First Baptist Church (Missionary)

MANE-2
Francis and Collins Streets, Richmond
1921

The First Baptist church at Francis and Collins Streets, organized in 1844 as the first black congregation in Madison County, was originally called The African church. The congregation's initial meeting house was a log structure built on this site in 1846. The property was purchased in 1845 by the church's trustee Thompson Burnam, Sr. (See MA-178 and MAN-24.) Edmund Martin was the first pastor. For a while other church denominations also used the log structure and assisted in the maintenance. When a brick structure replaced the log one in 1857, the Baptist congregation, then called the United colored Baptist church, gained complete ownership and use of the new building.

The church's most famous pastor was Madison Campbell (1823-1896), who was ordained in the 1850s after serving as a missionary for the church. Born a slave in the southern part of the county and freed in 1863, Campbell served as pastor to a number of small black churches throughout the county. (see MA-238.) The membership during his pastorship reached as high as 700; consequently, a larger brick structure, containing a single bell tower, was erected during the 1870s.

The present Gothic revival style brick structure, constructed in 1921, represents the Latin cross plan. Two separate, fanlighted double-door entrances are accessible by two concrete staircases on the three-bay facade. Each of the entrances lead to separate narthexes inside corner towers. Although the parapets have been removed, the two towers remain. The east tower slightly taller and has semicircular-arched windows on two sides. A large Gothic pointed-arch window with lancets and quatrefoils separates the two entrances. Above the window and beneath the apex of a central gable, a lunette contains the date "1921" in a stone panel.

All of the windows contain colored glass. The window sizes and shapes on the four-bay side facades vary from pointed to paired or tripled-semicircular arches to segmental arch shapes on the raised basement level. Keystones, buttresses with stone cappings, and a belt course between the basement and first story add further embellishment to this church edifice.