Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
Michigan Street Baptist Church - Table of Contents
Michigan Street Baptist Church - 1845-1849
511 Michigan Avenue (E)
Builder: Samuel H. Davis
Founded 28 May, 1837
Elisha Tucker, a prominent member of the First Baptist Church, initially conceived the idea of organizing a Baptist congregation for Blacks in 1836. One year later, 13 members of that congregation were given letters of dismissal and set upon building a congregation of their own. In doing so, they organized the first Black church of any denomination in the city. With meager finances, the congregation worshipped for their first seven years in a rented room above an undertaker on Eagle at Niagara.
In the early 1840s, under the pastorship of Rev. Sharpe, they first made plans for the construction of a fitting house of worship. They purchased the site on Michigan Street but with no money available to construct a church, Rev. Sharpe traveled to England hoping to raise the much needed funds, finding little success during his travels.
By 1844, under the fifth pastor, Rev. Samuel Davis, enough money had been raised and the congregation began building their house of worship. A mason by trade, Rev. Davis performed the majority of the construction work himself. In June of 1845, the cornerstone of the church was placed after which he spent approximately half of his time building the church and the other half administering to the needs of the congregation. Four years later, the building was ready for worship.
The congregation flourished until the California Gold Rush of 1849. At that time, many of the prominent members left to seek their fortunes. The congregation remained positive and later, the building served as a stop on the Underground Railroad in the years prior to the Civil War. Fugitive slaves were hidden in the basement of the church before being ferried across the Niagara River to Canada in the darkness of night.
The congregation celebrated their final services in their churchon 24 February, 1962. The following week, they began holding regular services in the former Humboldt Parkway Methodist Church.
Throughout the years, the building has always been the home of a Baptist congregation.
© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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