Having been disappointed in obtaining a history of the Afro-American Baptist churches in New Jersey, from one of their pastors, a brief sketch must suffice. Previous to the last quarter of the nineteenth century the religious work among the colored people in New Jersey was done largely by the Methodists.
In 1862, a colored Baptist church was organized in Burlington. It has had a checkered history, and has always been weak. They own their house of worship.
The Mount Olive Baptist church was organized in Plainfield, in 1868. They have a meeting house and parsonage, and have prospered under the helpful influence of the First Baptist church. Rev. E. E. Jackson is their pastor. Two other churches have been organized there. The Calvary church (1898), Rev. Scott Wallace, pastor, has a substantial church edifice, but burdened with debt.
In 1871, the Bethany Baptist church was organized in Newark. It is a strong body and owns valuable property. The congregations are large and the Sunday-school flourishing. The membership in 1879 was 92. In 1903, it had increased to 411. Rev. R. D. Wynn is pastor. Five other churches have been organized; Mt. Zion in 1878, and in 1903, reported 134 members.
In 1864, a colored church was organized in Camden, as the Seventh Baptist church. It has been a prosperous body and for many years, enjoyed the faithful labors of Rev. Moses Wilcox. In 1903, it reported a membership of 286, pastor, Rev. J. T. Plenty. It owns its house of worship. Two other churches have since come into existence: Mt. Zion, Rev. S. G. Smith, pastor, and St. John (1894), Rev. G. E. Hughes, pastor.
The Salem Baptist church in Jersey City started in 1872. Rev. R. A. Motley has been pastor for many years and is still pastor. The field is large, but their house of worship is too small for either their church or Sunday-school work. The church, however, is accomplishing much, and with better facilities could do much more. Two other churches have been organized, the Bethesda, in 1890, Rev. J. C. Butler, pastor. The membership in 1903 was 82, and the Monumental, Rev. W. S. Smith, pastor.
In 1876, the Ebenezer Baptist church, New Brunswick was organized. Rev. William Wallace became pastor and served several years Rev. A. G. Young followed and for many years, the church prospered under his care. Rev. E. W. Roberts is now (1904) pastor. The church has a good edifice.
About 1884, a colored church was organized at Paterson, under the name of Calvary Baptist church. Its pastor is Rev. O. L. Simmons. It has house of worship. In 1885, Mt. Zion Baptist church was organized at Salem. This has always been a struggling body. In 1903, it reported 173 members, pastor, Rev. J. N. Holley.
About 1865, several colored persons in Elizabeth were baptized by Rev. G. W. Clark. Several years later, these, with others, who had come from the South, were organized as the Fourth Baptist church. The Shiloh church was organized in 1879. In a re-arrangement of the colored churches of the city the Fourth church disbanded, and the Union church started in 1891. Since that time, the Shiloh and Union churches have prospered. They own their houses of worship, and exert a strong influence upon their race in the city. Considerable property is owned by the members of these churches. Rev. J. H. Bailey had a long pastorate at the Union church. Rev. W. P. Lawrence was pastor in 1903, and Rev. W. H. Taylor, of the Shiloh church.
There have been several churches in Asbury Park since 1885, when the Second church was organized, and Rev. R. A. Bolen became pastor and continues till the present time. In 1896, the Mt. Moriah church was organized under pastor W. H. Wallace, who still continues in the same relation. The church owns its house of worship. Rev. E. D. Dromgoole is pastor of Mt. Pisgah church. The general cause has been weakened by too many organizations.
The Second church of Atlantic City was organized in 1889, and has had a prosperous growth. It reported 496 members in 1903 and owns its church edifice. Rev. E. Jenkins has been pastor since 1892. There are two other churches. One of them, Mt. Nebo, pastor, Rev. L. E. Jones, came into existence in 1899.
At Haddonfield, Mt. Olivet church started in 1892, has had a prosperous life under the successful care of pastor J. P. Gregory. It has a commodius house of worship. Merchantville Second, (1895) and Moorestown Second, (1896) are somewhat indebted to the missionary spirit and labors of Mr. Gregory and his church. Both of these churches have substantial houses of worship.
At Morristown, the African Baptist church was organized in 1889 and is fulfilling her mission under the efficient leadership of pastor G. E. Morris, and in a meeting house suited to present needs. Cranford (1887) was fostered for several years by its first pastor, Rev. W. H. Wallace. It has a respectable house of worship. Rev. William Perry was pastor in 1903. Roselle Second is a small but vigorous body, owning its meeting house, and contributing to different benevolent objects. Rev. W. M. Vaughan is pastor (1904).
Baptist interests among the colored people of Trenton has had a varied history. Several unsuccessful efforts had been made, but in 1896, the Shiloh Baptist church was organized, and for several years, worshipped in hired houses. But under the pastorate of Rev. A. R. Satterfield, (1900-03) with the co-operation of the Baptists of the city, a neat house of worship was erected. Various lines of church work are successfuly carried on. There is another church, Union, Rev. J. L. Burton, pastor, which maintains a struggling existence, and which ought to be united with the Shiloh church.
At Princeton, there is a good and growing interest, which was organized in 1885 as the Bright Hope Baptist church. It has a commodius house of worship and a parsonage; large congregations and a prosperous Sunday-school. It has enjoyed the pastorates of good men. The present pastor, Rev. D. H. Klugh, entered upon his duties 1902.
The church has received aid from the Trenton Association, the State Convention and from the Chairman of the Missionary Committee of the Trenton Association. Its membership in 1903 was 195.
There is a large colored population in the Oranges. In 1887, the Calvary Baptist church was organized, and soon after, purchased the church edifice of the First Baptist church in East Orange. In 1903, it reported 273 members. It has a good Sunday-school and good congregations, and contributes to benevolent objects. There are four other churches: Mt. Olive, G. W. Krygar, pastor; North Clinton St., E. D. Samuels, pastor; South Orange, a small but growing interest, and Ebenezer, Orange, with a membership of 318, and one other.
At Monclair, there are two churches. The older is the Union (1887), a prosperous interest, owning valuable property, with a membership of 477. Its pastor is J. C. Love. The other, a young church, is doing some aggressive work.
There are small interests at Keyport (1893), Rev. D. D. Hall pastor; at Matawan, (1892), Rev. P. T. Morris, pastor; at Middletown, Rev. J. W. Hamlin, pastor or supply. At Long Branch, the Second Baptist church has a membership of 260, under the pastoral care of Rev. A. Smallwood. Also the Ebenezer church, started in 1902, Rev. R. W. Fields, pastor.
At Red Bank, there are two churches: The Calvary (1886), purchased the old house of the First Baptist church and removed it to a new location. This building was lost by fire, but a new one has been erected. Rev. J. W. Hamlin is pastor. The Pilgrim church (1894) is more centrally located, and is growing under the labors of pastor L. J. Tunston. It would be better for the general cause if both churches were one organization. Better support would be given the pastor and more effective work could be done.
At Lakewood, work began among the colored people about 1894, which resulted in the Sixth Street Baptist church in 1895. Energy and perseverance have characterized the movement. Prosperity is enjoyed under the wise pastoral care of Rev. A. G. Young. They own their meeting house and in 1903, reported a membership of 50. As Lakewood is a winter resort, their congregations are excellent during that season of the year.
Early in 1903, Rev. R. F. Thomas visited Hightstown and began labors among the colored people. Success attended him and on June 5th, an organization was effected, of ten members, under the name of Mt. Olivet Baptist church. On September 18th, it was publicly recognized by a Council of the Trenton Association. It has the hearty approval of the First Baptist church. Mr. Thomas continues as pastor with a membership of twenty-five (1904).
Other churches may be mentioned: Macedonian, Cape May (1892), G.W. Kemp, pastor; Angelic, Bayonne (1888), Rev. J. T. Thornton, pastor; St. Paul, Atlantic Highlands, Rev. E. W. Wainwright as pastor; Mt. Olive, Hackensack (1892), Rev. T. B. Twisby, pastor; Calvary Second, Hopewell (1892), Rev. T. E. Johnson, pastor; Madison First (1897); Mt. Zion, Passaic (1901); Pennington (1903), Rev. E. D. Crawley pastor; Rahway Second (1898), Rev. L. L. Coone, pastor; Mt. Ararat, Rutherford (1895), N. L. Harris, pastor; Fountain, Summit, Rev. J. E. Cothran, pastor; New York Avenue, Westfield (1893), Rev. W. P. Ross, pastor; Second Freehold, Rev. J. R. Brown, pastor; Mt. Zion, Passaic (1901); Palmyra (about 1899); Swedesboro (1904); Paulsboro (1904) and others. Besides these, there are a number of missions at Vineland, Riverside, Bordentown, Pompton and other places.
Since 1876, there has been a large emigration into New Jersey of colored people from the South, especially from Virginia. These are, largely of Baptist preferences, and very many members of Baptist churches in the South. They do not feel at home with their white brethren of the North, and very naturally wish a religious home of their own. Missions have been formed and churches organized. A missionary spirit has been developed and many have become exhorters and licentiate preachers. With great industry and perseverance they have visited places wherever people of their own race could be found, holding meetings, and starting missions which have grown often into churches.
Frequently a spirit of great sacrifice and devotion to the cause has been manifested. The growth has been rapid and churches have been multiplied. Their evening congregations are generally large and quite out of proportion to their church membership. This is owing to their changing population, and to the fact that many spend only seven or eight months of the year in the north, returning south for the winter.
Some of the missions and churches have been troubled with bad and inefficient leaders. In such cases, the work has been greatly hindered. In some cases, brethren, who like "Diotrephes, loveth to have the pre-eminence," have caused divisions, unsettled pastors, started independent missions and little churches. Thus in some places there is a church too many. But upon the whole, the work of the colored Baptists has been quite successful in the midst of great difficulties, and they merit the sympathy and prayers of God's people everywhere.
About 1893, the Afro-American churches in the vicinity of Plainfield, Elizabeth and Newark, formed the Afro-American Association of New Jersey. It was incorporated February 6, 1894. Its object is "to spread the Gospel and do missionary work in the State of New Jersey and wherever Providence may provide." It has had a varying membership. In 1900, it reported thirty-two churches; in 1903, forty-two churches. It holds its meetings annually the last week in September.
Its officers for the year ending 1901, were: President, Rev. W. A. Harris, Cranford, N.J.; vice president, Rev. W. H. Wallace, Asbury Park, N.J.; corresponding secretary, Rev. A. G. Young, D.D., New Brunswick, N.J.; recording secretary, Rev. George W. Krygar, East Orange, N.J.; treasurer, Rev. E. E. Jackson, Plainfield, N.J. Its Foreign Mission Board: Rev. M. W. Vaughan, Chairman; Rev. Asbury Smallwood, Secretary; Rev. J. L. Burton, Rev. George E. Morris, B.D., Rev. E. W. Roberts, Rev. L. B. Twisby. Its general state missionary, Rev. J. H. Bailey Rev. R. D. Wynn is secretary for 1904.
About the same time, as the formation of the above Association, the colored Baptist pastors of Camden and vicinity started a South Jersey Missionary Union. Its object was the helping one another, and starting and assisting mission fields and weak interests. This society meets with some pastor and his church on a fifth Sunday of a month, beginning on the Saturday preceeding. It thus has four gatherings a year. The meetings are largely attended and have resulted in great profit and helpfulness to the brethren and the churches. The pastors generally have entered heartily into the work. Rev. J. P. Gregory of Haddonfield, has acted some time as Secretary.
In 1903, the Seacoast Missionary Baptist Association of New Jersey was organized, and held its first meeting with the Mt. Moriah Baptist church, Asbury Park, on August 13 to 17, 1903. The object of this Association is to do missionary work, and help weak churches among the colored population along the sea-coast and vicinity, south of the Raritan River. It reported sixteen churches. The officers were: William H. Wallace, Moderator; R. W. Fields, Clerk, D.D. Hall, Treasurer; M. F. Mathews, Corresponding Secretary. The annual meeting is held on Thursday before the third Lord's Day in August. The
Second annual meeting was at Asbury Park in 1904 and reported seventeen churches.
It is difficult to obtain complete statistics of the Afro-American Baptist churches in New Jersey. Some of them are not connected with any Association, and but few of them make careful returns of membership, Sunday-school work, or of money raised for expenses and benevolences. So far as can be ascertained, there are, in 1904, sixty-nine churches and several missions, with a membership of 10,500. About forty have meeting houses; about thirty worship in halls. The value of church property owned and paid for is $153,000. There are sixty pastors, and about forty licentiates, some of whom are in schools.
Thus the Scripture is being fulfilled which says, "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." ===============
[From Thomas S. Griffiths, A History of Baptists in New Jersey, 1904, pp. 508-513. - jrd]
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