AFRICAN BAPTIST CHURCH About 1803, the first Baptist
Meeting House was located in Fredericksburg. The congregation
consisted of white members, as well as black members - including
slaves and Free Blacks. The African Americans occupied separate
galleries within the church, depending on free or slave status.
Within 15 years, they were looking for land to build a larger
meeting place. They purchased the Shiloh Baptist Church (Old
Site) for $900 from Horace and Elizabeth Marshall and renamed
it the Shiloh Baptist Meeting House.
By the 1840s, the congregation numbered 800+
members, with 75% being slaves and free Blacks. Because of the
increasing church census, the congregation decided they needed
a larger building. Quite a number of African American church
members pledged about $1100 to finance this project.
By 1854, a clear racial division was forming.
The African Americans came to realize that the new building
was being built for the white members of the congregation and
they would be inheriting the old church. In 1855, the white
members moved into the new church, naming it the Fredericksburg
Baptist Church, while maintaining ownership the old church building,
Shiloh Baptist Meeting House. They appointed Elder George
Rowe, a white member of the congregation, as the minister
of "The African Baptist Church". He served from 1856-1863.
At that time, African Americans were not allowed to hold worship
services without a white person present.
Members of the African Baptist Church were expected
to compensate George Rowe for his services:
we desire the coloured portion of our church to enjoy the
privilege of regular public worship in the house we formerly
occupied, therefore, resolved, that the esteemed Brother
Elder George Rowe, who has for several months been laboring
among them with much acceptance, be requested to continue
these labors, and to administer the ordinances of the gospel
among them, and also, in conjunction with our pastor, to
attend to the order and discipline of the church so long
as it may be mutually agreeable to the parities concerned,
the coloured brethren being expected to make him such compensation
for his services as he and they may agree upon." Church Minutes - 2/3/1856
Fredericksburg Baptist Church
considered African Baptist Church a branch of their meeting
house. This did not find favor among the African Americans,
who soon attempted to gain independence from the white congregation.
Church minutes from 1855 also state the intention of signing
over ownership of the church to the African Americans, but did
not do so until 1857; not until the African Baptist Church made
"good their pledges to aid us in paying for our new house
of worship." The African Americans ended up paying $500
more than the original $1100 dollars originally pledged.
Their building withstood some
damage during the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862,
by the Union. The Union used the African Baptist Church was
used as a hospital during the Civil War.
George Rowe continued his ministry
of the African American Baptist Church until January 1, 1863,
when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
The members of the African American
Baptist Church soon reverted to the original name, "Shiloh
Baptist". Rev. George L. Dixon came to Fredericksburg from
Washington, DC and was instrumental in reorganizing the church.
In 1865 Rev. Dixon and several members began repairs of the
church. They began to hold Worship Services once again and renamed
the church to Shiloh Baptist with Rev. Dixon serving as the
first Black pastor.