Second Baptist Church Served Community

By ROGER STANLEY Rogerstanley769@yahoo.com
Posted 1/10/22

The Second Baptist Church of Paris organized on the Saturday before the second Sunday in October 1867 at the Otter Creek area in Vigo County, Ind.

The Rev. Lewis Artis together with deacons …

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Second Baptist Church Served Community

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The Second Baptist Church of Paris organized on the Saturday before the second Sunday in October 1867 at the Otter Creek area in Vigo County, Ind.

The Rev. Lewis Artis together with deacons George Anderson, Elyas Anderson and Dixon Stewart sought to establish a church to serve the black community in Paris. It was first called the Missionary Baptist Church then became known as the Second Baptist Church.

Some of the members who first attended the new church were Edward and Nathan Middleton, James Warren Kelly, Samuel Williams, Delilah Middleton, Emily Kelly, Susan Nevil and Sarah Thomas. Artis served at the church in Paris and the Lost Creek Church, just northeast of Terre Haute, Ind. The Lost Creek area was settled by Free People of Color about 1830, one of those being Joseph Artis a relative of the Rev. Artis.

The first meeting place in Paris was in a small room of a building on Main Street which was shared with the A.M.E. Church. In the mid-1870s, the services were held in Walker Hall and the old courthouse. The congregation decided to find a new home and bought a small house on Court Street for $800.

As the membership of the church kept increasing a lot on West Elizabeth Street was purchased. A larger house a few miles south of Paris was acquired and moved to the new location. The newer building cost $1,500 to purchase, move and set up.

This was the Second Baptist Church building from 1876 until 1892. The Rev. Artis only led that church for a short time before dying on July 4, 1877. His son, James Artis, succeeded him until 1881 when the church was considered debt free, something he helped accomplish.

Several pastors served the next few years until 1887 when the Rev. S. E. Manual was called from the sister church of Lost Creek. He greatly enhanced the growth of the church in its activity and membership.

In May 1891, the Rev. J. H. Green arrived from Tennessee, and he immediately started to plan for a new church building because of the increasing membership. A lot was bought from W. O. Pinnell on the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets for $300. Today that property is part of the playground for Carolyn Wenz School.

The contractor accepted the old building for partial payment of $98, and he finished the new building for $1,180. The building committee was John W. Middleton, Edward L. Thomas, H. Pinkston, T.J. Reed, Henry Artis and Rufus Steward.

Subscriptions were sent out and within six weeks $2,000 was received due to the diligent efforts of T.J. Reed, who headed the subscription drive. Troy Porter furnished the gas piping and fixtures for $100.

The church was finished in 1892 and services were held regularly in that building for almost 80 years. A parsonage was constructed on the lot just north of the church building in 1901 for $800. The first parson to live in that abode was the Rev. T.J. Porter.

A centennial service for the Second Baptist Church was held Sunday, Oct. 13, 1968. At that time, there was only a small group of stalwart women keeping the church going under the leadership of the Rev. Morris Clark, but the reunion was a grand success with several past members who had moved away and several past pastors attending.

There were a lot of letters received from members who remembered the church and what it did for them. In the words of Dorothy E. Tolliver, the church historian, “The church has not failed, I like to think of us as the house by the side of the road that has been friend to man and women on down through the years”.

The centennial program included Elmer Tolliver, Coris Robinson, the Rev. Clark, Harriet Middleton, Dorothy Tolliver, Edna Robinson and a solo by Francis Blake. The message was delivered by the Rev. John Oliver. 

In the early 1970s, the Edgar County Historical Society met in the Second Baptist Church for a special program to hear about the Negro Churches of Paris. On the program were congregants from those churches — Dorothy Tolliver, Augusta Owens, Moke Owens and Mrs. James Jackson. Music was furnished by Grace Owens pianist and soloist Francis Blake.

Tolliver said when she was young her family had to arrive early just to get a seat. She also referred to the minister “lining” the hymns which meant reading the words to the next line to be sung as many times the only hymnal they had was in the hands of the song leader.

Moke Owens reminisced about the church music and the performing groups of the black churches. He said, “We have no record of the music made by many groups who developed a beautiful subtle harmonizing in the 1930s because we did not realize it would not go on forever, or that it was important at the time.”

The Missionary Department of this church started in 1909 and continued into the 1960s. It can be summed up with these few words from a scrapbook, “Many times it was difficult to make the women see that the purpose of the missionary society was to reach out and touch the lives and save souls instead of buying carpet for the church and a suit for the minister.”

The Second Baptist Church was demolished in the early 2000s, but through the years it served those who worshiped there very well. The information came from the historical society’s scrapbooks and folders and books found in the genealogical library.

Church historian Dorothy E. Tolliver’s writings and pictures in her scrapbook “History of the Second Baptist Church of Paris,” provided much of the information for this article.