Community Foundations: Three houses of worship will be part of the city’s historic African-American Church District | News

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Of all the freedoms granted to former slaves after the Civil War, perhaps the most powerful were the freedom to educate their children and the freedom to worship.

However, schools and churches did not magically appear during Reconstruction.

Often, the white majority saw no need for black schools or churches.

The cryptic paragraph in an 1871 Galveston Daily News article was a backhanded compliment to the white residents of Bell County: “The white citizens of Belton, that place which, in the popular mind, ‘is the death of the whole tribe de Sambo”, subscribed three hundred dollars for the construction of a colorful church and school.

Nevertheless, despite the hardships of segregation and disenfranchisement, black churches stood firm as a rock.

the shifting tides of culture and economy have battered their congregations.

That’s why Temple Citizens petitioned the Temple City Council to form a Historic African American Church District that would include more than 100 properties bounded by Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the west, Avenue A on the north , Avenue E to the south and the train tracks to the east.

The first reading of the draft ordinance creating the district took place last Thursday. A second reading is scheduled for May 19.

The pillars of the district would be three black churches in the district, each reflecting its own theology and impact on Temple as a whole. Each has received official markers from the Texas Historical Commission as historically significant congregations.

Also included will be the Wheatley Alternative Education Center and a historic building at 311 S. MLK Jr. Drive.

All three churches are significant to the history of Bell County.

Corinth Baptist Church, 321 S. 10th St.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that Temple Chapel was Temple’s first black Baptist community, founded in early 1881. Temple Chapel eventually evolved into the Corinthian Baptist Church, but its documentation is difficult due to loss of records.

What is clear is that the history of the Corinthian Baptist Church closely parallels the migration of the black population of Texas from slavery to farm laborer to city dweller. Thus, Temple attracted many workers in its early years, including blacks who were able to find steady jobs – albeit mostly as unskilled laborers – whether in railroads, manufacturing, or construction. .

In 1897, the Temple Chapel Baptist Church was well organized, with a lively Sunday school program with 62 students. When a storm in June 1897 destroyed the house of worship, the congregation quickly recovered and rebuilt with funds borrowed from their white employers.

Some members withdrew from Temple Chapel in 1906 to organize another church.

Court records show that Temple Chapel Baptist Church property was seized in a 1908 foreclosure. In 1913, members of Temple Chapel Baptist Church continued to worship at the same location as Corinth Missionary Baptist Church . The Corinthian Church then assumed ownership, constructing a new building in 1916.

Wayman Chapel African Methodist Church, 407 E. Ave. D

The African Methodist Episcopal Church grew out of racial discrimination in a Methodist church in Philadelphia in 1787.

Rather than suffer indignities in this white-controlled church, black people formed their own congregation. In the tense times leading up to the Civil War, the AME Church was not allowed to operate in Texas, or most other areas of the slave South. The first Texas conference met in Galveston in October 1868, numbering 3,000 members.

As railroad lines spread through central Texas, so did AME congregations. AME trustees received a deed of warranty in February 1883 for a church building in Temple on a Santa Fe Railroad spur, the same year the Central Texas AME Conference was formed. The deed was filed in 1885, the official date of the founding of Wayman Chapel Church. Early worshipers congregated in a tiny Gothic-style wood-frame building with a bell tower and a hand-split wood shingle roof. The building was then renovated in 1906.

Wayman Chapel continued to be a leader in its conference. He hosted a Sunday School convention in 1908, drawing hundreds of delegates from across Texas and Mexico to Temple.

The congregation prospered. By the early 1920s, the congregation had outgrown its original building as members began planning for a new building. The new building, still in use, was completed in 1927.

Reflecting the congregation’s tradition of supporting education, members opened their building during segregation to serve as a school and later as a day care centre.

In early 1952, the church was the site of meetings to launch a citywide campaign to recreate a hospital to serve black people during segregation. The result was the opening of the Cora Anderson Negro Hospital.

Throughout its history, Wayman Chapel has maintained a sense of community and provided a venue for citizens to voice their civil rights grievances.

8th Street Baptist Church, 215 MLK Jr. Drive

Eighth Street Baptist was originally called Saint Love All Baptist Church.

From 1882, the church served black railroad workers. It was located at East Avenue E and 12th Streets until 1905; then it moved to its current location. In 1911 the church was officially renamed Eighth Street Baptist Church, a member of the American Baptist denomination.

Some critics have called it a “silk stocking” church because its membership was made up of educated professionals. However, this nickname belied the church’s influence in the city, despite growing prejudice and Jim Crow rule. Saint Love All had become firmly established in the city, attracting members from all economic strata – doctors, lawyers, business owners, teachers, railroad workers and laborers.

In 1905, the congregation moved into its current building, characterized by an imposing steeple.

Renovations followed in 1911, when the congregation’s name was officially changed from Saint Love All to Eighth Street Baptist. In 1930 the steeple was removed, the exterior bricked up and a basement and roof garden added.

Over the years, the church has resisted economic hardship and worship changes in addition to equal rights. Members have initiated outreach projects such as Meals on Wheels, Homebound and Elderly Ministries, Youth Programs and Bible Studies.

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