First Congregational Church, U.C.C., Atlanta, GA collection
Scope and contents
- Majority of material found within 1982 - 1993
- First Congregational Church (Atlanta, GA) (Author, Organization)
Biographical timeline and note
The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Atlanta, Georgia, is the second oldest Black Congregational Church in the United States. The Church was an outgrowth of missionary efforts to educate the newly freed slaves after the Civil War. With financial assistance from the First Orthodox Congregational Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, the American Missionary Association (AMA) established the Storrs School in Atlanta. The School was a center of social services, educational classes, and worship for Freedmen and their children. The Storrs School was located on Houston Street near Piedmont Avenue, a block east of where the First Congregational Church resides today, on Houston (now John Wesley Dobbs)and Courtland Streets.
Inspired by the worship services offered at the Storrs School, the ex-slaves petitioned for a church of their own. On May 22, 1867 a committee affiliated with the school voted to organize a Congregational Church. The first church service was held the following week, May 26, in the chapel of the Storrs School and conducted by Reverend Erastus M. Cravath, then Secretary of the AMA, and later a founder of Atlanta University and first President of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Church has a close association with Atlanta University. Among the first members of the newly established church were Reverend Frederick Ayer, Jacob B. Fuller, and Edmund Asa Ware. Ayer was a founder of Atlanta University and also served as the first acting Pastor for the Church. Ware was a founder and first president of Atlanta University and was elected the first Clerk and Treasurer for the Church. Fuller served on the Board of Trustees for Atlanta University as did Cyrus W. Francis, who became the first Pastor for the Church. The first parsonage for the Church was built by students in the Trade Department of Atlanta University.
During the first seventeen years, the Church’s interracial congregation was served by white pastors recommended by the AMA. In 1894, the now predominately Black congregation, called its first Black pastor, Dr. Henry Hugh Proctor. Under Proctor’s leadership the membership increased rapidly, the Church became self-supporting and was widely recognized for the broad range of social services it provided to the African American community. The Church’s membership has included some of the most notable citizens. Among them are John Wesley Dobbs, Masonic and political leader; Mattiwilda Dobbs, opera singer; Grace Towns Hamilton, first Black woman to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives; Alonzo and Norris Herndon, owners of Atlanta Life Insurance; Clayton R. Yates, businessman and civic leader; and Andrew Young, U. S. Congressman, Mayor of Atlanta, and U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Most of this small collection of documentation about the First Congregational Church was assembled by Mrs. Dovie Touchstone Patrick (1922-1994), a member of the Church and Archivist at the Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library. The collection spans the period 1867-1999, with the bulk dating 1982-1993. The majority of the collection is programs from worship services. Also, there are programs of funeral services, events, and church anniversaries; annual and financial reports; and correspondence, memoranda, agendas, and minutes from committee meetings. Most notable in the collection is a bound volume entitled Records of the First Congregational Church of Atlanta, Ga. This handwritten volume chronicles the early history of the Church from 1867-1882 and includes minutes, list of members, baptisms, marriages, and deaths.
Historical Sketch Of The First 100 Years
- 1867 May 22
- A committee of persons associated with the Storrs School, Atlanta, GA met and voted to organize a congregational church
- 1867 May 26
- First service held at the chapel of Storrs School. Service conducted by Reverend Erastus M. Cravath, Secretary of the American Missionary Association (AMA). Reverend Frederick Ayer, was acting Pastor of the Church for the first three months
- 1867 Sept. 14
- Reverend Cyrus W. Francis was ordained and recognized as the first regular Pastor for the Church
- 1877 Nov. 18
- The first church building located at on the northeastern corner of Courtland and Houston Streets was opened. Land for the building was donated by the AMA
- Dr. Henry Hugh Proctor becomes the first Black pastor for the Church. Under Dr. Proctor's leadership church membership rapidly increased and the church became self-supporting. The Church offered a broad range of social and educational services including a nursery, a recreational program for males, a home for working girls, a library, classes in domestic sciences, an employment bureau; industrial classes for the blind, and a business school. Through these innovative services the church was recognized as one of the most progressive centers of Christian social action in the nation. Proctor was also noted as an eloquent and inspirational orator and for his efforts in promoting positive race relations
- The Church conducted missions known as "Afternoon Sunday Schools" - Betsy Woods Mission at 123rd East Cain Street; the Decatur Street Mission; the Irwin Street Mission; the Carrie Steele-Pitts Orphanage; the Prison Mission at Fulton County Tower, and the Tanyard Bottom Mission
- Ground-breaking ceremony held for the construction of a new sanctuary at Houston and Courtland Streets. Booker T. Washington was a special guest at the event. In 1908 the cornerstone for the building was laid. In 1909 the dedication program for the new building was held. This church structure is listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places
- The Church sponsored Music Festivals featuring noted African American artists and choirs including Roland Hayes, Madame Lillian Evanti, Harry T. Burleigh, Hazel Harrison, Carl Diton, and Lula Vera Childer
- Atlanta's first Boy Scout Troop for Blacks was organized in the Church. The troop did not receive its official charter until 1931
- The Metropolitan Association for the Blind, and Carrie Steele-Pitts Home were major parts of the Church’s ministry
- The second parsonage was constructed on Angiers Avenue N.E., Atlanta, GA
- The third parsonage was constructed on West Lake Avenue S.W., Atlanta, GA
- The Church participated in the Civil Rights Movement including sponsorship of mass meetings to push for inclusion of Blacks on the Atlanta Police Force, and the statewide fight against the "welfare freeze" which threatened services for many poor people
- The Church joined the merger between the Congregational Christian and the Evangelical-Reformed denominations which created the United Church of Christ
2 Linear Feet (4 boxes)
Language of Materials
- First Congregational Church, U.C.C., Atlanta, Georgia collection, 1867-1999
- Finding aid prepared by Karen L. Jefferson and Stacy R. Swazy, 2002 March.
- Description rules
- Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note