Second Missionary Baptist Church
By Dianna Borsi O’Brien
Second Missionary Baptist Church at 407 E. Broadway dates back to 1894, but the congregation of the church dates back to 1866.
In 1865, former slaves and free people of color who had been allowed to attend services at the Baptist and Methodist Episcopal churches in Columbia gathered to raise money to buy a lot and build a church known as the African Union Church at the southeast corner of Third and Ash. But dissatisfaction arose between the two sects, the Methodists withdrew and the African Union Church failed.
Then in 1866, with the help of Father William P. Brooks from the Baptist Home Mission Board and led by the Rev. James Hudson, the congregation of the Second Missionary Baptist Church was founded. Early members included Henry Payne, Albert Delno, Thomas Jackson, Jack Smith, Henry Oldham, Jane Meyers, Polly Hickam, Mary “Dorrum” and Vina Johnson
At first, they met in the home of John Lange Sr., but then began to meet in the building intended to serve as the union church, which also housed the Cummings Academy, a one-room school for “colored children.” Note, the academy was named for Charles Cummins, Columbia’s first black teacher, Lange’s son-in-law and church pastor from 1873-1874.
In 1873, the congregation built a church at Fifth and Cherry at a cost of $2,500, with help from the First Baptist and the Little Bonne Femme Baptist churches, according to the 2015 church document. The church was called the Northwestern Baptist Church and dedicated by the Rev. Edward Stewart and the Rev. Oliver H. Webb.
In 1894, the present church was dedicated. It cost about $12,000, and was partially funded by a loan of $3,000 from John William “Blind” Boone, whose musical career was started in 1880 at a concert in their former church, according to a 2017 document of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Other funding came from a $4,000 loan from John Stewart who owned a livery stable on the northwest side of Broadway, opposite the church’s location. The church was built on land donated by John Lange Jr., a businessman and Boone’s manager, according to the 2015 church document.
The Romanesque Revival style building features a large square bell tower at the entranceway, according to a 2017 Historic Preservation Commission report. At one time, the bell tower had a pyramidal roof but retains the popular and “simple Romanesque Revival detailing that includes grouped round-arched windows and … original stained glass sashes,” the report notes. At the time of construction, the windows cost $1,000, which would be roughly $30,000 in 2018 purchasing power, according to measuringworth.com, a nonprofit value calculator.
Over the years, the church has been renovated, improved and expanded and an annex has been built, improved and expanded as well.
In 1980, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 2000, the City of Columbia added it to the Notable Properties list.
Of course, a church is more than the bricks and mortar: It is made up of the people and events that touched the congregation.
In 1923, James T. Scott was lynched after being accused of raping Regina Almstedt. Scott and his wife Gertrude Carter were married at and regularly attended Second Baptist Church. The pastor at the time, the Rev. Jonathan Caston sought to save Scott the night he was murdered.
In 2010, Second Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Clyde Ruffin lead the successful effort to have a headstone placed at Scott’s grave.