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 First Baptist Church History


It all began many, many years ago when numerous efforts towards establishing a Baptist Church for Colored People seemed impossible.  Since around 1760, Blacks had prayed and struggled, hoping that laws and customs would change so that their dreams of freedom would become a reality.  Slavery continued to prevail and public opinion was unfavorable to their separate organization.  However, many Blacks were members of the First (White) Church.


Now, “God moves in Mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”  And so in His great wisdom ‘twas in the midst of this era that the inevitable happened.  William Crane, one of the greatest men that ever lived in Maryland, a White leather merchant from Virginia, had long been interested in missionary work among Negroes.  He encouraged his dear friend, Moses C. Clayton, to come to Baltimore to work as a missionary among the Black Baptists.

Hence, in the year 1834, Moses C. Clayton came to Baltimore to begin his first missionary work.  Noting that there was no place of worship where his people could come together in adoration and praise of His Holy Name, he used the parlor of his Mullikin Street home.  Here, a Sunday School was organized.  In attendance were three children, two of whom were his own.  “Twas late in the summer when this began.

Soon thereafter, a building which was an old school house near Belair Market was given to Mr. Clayton, rent free, by its owner, Mr. Sterling.  Here, he continued his Sunday School efforts.  Mr. Clayton had learned to read, write, and speak fluently, thus, he began his teaching and preaching at once.

The White Baptist Clergy ordained Mr. Clayton in 1835.  On February 20, 1836, the Sunday School was organized into “The First Coloured Peoples’ Baptist Church (of Maryland) in Baltimore City” with Rev. Moses C. Clayton as pastor.

Among those who assisted in the ordination and organization were Rev. S. P. Hill of the First Church, John Healey of the Second Church and the Rev. G. Adams of the Calvert Street Church, which was later, called the Hill Street Church.


On February 20, 1837, the church applied for a Charter of Incorporation, which was recorded in the Court House of Baltimore on March 20, 1837.  In March of 1841, it was admitted to the Maryland Baptist Union Association.  The Association provided much counseling and guidance to the new church as it progressed.  They soon built a small edifice on Lewis Street between Orleans and Mulligan Streets which they shortly outgrew.

In 1849, Rev. Clayton resigned at the age of 66.  The Rev. John Carey was called.  Realizing economic difficulties, the Lewis Street edifice was sold for debts incurred.  Internal difficulties resulting from this divided the church and Rev. Carey left in 1852 with about twenty-six members and formed the Union Baptist Church.  This action led the church to recall Rev. Clayton, who remained until his death on April 3, 1861 at the age of 78.  His remains were buried in the Laurel Cemetery.


A succession of ministers served from 1861-1865.  They were Rev. John Whye, Rev. Thomas Rheams and Rev. James Underdue.  In 1865, Rev. Lewis Hicks became pastor.  With the help of Rev. Berg, Rev. Hicks was able to build a church at Thompson and Young Streets.  He resigned in 1869 after having increased the membership to one hundred.


The church flourished under the leadership of Rev. J. C. Allen (1872-1904) and Rev. P. C. Neal (1904-1920), with the membership reaching eleven hundred.  Under Rev. Allen, in 1880, the present edifice, through the aid of the Church Extension Society, was erected at a cost of $16,500 which included the ground and the building.

On the last Sunday in January in 1881, the congregation left the old building at Thompson and Young Streets to occupy their new church.


The Mother Church thus began to take its place as a leader among the Baptists.

Many ministers have brought profitable experience and played prominent parts in the continued progress of First Baptist Church.  They have been: The Rev. Albert  Josiah Green, 1920-1928; The Rev. William H. Young, 1928-1935; The Rev. Matthew T. Waters, 1935-1939; The Rev. Andrew D. Nance, 1939-1942; The Rev. Vernion T. Williams, 1943-1962; The Rev. Gus Roman, 1963-1967; The Rev. Walter Parish, 1967-1969; The Rev. Baxter L. Matthews, 1970-1972 (Pastor Emeritus of Union Baptist Church) (Interim Minister); The Rev. Leroy Fitts, 1972-2009 (Pastor Emeritus);  The Rev. Theodore Anthony, 2009-2012 (Interim Minister.)


On December 2, 2012, Rev. Craig A. Harcum was called to be the Senior Pastor. Under Rev. Harcum’s leadership, First Baptist Church has been diligent in promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ through Discipleship, Fellowship and Stewardship and as a result we have been growing spiritually and physically. We have committed to fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ and expanding our ministry impact throughout the community with a spirit of excellence and love. 


To develop dedicated disciples by leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  

(Matthew 28:18-20)


To be a healthy family of committed Christians that will faithfully serve God, while learning, loving and living in the power of Jesus Christ.

(Acts 2:42-47)

  • Fellowship = Gathering with the family of God


  • Discipleship = Growing in relationship with God


  • Stewardship = Giving generously to the Kingdom of God


  • Worship = Glorifying the majesty of God


Thank you greatly for choosing First Baptist Church as your home for growing closer to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  We are excited to have you as a part of our church family.  Our goal is to minister with you and to you, through a Spirit of Excellence.  Your spiritual growth is vitally important to us and we are committed to teaching you the grace, wisdom and love of God’s Holy Word.