Our History

A Brief History of First African Baptist Church, St. Simons Island
 
Our Former Pastors
 
Rev. Andrew Neal
Rev. B. Keith
Rev. John H. Thompson
Rev. John Williams
Rev. Joe Smith
Rev. Boise Mitchell
Rev. Tom Abbott
Rev. T. W. Rakestraw
Rev. A. W. Walker
Rev. A.G. Chandler
Rev. S. J. Gamble
Rev. J. J. Ewing
Rev. S. P. Plowden 
Rev. James J. Hill
Rev. Leroy Williams
Rev. Anthony Allen, Sr.
Rev. Quentin J. Morris, Sr.
 
     The First African Baptist Church was organized at Pike's Bluff Plantation in the year 1859. Members of this African American congregation traveled from all around the island to attend worship services every Sunday. The early pioneers worshiped in a little tabby church located near their quarters at West Point Plantation before moving to the current location. The leader, Rev. Andrew Neal, served as pastor of 28 years. Under his oversight in 1869, the beautiful framed, front gabled church building was artfully constructed with round arch windows, and an off center, pyramidal roof steeple by former slaves of the St. Simons plantations. The first Sunday School was organized in 1875. To better serve the needs of all its members, in 1890 the members on the South End of the Island separated from their Mother Church and organized Emmanuel Baptist Church.
     Since its inception, the First African Baptist Church family has enjoyed outstanding temporal and pastoral leadership, which is reflected in both membership growth and facility development. The Cornerstone was laid in 1929 under Rev. A.W. Walker. Between 1933 and 1934, Rev. Chandler led a church remodeling project. Delco lights were installed and numerous auxiliaries organized to move the church forward. Tremendous facility improvements continued over the next 30 years. Furnishings were installed, a gas heater, air conditioning, running water, a public address system, and carpeting enhanced the worship facility. Along with an expanded organizational structure, the baptismal pool, chandeliers, new windows and annex air conditioning were hallmarks of Rev. Joseph Hill's impressive 18 year pastorate.
     Over the next several decades faithful members sacrificed to gift the church with stained glass doors to the vestibule, communion ware, office equipment, a new public address system and a Hammond organ. The church enjoyed continued growth and financial stability. Souls were being saved, believers baptized, and men and women were called into Christian service as ministers, deacons, deaconesses, teachers, youth leaders and auxiliary leaders even as the church mourned the home going of aged church patriarchs and mentors.
     As part of the 150th anniversary celebration an oak tree was planted and a time capsule buried on the grounds. We celebrated our 154th anniversary this year and the theme was "Our African-American History Paying Homage to our Founding Fathers." Our founding fathers were: Rev. Andrew Neal, Deacon Prince Ramsey, Sr., Deacon Wesley Lee, Sr., Deacon July Hunter, Sr., Deacon Joe Abbott, Deacon Hilliard Johnson, Deacon A.B. Sullivan, Deacon Gabe Wilson, Deacon William Henry Murphy, Sr., and Deacon Tobias Fahm. Our motto,"the church of new beginnings" was adopted to reflect the spirit of this family of God, at work to advance the kingdom of God.