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George Rowe

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:

"Whereas 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.

Sources:
African American History of Fredericksburg, Virginia -- Ruth Fitzgerald - 2/10/01
History of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site)
Historical Time Line
African Baptist Church


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