Humble Beginnings: Beyond Slavery, Beyond a Century
Written by Dr. Earleen De La Pierrere
The first century since the founding of Second Baptist Church of Mumford, New York, was celebrated in 1991. The nascence of the church was in Belcoda, New York, and was marked by its humble beginning with a small group of Christian farm workers who had put slavery behind them, and was spiritually led by the eloquent and inspired founder, Rev. Clayton A. Coles.
Rev. Coles, (1838-1926) was a product of the slave system. Ere emancipation, Clayton A. Coles, survived without some basic facts that today we tend to take for granted. One example is that the identity of his father, mother and extended family was not available to him. His birth was not listed in the public record. Burning questions about his own heritage led him to search for answers. “His faint memories stood him in good stead and somehow he knew that he perhaps saw the light of day in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee in … 1838” ante-dating the Civil War by 23 years.
1891:- He was an eloquent speaker without formal education. The tenant farmers or migrant workers (many from Culpepper, VA) came to the rural area of Monroe County with a fervent desire to worship GOD. Rev. Coles recognized this strong devotion to GOD. All the necessary elements came together under the leadership of Rev. Coles. They thanked and worshipped GOD in a Baptist parsonage. This body of Christians was thus established as the Belcoda Baptist Church of Mumford.
Church was the only institution African Americans possessed. Nationally, the count of Negroes lynched in the year 1871 rose to 112. Often the church leader also became the spokesman for the race especially in political areas.
Clayton A. Coles was born (1838) into slavery and denied knowledge of his parents.
Young Clayton A. Coles became the body-servant of Confederate Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson, a good and religious master. The trade of young Coles was broom-making.
- On Aug. 26, 1885 Clayton A. Coles was ordained a minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Lignum, Va.
- Rev. Coles took for his wife, Miss Ellen Wilson in Philadelphia, Pa.
- August of 1898 the church was officially incorporated as the Belcoda Baptist Church.
- In 1944 the name was changed to the Mumford Second Baptist Church.
- The first parsonage still stands along the Belcoda Road
- The headstone at the grave of Rev. Coles in the Belcoda Cemetery still stands
Second Baptist Church of Mumford is the second oldest African-American Baptist church established in Western New York and the second African-American church established in the Greater Rochester Area. The first church established in the Greater Rochester Area is A. M. E. Zion Church.
A selection of the founding families are: the Charles B. Coles Family, Messrs. Minor Poles, John Martin, and Horace Blackburn. Second Baptist has become ancestral home to several living descendents of past generations. They continue as members of Second Baptist Church. Likewise, descendents of Rev. and Mrs. Clayton A. Coles are traditional members of Second Baptist Church of Mumford today.
This congregation has regularly enjoyed from its very inception a fortunate blending of disparate degrees of talents: be it skills, abilities, and/or other intellectual assets. Perhaps the most valuable asset that is very apparent in the congregation is the spiritual fellowship demonstrated by the apparent love, peace and joy of its members. Frequent occasions to eat together, loving care and attention paid to each and every child, the Children’s Sermon, religious and other occasions to celebrate all combine to make get-togethers in the basement anticipated events. Visiting the sick, remembering birthdays and anniversaries are among the many caring signs.
1898, the church was moved from Belcoda to Mumford on centrally located land donated by two members, James and Henry Johnson. Men of the church made the foundation and hauled the building on a horse-drawn, spring wagon to the site in Mumford. Incorporation followed.
This church has enjoyed the privileged advantage of access to ministerial students at Colgate Divinity School of Rochester. Excellent students have shared their inspiration, knowledge and training by visiting or in a practicum with this congregation. Frequently the Pastor has come from the pool of graduating seniors at Colgate as is the case for Rev. Dr. Charles Thurman.
1898 Rev. Clayton A. Coles became the 1st Minister and administered the name change from Belcoda Baptist Church to Second Baptist Church.
1905 Rev. Coles retired due to the illness of his wife. The sanctuary — from its inception to 1908 — was one room: a large pot-bellied stove, kerosene, lamp, chairs, no musical instrument, no basement. Often the minister was paid with food.
1905-08 Rev. Slaughter became the 2nd Minister. He came during the summer. When he had “had enough of our cold winters, he returned to the South, married and settled there.”
1908-10 Rev. Kearney, the 3rd Minister, was licensed by the First Baptist Church in Rochester. He served his first two years with no salary. He usually traveled to church by train. During his second year, he received “carfare” and “a bit of money” from the congregation once in a while.
1908 Prior to this time the church building contained only one room, a large potbellied stove, kerosene lamps, chairs instead of pews, no musical instrument and no basement. Renovation included: pews purchased, building raised, basement partially excavated, a hot-air furnace installed, the church enlarged where the pulpit and choir stand are. The first organ was bought. Miss Ethel Marshall, later Sims, was organist.
1910-12 Mr. Charles Hunt, the first Negro to integrate Rochester Theological Seminary, became the 4th Minister of Second Baptist. He established uniformity: a consistent order of service, Sunday School and B.Y.P.U.
Rev. Rose came for a short interval, then went to Le Roy and organized a Le Roy Second Baptist.
1913-16 Rev. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, became the 5th Minister while a student at Rochester Theological Seminary. He organized the first Trustee Board, Missionary Society and enjoyed the endearment of the congregation — especially the young adults. As a speaker, his style is described as “provocative” and entertaining. On the day of his departure, so many members crowded the Caledonia train station that the “train was delayed for over an hour.” He later became President of Howard University. During this time, the church produced a very well known quintet of men. The members were: Joe Allen, Sidney Robinson, Steve Davis, Henry Washington, and Ernest Burrell.
1916-19 Rev. Charles Haynes became the 6th Minister who set a record when he baptized twenty-seven (27) candidates on one Sunday in the creek across from the church on George Street. He was a first-year student at Colgate-Rochester.
Fall of 1919 Rev. Simpson, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, filled in ’til the end of the year.
1920-27 Rev. William T. Parker, a Colgate-Rochester grad, and his wife, Daisy, became the 7th Minister. He ministered to both Mumford and Le Roy Baptist churches. He introduced offering envelopes. He went to pastor the First Baptist Church in Princeton, NJ.
1927-39 Rev. Robert R. Turpin, A.B., B.D., 8th Minister, served both Le Roy and Mumford churches. He withdrew from Le Roy and served Mumford only. His tenure was during the Depression era. At times he “waited for months without getting his full amount of salary, and then at the time of rally in August he would receive his money.” A traditional practice for the church was the fourth Sunday in August, which was celebrated as BIG DAY. “Everyone who could come home, came home, and the people brought baskets of food and ate together. There were two services, morning and afternoon, and we truly enjoyed a wonderful fellowship. It was [probably] during this [depression] era that the dinner was discontinued.” (from the 70th anniversary program booklet, pp 10-11) In May of 1939 the Turpins went to Michigan where Rev. Turpin recently retired and his sons are both dentists in Saginaw and Pontiac.
1939-43 World War II, Rev. and Mrs. Charles Blalock, 9th minister, first to live in the newly owned parsonage, which was paid for in record time. He was a student at Colgate and he served until the beginning of W.W.II. With Mr. George Wilson, Trustee, in charge of a funding committee, each Church member paid one dollar a month combined with money out of the treasury and the Rally for any short-fall. This method paid for the parsonage in record time. The next project was the purchase of a new organ. Mrs. Pauline Jackson Carter headed that committee. They used the same method of payment. The Blalocks went to Philadelphia.
1943-1944 Rev. Charles T. Epps, a seminarian, was the 10th and a wartime minister. Nov. 17th, 1944 the name was officially changed from Belcoda Baptist Church to second Baptist Church for business purposes. Having a recreation room was first suggested. Rev. Epps left to become dean of a college.
“From November 1944 to April 1945 [the church was] served with supply ministers.”
1945-49 Rev. Ivor Moore, was called and he accepted, the 11th minister. He and his family moved to the area from Jamestown. “For the first time Second Baptist was represented at the National Baptist Convention and B. T. U. Congress. Also for the first time two youth delegates were sent to Waterloo for a Youth conference, and to Buffalo for a Youth conference. Rev. Moore started a car-pool for the Sunday School. The membership grew greatly and the old church was enlarged to its present size on George Street.” Members of the church worked on enlarging the structure. Rev. Moore went from here to Gary, Indiana and subsequently to the Walker Memorial Church in New York City.
Especially notable are the contributions of Mr. George Nelson and Mr. James Warner (both deceased) for unselfishly giving of themselves in their efforts toward renovating the building. The are recognized and remembered here.
In the interim Rev. Ashton Turner worked with the congregation at Second Baptist. He preached between regular pastors. Rev. Moore often invited him to preach and for a while it was once a month regularly. “A more humble … nor a more faithful man could … be found; he gave his best.”
1949-52 Rev. Odell Porter, 12th, wife Madeline, and sons came from Buffalo. He served well. His wife was active in the music department. He left to work with migrants in Rochester until he was called to a church in Lynchburg, VA, where he was still a pastor in 1961.
1952-56 Rev. Paul McDaniel, 13th, graduate of Colgate; married Miss Edna Phillips, a member of Second Baptist. He formed the first Executive Board, Christian Education Board, Church Mortgage was paid off. Constitution was created by a committee and adopted. A copy was given to each member of the church.
1956-60 Rev. Thomas E. Wright, 14th, had the church redecorated and renovated, new organ and new pews were purchased, a new rood was put on, and he reorganized the Missionary Society.
1960-64 Rev. Wendell Phillips, 15th minister, native of Pittsburgh, BS from Virginia Union Univ., Graduate degree in Physiology from Howard, and University of Rochester in psychology and counseling. He organized the Joint Board, Membership Training classes and Maundy-Thursday service. He was Pastor for the 70th Anniversary and speaker for the 95th Anniversary. “I have had some of the richest experiences of my life… your cooperation and love have been terrific,” he stated.
1965-1968 Rev. H. Beecher Hicks, 16th minister, a senior at Colgate Divinity School. He organized the Building Council which was instrumental in remodeling the church basement. He was Pastor when the church celebrated its 75th or the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary.
1968-71 Rev. William Larkin, 17th minister, a student at Colgate when he came to Mumford. He is remembered as the minister being instrumental in remodeling the church including the basement. Sanctuary, classrooms, and lavatories were some of the improvements. In conjunction with members of Community Church in Lakeville, the Princess Bond was implemented to pay for the remodeling.
1971-1973 Rev. Allen Weaver, 18th minister, served as Interim pastor for December, 1971 to June 1971. He was instrumental in reorganizing the Board of Christian Education.
1974 to the present, Rev. Dr. Charles A. Thurman, 19th minister leads his flock. He is a graduate of Tougaloo Southern Christian college. Selected by a major league baseball team, he chose instead to follow the calling he received since childhood, i.e. to preach the Word of God. He graduated from Colgate Divinity College and then came to Mumford with his wife, Mattie. Since then, they have two daughters: Tanya and Kimberly. Rev. Thurman has been instrumental in initiating the following events: 2nd parsonage purchased; library built; Diaconate Board organized and Clayton A. Coles Scholarship Commission appointed; kitchen remodeled; held 90th, 95th, 100th and 110th anniversary celebration; lead the purchased of 78.6 acres of land and pioneered a New Church building project in Caledonia New York; Instituted the formation of New Covenant Promise Foundation and Enterprise.
Second Baptist Church has been blessed with outstanding musicians and fine quality singing from the congregation and choir, longevity of the Chancel Choir, Men’s Choir, and Youth and Young Adult Choir.
Mrs. Goines was for several years the church organist. In time her daughter, Mrs. Wilma Steverson, was taught at home initially by her mother and Wilma became the organist the church.
Our current Choir Director , Mr. George Banks, first played for the church at age four while sitting on a stack of telephone books. His musical career has a national reputation. Known in many musical circles, he has friends in spiritual, jazz, and popular music genres. The Assistant Musician is Mr. Dion Johnson, a young man of many talents and developing his abilities.
Former musicians are: Mrs. Mamie Poles; Miss Lucy Carpenter; Mrs. Grace Hopkins Goines, mother of Mrs. Wilma Goines Steverson, who in turn became organist/choir director from 1947-68; Mrs. Ethel Banks, pianist, George Banks and Charles Banks, musicians, Mrs. Karen Cottom Simms; Mrs. Florence Green; Mrs. Darlene White; Mr. Eli Wilson; Mr. Philip Salisbury; Mrs. Elizabeth Bundradge; Mrs. Barbara Smith, et al.
Second Baptist is the home-church of many descendents of the founding families. Like a magnet, new members continue to join and enrich the spirit-filled body of the church. The congregation is a dynamic mix of talents, skills and abilities and included many business, professional and artistic careers among its members, that are striving to be filled with knowledge, wisdom and faith in GOD, to the Glory of The LORD.