MEET HISTORIC FIGURES OF FRESNO COUNTY - FOUNDERS OF 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.
THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH IN FRESNO IS FOUNDED
On March 31, 1888, Reverend Edward Lindsey, along with his wife Bridget and six (6) children arrived in Fresno, California from North Carolina where they found no African American Baptist Church. With the aid of other families, a small group was organized and met in different homes for prayer meetings. In August of that same year, Reverend DeWitt of First Baptist Church assisted the group in organizing a Baptist Church. 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. The Church was originally named Ebenezer Baptist Church 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.
Photo: Bridget Lindsey, wife of Pastor Edward Lindsey and church founder
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).