Emmanuel Baptist Church
Some migrants who arrived in the early twentieth century began to hold a service weekly in Kent Hall on State Street. This group went on to found the first weekly Baptist African American church in Beloit, Emmanuel Baptist in 1917. This was done with the assistance of Reverend Ingram E. Bell, a minister from the white First Baptist Church in Beloit. Notable individuals amongst the original organizers included Mr. and Mrs. Grant Peter Lee Gordon, Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Guyton, William S. Williams, and Mrs. Mallie Grace Bell amongst others. While they originally built a church at the corner of St. Paul Ave. and Short St., they moved in 1925 to the corner of East Grand Ave. and Athletic St.
This move according to a newspaper article entitled "Three Quarters of a Century and More" allowed Emmanuel to host a hot lunch program across the street, as well as creating a Learning Center for student homework assistance, and as said in the history notes with pride to start a Social Action Committee to assist with voter registration.
The congregation of Emmanuel Baptist grew with time, coming to include individuals such as Jesse and Annie Turman, who owned the Dew Drop Inn, Dr. William Marshall, who established his medical practice in Beloit, and John D. Stevenson, who served as the Church’s clerk and financial secretary from February 6, 1923, to 1929.
Brandi Brown a Beloit citizen said in her interview in March 2019 that she remembers her parents being married in Emmanuel Baptist, and how her family was consistently together be it eating together or in church. The church was a lively community gathering place and remains so to this day.
Emmanuel Baptist Church had a number of pastors over the years. The first was George J. Fox being the Church’s first until his resignation in October of 1920. During the interim period, Reverends Arthur Pace and Shed Barksdale served as pastors until eventually being replaced on January 9, 1921, by Reverend Walter E. W. Brown. Ambrose Gordon, whose father Grant Peter Lee Gordon was a founding member and a deacon at Emmanuel Baptist, stated that “[Reverend Barksdale] was a very simple man and one who read very little but one would be very much aware that he was a man of God and trust in him if not totally a great deal.” Mr. Gordon stated that he was able to place such a great deal of trust in Reverend Barksdale because “he depended on the Holy Spirit to give him and to say the message...he was a very humble man.” He also stated that “W. W. Brown was a man who was rather scholarly and-so where he could take the advantage of people who read very little and who follow tradition, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit.” (Oral History Conducted by Clem Imhoff with Ambrose Gordon, June 30, 1976)
This section was created with information from the church’s 100th anniversary history booklet, found on their website.