The same year that the first shovel of dirt was turned for the construction of the Hannibal-St. Joseph Railroad, and the same year that flour ground from wheat at Hannibal’s Arena Mill won first place at the Crystal Palace Exposition (World’s Fair) in New York, five free men of color invested a total of $37 to purchase the land upon which the Eighth and Center Streets Baptist Church now stands in Hannibal.
James Daws, Carter Braxton, George Bishop, Jerry Wade and John Hannox put into motion the construction of the church in 1853, and on Sunday, April 26, 2015 - some 162 years later - a celebration of significant magnitude was conducted within the historic structure.
A delegation consisting of choir members, faithful followers and ministerial staff from the Zion Traveler’s Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis brought music and message during the Sunday evening celebration.
“Jesus died on Friday, and he rose on Sunday. He never, never will have to die again,” roared Pastor Linden Bowie of the Zion Church to enthusiastic applause.
The combined music, message and faithful followers literally shook the plank floors of the old church, which were built upon wooden beams, which remain secure on a foundation of stone in the age-old structure.
The rafters rumbled during an ovation following Stanley Clark’s rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Guests in attendance included Rev. James A. Salter of LaBelle, Brother Brown of LaGrange, Brother Weathers, Joyce McGruder of the Park Chapel Baptist Church in Palmyra, Lilly Jackson, Fannie Griffen and Berthenia Demic of the Helping Hand Baptist Church in Hannibal, Rhonda Hall of Willow Street Christian Church in Hannibal, Rev. J.M. Mims of Green Chapel Baptist Church of LaGrange, and a large delegation from St. Louis.
Rev. Wesley Foster, pastor of the Eighth and Center Streets church for three decades, hosted the celebration.