The History of Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church
The oldest established Black Church in Riverside, California, is Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was founded in November 1875 where the congregation met in a home on Seventh Street to become a visible religious community. Occasionally the group would convene in a white Congregational Church located downtown. Most often, they met in their homes, a practice continued until they were able to build a church structure. In the late 1870's a lot was purchased on the corner of Sedgewick and Tenth Streets, and a one room structure was built for worship and church school.
During the 1800's the Congregational Church donated an edifice to the AME congregation, which was moved in sections to the Tenth Street property. It was erected into a "need chapel."
One of the charter members, Brother Walter Williams, fondly known as "Dad Williams," was a contributing member not only to the church but also to the wider community. He helped lay the foundation for the Riverside County Courthouse.
Some of the first families to join Allen were: John Culpepper, R.J. Boyd, Henry Strickland, and John Gordon. Other settlers who became members are: Oscar Harris, Walter Mays, Adeline Morris, Ammeade Sloan and C.H. Daugherty, Margaret Patterson was the first member to marry at Allen Chapel. She was born into the Allen Chapel family. Mrs. Maxine Williamson holds the title of having the longest membership at the church.
In 1961 under the leadership of Rev. George Baber, a building fund was established with the hope of building a new Allen Chapel. However, before the dream became a reality, Rev. Baber (being an African Methodist Episcopal minister) was given another appointment. His successor, the late Rev. I.C. Lovelace, took up the helm of leadership and continued with the project. A piece of property was purchased on Sedgewick and Pennsylvania Avenue with the hope of erecting a new structure. Again, Rev. Lovelace was transferred before the completion of the much needed church.
It was under the ministry of Rev. Warren Campbell in 1972 that the present edifice was purchased. In 1983 Rev. Norman Copeland brought new spiritual growth, and the membership grew by leaps and bounds. Everyone in town knew Allen Chapel because he was active in the community.
In 1989, the church mortgage was burned under the leadership of Rev. Joseph Forbes. New lighting was brought into Allen by Rev. J. Curtis Foster with the ceiling chandeliers. Along came their first lady pastor, Rev. Shermella Garrett-Egson in 1991 and big things begin to happen to Allen. The church got new carpeting in the sanctuary, a third chandelier, a sound system, a church van, a lift for our handicap people, the pews were covered, a new piano, kitchen cabinets and appliances, computer and printers for the offices, purchased property across the street for parking, removed a house to build the parking lot, central air and heating, painted and fixed-up the downstairs and fire escape stairway from the balcony, purchased robes for the celestial choir, new pulpit furniture and baptism was found, this including the pulpit new candle holders and a cross. She worked very hard in the community and Allen was recognized by the City Council and the churches in Riverside.
During its one hundred and thirty years of existence, Allen Chapel has had forty-four ministers who served the people and the wider community. Allen Chapel will always be indebted to its forefathers and leaders who administered, guided and charted its course in achieving its many objectives and goals.
Those who served during the period of 1875-1912 were the reverends: D.L. Jones Halvord; Johnson; S.E. Arrington, Kennedy; J. Holmes; J.H. Wilson; G.W. Bussey; W.H. Williamson; S.E. Edwards and C.J. Lockhart.
During the period from 1913 to the present, the following ministers served: W.G. Williams; House; Frank Johnson; C. Harris; R.R. King; T.A. Washington; T Patterson; George Baber, Jr; L.G. Lovelace; Felix D. Dancy; J.S. Bagneres; Warren Campbell; U.S. Carr; R. Thornton; Norman D. Copeland; Joseph Forbes; J. Curtis Foster; Shermella Garrett- Egson; Donna Davis and the present pastor, Rev. Jonathan Rhone.
Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a loving church build on the love of God for everyone.
The History of Second Baptist Church
In March of 1851, twenty-six Negro slaves arrived in the San Bernardino-Riverside Valley with a Mormon caravan. Upon their arrival to California, they legally ceased to be slaves since California was admitted into the union, in 1850, as a non slave state. Little is known in the years that followed as to their activities in Riverside Valley until 1870 and 1880. Riverside Valley was a part of San Bernardino County until May 9, 1893.
Above & Below: Second Baptist Church circa 1900
No Negro Baptist Church had been established in Riverside Valley before 1890, so the early Negro settlers became members of The First Baptist Church (a White congregation) which was organized February 7, 1874. The church building, on the corner of Eighth and Lemon, was built in 1881 and dedicated June 11, 1882. April 12, 1885, the Reverend Charles Button, who was the Pastor during October 7, 1880 to December 30, 1888, baptized Amanda Stokes. On June 7, 1889, Reverend Charles Winbigler became Pastor of the First Baptist Church. After several months Reverend Winbigler sent letters to the Negro members stating that he wanted them to organize their own church. It is not certain why the move was made, but the Negro members accepted the challenge.
A meeting was held with devotion led by the Negro brethren. The Reverend J.L. Allen presided as moderator and Mr. J.H. Roe was Church Clerk (both White). A few statements from Reverend Charles Winbigler, Pastor of First Baptist, Reverend Berdell, a Negro Missionary and sixteen other people expressed then-desire to have a Negro church. Twelve of that number were members of the First Baptist Church.
On May 18, 1890, they gave letters of dismissal to the following Negro members of First Baptist Church: Joseph Henderson, William M. King, Robert Stokes, Mary Stokes, and Prince Edwards. August 28, 1890, they also gave letters of dismissal to Warren P. Carter, Lucinda Carter, Jennie Edwards, Robert Cook, Parphenia Cook. S. S. Hopkins later joined them.
Sunday, September 21, 1890 at 3:00 p.m. Reverend Charles Winbiglor organized the Second Missionary Baptist Church. Although other Negroes were present, they credit the thirteen Negro members of First Baptist Church as chartered members of Second Missionary Baptist Church.
The recognition service took place Tuesday, September 23, 1890. Second Missionary Baptist Church was incorporated March 10, 1900.
Reverend John H. Clisby (1890-1892) was the first Pastor. Reverend William Daniel Thomas came to Riverside, California, March 7, 1925 and after conducting a ten-night revival, was elected Pastor and served for sixty years.
According to available records some of the major auxiliaries of the church in its early stage were: The Missionary Society of the Second Missionary Baptist Church, organized January 23, 1894.
Sister Peggy Streeter formally organized the Board of Ushers on May 1925. Mother's Day, 1936, the Mother's Club was organized by Pastor William Thomas.
May 5, 1943, the Mother's Club purchased a small chapel and an apartment building on the corner of Ninth and Park, known as "VIRGINIA CHAPEL," for $7,000.
March 7, 1951, the Building Committee was organized; the building program began March 7, 1955; August 1957 the Cornerstone was laid; May 24, 1964 the edifice was dedicated; August 20, 1978 the members responded, "We burn this mortgage." Over the years Second Missionary Baptist has become known as Second Baptist Church.
Upon retirement of Pastor Thomas, Rev. Will Edmond was elected Interim Pastor.
August 12, 1987, the church elected Rev. Paul S. Munford as Pastor. Rev. Munford began his Pastorate of Second Baptist Church until September 10, 1989, when he and several members began the pilgrimage of New Joy Baptist Church, Riverside, California. Rev. Will Edmond served as advisor to the Board of Deacons until a new Pastor was called.
September 19, 1990, in Washington, D.C., Congressman George E. Brown, Jr., introduced into the Congressional Record Proceedings and Debates of the Congress, Second Session, the Centennial celebration of Second Baptist Church.
Sunday, September 23, 1990, was the l00th Anniversary celebration of Second Baptist Church. A Historical Walk and Re-Dedication service was held that morning. The walk was from Main Street downtown, up University, ending at the church.
November 21, 1990, Rev. T. Ellsworth Gantt, II was elected to serve as Pastor. An outstanding Pastor, Preacher, Teacher, Leader and Friend. Pastor's vision included reorganizing the Tape Ministry, Radio Ministry, Prison Ministry, Youth Ministry, Young Adult Mission ("GRACE") New Members Class, Prayer Meeting and Bible Study. Established new Ministries: Home Alone, C.A.R.D.I.A. (Christians Achieving Righteous Dreams in America); embracing history through Black History Reflections and the Rev. Will Edmond Photo Gallery; Reaching out to the community with the Bread + Bread Ministry and the Can Carnival Fun Night; Educating "Our Children-Our Future" through the Rev. Nathan Smith Scholarship Ministry that has awarded more than $40,000.00 to our students who are attending twenty-five colleges and universities throughout the United States; Expanding space with real estate. Additional property was purchased to house our growing ministry, which has grown to two services each Sunday.
The History of Park Avenue
Ninety-one years ago, the second Sunday of June 1915, eighteen members of Second Baptist Church of Riverside, California, asked the Reverend Frank R. White, for letters of dismissal. This small band of God fearing, God-loving Christians formed the church so widely known as the Park Avenue Baptist Church of Riverside. These men and women were the founders of the church: Rev. William G. Goodwin, Rev. W.G. Decatur, Rev. G.P. Little, Bro. William King, Bro.William Dcatur Bro. and Sis. S.S. Hopkins, Sis. Eva Allen, Sis. Mary B. Alves, Sis Anna E. Beverley, Sis. Josephine Gordon, Sis. Emma Jordan, Sis. LaGulia G. Shaw, Sis. Alice Toppin, Sis. Louse B. Key, Sis. Mylie Taylor, Sis. Mary Boswell, and Sis. Candace Louie.
The organizational meeting of Park Avenue Baptist Church was held in the 11th Street home of Sister Eva Allen. A fund raising drive was immediately initiated in order to purchase a church home. The members raised money through countless dinners, at the same time making liberal contributions of their own. Sister Eva Allen, a very fine vocalist, was presented in concert throughout the Inland Empire area in Pomona, Ontario, San Bernardino and Redlands, as well as Riverside, generating much revenue in the drive.
On the first Sunday of August 1915, the congregation moved into its new place of worship on Park Avenue. It was duly recognized and consecrated for the service of God.
Rev. G.P. Little was the first Pastor, followed by Rev. Evans, Rev. Arthur F. Seaton, Rev. A.T. Hines, Rev. William G. Goodwin and Rev. W.H. Rozier. Through their spiritual teachings, the church steadfast belief in the sanctity of God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost took tenacious root.
The groundbreaking took place November 30, 1925 the approximate cost was $32,000. It was during Rev. Goodwin's pastorate that the church building at 12th and Park was erected. The building was furnished and occupied on May 9, 1926.
October 1, 1929, Rev Leander Bonaparte Moss, accepted the pastorate of the Park Avenue Baptist Church. Rev. Moss's tenure covered a span of fifty-seven years. During his tenure he was noted for numerous contributions and a wide range of accomplishments. Dr. Moss organized Friendship Baptist Church, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Glen Valley. He also organized the Valley District Association seven years as President of the local N.A.A.C.P., and sixteen years as a member of the Library Board. He was a charter member and instructor of the Providence Baptist Theological Seminary of Los Angeles, CA. Organized and taught in the Riverside Seminary at Park Avenues Baptist Church an extension of the American Baptist Theological Seminary of Nashwille, Tennessee. Rev. Moss wrote and published a book entitled, "Romance of the California State Baptist Convention, Inc."
In the early years he was faced with the challenge of directing and guiding the church to spiritual and financial stability.
January 28, 1945, the church celebrated the mortgage burning of its 12th street edifice,
In 1958, The Education wing was constructed. In addition, the corner lot at 11th and Park Avenue was acquired.
In the late 1970's the church purchased the 4-1/2 acres of property on Pennsylvania Avenue (M.L.K Blvd.) where we currently worship.
April 19, 1980, the official groundbreaking ceremony was held. Rev. E.V. Hill of Mt Zion Baptist Church, of Los Angeles, California, and President of the California State Baptist Convention was the special guest.
During this time the church began securing a building permit, and other contractual agreements with the city. Brother Odell Young was appointed Superintendent of the work project.
1982, Due to a lack of financial resources, they experienced a "no work" period. Even though in this "no work" period, it did not hamper the "spirits" of Pastor Moss and the faithful praying members of the church. Pastor Moss set out to explore other avenues to acquire money. As a result of these efforts, Mr. C. Dean of Fresno, California was introduced to the church Financial Plan Committee. The idea of a Bond Drive Campaign was thoroughly discussed and the church gave its approval.
January 1984, Rev. Moss appointed Deacon Paul Blalock as chairman of this project, and Sis. Clarice Collins as secretary. The Capital bond financial campaign generated a cash flow of $160,000 as a result of its successfulness, plus the work of the entire membership the church was able to victoriously celebrate its move from the 12th Street edifice July 8, 1984.
The Church Membership's dream to see Pastor Moss enter the pulpit before being called home was now a reality.
On May 6, 1986, Pastor Moss was called home to meet his Lord and advisor, face to face and to hear those words of welcome: "What a mighty God We Serve"
The Deacons under the chairmanship of S.V. Nichols provided excellent leadership for the church family, from the passing of Rev. Moss in May 1986 until April 1987.
The Rev. L.E. Campbell accepted the call to come to Park Avenue with his wife Ollie, and daughter Andrina.
Pastor Campbell was officially installed on May 31, 1987. "Charge To The Pastor" by his brother, Rev. Fred Campbell, Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Redwood City, CA. Installation message was delivered by Dr. J.P. Strong, Moderator of the Providence Baptist Association and Pastor of the New Providence Baptist Church, of Los Angeles, CA.
These critical times of change and transition brought numerous challenges to the Pastor, and to the church membership. Some said that the completion of the church could not be done, but through faith in Christ, and by obeying leadership we proved this fact to be untrue. "We can do all things through Christ."