MEET HISTORIC FIGURES OF FRESNO COUNTY - BRIDGET LINDSAY AND THE EBENEZER CHURCH
Photo: Second Baptist Church of Fresno Missionary Society, circa 1910. Left to right: Ora Lewis, Leola Watkins, Nan Berry (front), unidentified (behind), Henrietta Bigby, unidentified, Elizabeth Jones, Lanny Hale, Hazel Jones Marshall, and Lucy Watkins.- History, Fresno Historical Society Archives.
Bridget Lewis was born into slavery in North Carolina. In 1865, the year that slavery ended, she met and began courting Edward Lindsey. Edward had been a slave in Boston and was moved to North Carolina when his "master" married a southern debutant. Once he was freed he learned to read and write and attended seminary to become a Baptist minister.
The young couple moved to California arriving by train on March 31, 1888 and were married in Fresno on August 27, 1888. They settled in an immigrant neighborhood in West Fresno full of a rich tapestry of cultures with Portugues, Mexican, German, Korean and Irish families. Theirs was one of only a very few Black families living in Fresno County at the time.
Upon arriving, as Baptists, they sought out a church and found that they were not welcomed by white parishioners and the local church.
Photo: Bridget Lindsey, wife of Pastor Edward Lindsey and church founder
Bridget and Edward, along with the aid of other families, organized a small group to host prayer meetings in different homes. Together they founded the Ebenezer Baptist Church in a space on Merced and F street in Fresno, California. In the first year of the church the building offerend no amenities, only stone benches and no roof.
Reverend Lindsey was elected Pastor (1888-1898), with Mr. Daniel Lewis and Mr. Ben Doakes as Deacons. There were 8 Charter Members: Mrs. Bridget Lindsey, Eliza Lopast, Henrietta Bigsby, Mario Jones, Eliza Eilson, Lucy Watkins, Mario Farney, and D. Oakes.
In 1898 Reverend Timothy Smith was called to be pastor. Under his leadership plans were negotiated to erect a church on the corner of Stanislaus and E Street. The building was completed, but the church members were never given the deed to the property.
Later in 1898, Rev. S. A. Smith was called to be pastor. It was under his leadership that the church changed its name from Ebenezer to Second Baptist Church. Under his leadership and through the efforts of Mrs. Eliza Lopast, the church was able to purchase property at Merced and F Street for $600.00. The members worked very hard to raise the down payment of $30.00, and to keep up the payments on the note. The church continued to grow, and the mortgage was paid in full by 1903. Rev. S.A. Smith resigned due to health issues and moved to another state.
In 1903 Rev. John Collins was called to pastor the church. In 1905, the church was destroyed by fire. On May 6, 1906, still under the leadership of Pastor Collins, Second Baptist Church was incorporated. During this time the church began to rebuild under the leadership of Rev. John Morgan and Rev. John Sanders. This project was completed and dedicated in 1912, under the pastorate of Rev. John Sanders (1909-1912).