation for Baptist work in the Blue Ridge section was laid by the Hemphills. As the successor of Rev. Rumley, a sensational divine of his day, Rev. J. R. Nelson held the Second Church in Asheville, which gave him a conspicuous place in the affairs of the colored Baptists of the Blue Ridge, and he held it successfully for many years. He did much to shape the policy and work of the churches and Conventions.

        Rev. Wilson, holding some of the most prominent churches in the mountains, and especially the church at Waynesville, gave him an opportunity for special usefulness, and in many respects he used his opportunities to advantage. Many of the Baptists of the Blue Ridge section have come from South Carolina and other States, which to some extent alienated them from the regular Conventions of the State. And too, for the most part, the churches were small, the revenues comparatively little, which did much to discourage the proper affiliation with the eastern brethren. Be it said to the credit of the eastern brethren, they entertained a deep sympathy and interest in the brethren of the distant western section of North Carolina, and let no opportunity pass them to render assistance, as was demonstrated in the Charlotte Convention toward Prof. Lipscombe, the representative from that section. In several instances leading brethren from the east volunteered their services and crossed the mountains bearing light, intelligence and encouragement to their more needy brethren beyond.


        This Convention was organized at Williams's Cross Roads, four miles east of Warsaw, under the auspices of the Baptist State Sunday School Convention. A. J. Stanford, of Warsaw, and A. R. Middleton, of Kenansville, being the auxiliaries for the State Convention in that section, felt that more effective Sunday School work could be done by such an organization and took the leading part in its organization. The number of schools and members of the different Sunday Schools uniting with the movement showed the wisdom of such a convention. From the few in the beginning it soon grew to forty-three schools, representing a membership of three thousand. At one time the Convention sent twenty-five dollars for the support of Rev. J. O. Hayes in Africa. They took the leading part in the purchase of the school site at Faison at a cost of fifteen hundred dollars.


        At the annual session of the Middle District Association Convention a resolution prevailed to organize a Sunday School Convention in connection with the Association. In 1879 this Convention was organized. It was through the incentive of the Convention, as in the instance of the Kenansville Association and Convention, that the school, the property of the Association, had its origin. Together with the Association seven hundred dollars are raised annually and appropriated to the Burgaw High School. Some local missionary and even State missionary work is done also through the Convention. Much light and inspiration has been infused into the Sunday School and church work throughout the entire section in which the Convention is located, and together with the State Convention of which the Northeast and Cape Fear is an auxiliary our Foreign Mission work was aided. As in other sections of the State the future development and improvement in the ministry and church work generally depended on the Sunday School, so in the Cape Fear section, and this Convention, the child of the Middle District Association, became the central light.


        The Chowan Sunday School Convention was organized in 1884 and is composed of the Sunday Schools largely of Hertford County. While this Convention does other work, it is practically giving its strength to the aid of the Waters Normal Institute of Winton, N. C. No Convention of its kind in the State raised as much money as the Chowan Convention. While the regular State Convention required only two cents per capita the Chowan Convention required three cents. The constitution states that the Treasurer of the Waters Institute should be the Treasurer of the Convention. The Convention did a splendid work for the cause of the institution it fostered, and made splendid offerings in its behalf.

        Since it required all the energy of that section of the State to make Waters Normal School what it was, and since it was the moral, intellectual and religious development of so many who afterward become proficient and active in Sunday School work, doubtless the Convention served its highest and best purpose by giving its strength and support in this direction.

        The collections have amounted to eight hundred dollars in a single year. The Convention has fostered different missionary and charitable objects, and in that respect as well as educational has done much good in the cause of humanity.

        But little time was given to the literary work or to a fixed program as its session was usually but one or two days at most. The time was largely taken with money raising to advance the objects mentioned, and this seemed to give entire satisfaction to the different representatives. A kindly spirited competition is not only in the churches composing the West Roanoke Association, of which this Convention forms a part, but in the Convention itself. There is usually a sermon and other papers on these occasions. It may be said of this Convention and the Association through their financial aid to Waters and its other benefactions, a centre of education gets its support, which did more than all the agencies to cause "the wilderness to blossom as the rose."


        In connection with the Baptist State Sunday School Convention, which met with the First Baptist Church and Sunday School of Raleigh, N. C., in September, 1900, a meeting was called to consider the advisability of organizing a Baptist Young People's Union Association. After some deliberation it was decided to organize such an association, which should meet annually in connection with the meeting of the Sunday School Convention. Mr. J. P. Williams, Business Manager of the Baptist Sentinel, was elected first President; Miss C. F. Blount, of Wilmington, Secretary; Miss Emma W. Sasser, of Goldsboro, Corresponding Secretary and State Organizer; J. N. Coats, of Seaboard, Treasurer.

        The object of this organization, as stated in the Constitution, was the "Unification of the Baptist young people, their increased spirituality; their stimulation in Christian service; their edification in scripture knowledge; their instruction in Baptist history and doctrine, and their enlistment in missionary activity through existing denominational organizations."

        Miss Sasser traveled in nearly every section of the State and organized a number of unions, some of which became greatly helpful, not only to the State organization, but to the local Sunday Schools and churches. Her tenure of office was of short duration, and Rev. A. B. Vincent, who had much experience in the church and Sunday School work, was appointed to succeed her. Rev. Vincent served but a year, and left the work to enter the pastorate. The growth of the B. Y. P. U. work was slow because of the lack of an organizer after the two mentioned had given up the work. Mr. Williams was succeeded by Dr. C. C. Somerville, of Charlotte, as President. Dr. Somerville served but a year, not sufficiently long to do much in the way of building up the work. He was succeeded in the session at Fayetteville by Mr. E. J. Young. Mr. Young gave some attention to the unions and to the organization of new unions but his efforts were comparatively feeble, being encumbered with business enterprises.

        At the annual meeting of the Association Rev. W. H. Knuckles was elected Corresponding Secretary and State Organizer. He gave some of his spare time to the organization of new unions and visited some of the old unions, which added some strength to the B. Y. P. U. work in the State, and yet, after ten years of existence, its progress was far from what its friends had anticipated and hoped.

        Wherever unions were organized and kept up they proved a great blessing in many respects, but their slow growth to some extent was due to the fact that many of the churches felt burdened with organizations and to some extent the young people felt discouraged.

        The work did not promise sufficient salary to keep a representative on the field, and yet the success which attended the efforts which had been made in the ten years of its history gave assurances that greater effort would bring decided improvement and helpfulness to the Baptist cause in the State in general. The objects, as set forth in the constitution, from the little that had been accomplished proved to be of the greatest necessity, and in the session at Greensboro a united effort was made to prosecute the work with greator vigor than ever.

        The result of the work of the Corresponding Secretary, Rev. W. H. Knuckles, for the year which came to a close at the annual meeting of the organization at Smithfield, N. C., showed that the vigorous service was not without splendid results; the report of the Corresponding Secretary showed that more unions had been organized throughout the State, inquiries of plans for organization and a general revival in the unions already organized.

        Conditions were so flattering through the efforts of Secretary Knuckles the State B. Y. P. U. elected him as President of the organization. The watchword of the meeting was "More Unions and Better Unions." From the outlook the friends of the organization were assured that North Carolina would soon take her place in the foremost ranks in this splendid work among the Baptist young people.

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