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District of Columbia Baptists — 1848

by David Benedict


Washington—First Church—Other Churches—Alexandria—Recapitulation—Remarks.

IN this District, in which is situated our National Government, our denomination commenced its operations simultaneously with the founding of the city and the removal of the government to it.

FIRST CHURCH, WASHINGTON, was constituted in 1802, and, according to my 1st vol., it arose in the following manner:

“When the General Government was removed from Philadelphia to this newly-established metropolis, a few baptist members, some of whom were in its employment, belonging to different churches, removed hither about the same time. These persons had frequent conversations on the advantages which might result to them from church fellowship and communion; and having made previous arrangements for the purpose, they were formally recognized as a regular church, May 7, 1802, in the Hall of the Treasury Department, by the assistance of Rev. Messrs. Jere. Moose, of Va.; Lewis Richards, of Baltimore; William Parkinson, then a chaplain to Congress; and Adam Freeman. Their number was but six, viz.: Charles L. Polls, from Baltimore; John Burnham, from the city of New York; Charles Rogers, from Maryland; Cephas Fox, from Va.; and Jos. Burrows and wife, from Philadelphia.”

Rev. O. B. Brown was the first pastor of this infant community, where lie was settled in 1807; of course, his pastorship has continued forty years. Mr. Brown often officiated as chaplain to one branch of the National Legislature for a number of years; he also, for a long tune, occupied an important station in the General Post Office.

NAVY YARD CHURCH was organized in 1810. Its name indicates its location in the city.

Rev. G. R. Hendrickson has been its pastor a few years.

Rev. Thos. W. Tobey, lately gone as a missionary to China, was a resident member of this body, by the last returns to the M. U. Association, where it belongs.

The COLORED CHURCH here bears date from 1830. This, I believe, originated from the First Church; it assembles in the old house of worship, which was first erected for that church. It belongs to the Philadelphia Association.

E. STREET CHURCH This is a new interest, which was got up in 1843, and, from the increase of its members, appears to have had much success is its operations.

Rev. G. W. Samson became its pastor from the beginning, where he still continues.

SHILOH CHURCH bears date from 1831.

ALEXANDRIA. This church was constituted in 1803, but the succession of the pastors, which, I believe, has been somewhat numerous during the forty odd years of its existence, I am not able to give.

Rev. Samuel Cornelius, now a resident member of the Mt. Holly church, N. J., and an agent of the American Colonization Society, for many years occupied this pastoral station.

Rev. E. Kingsford has been in this pastorship a number of years past, which lie has lately resigned.

GEORGETOWN. This town is contiguous to the capital, oft the same side of the Potomac. My impression is, that a small church was planted in it a few years since, but I do not see it reported in the Minutes of any Association.

Recapitulation of the Churches in the District of Columbia
Churches Dates Pastors Members
First Church, – – 1802 O. B. Brown – – 151
Second or Navy Yard 1810 G. R. Hendrickson 121
Colored Church 1830 Wm. Williams 202
Shiloh 1831 C. R. Leachman 30
Alexandria 1803 __________ 169
Total 673

Closing Remarks. Although our denomination leas not become numerous in this District, yet it is an important location, and unusual efforts ought to lie made here in favor of the cause. At all times, I believe, a portion of the members of Congress and the officers of the general Government, are baptists by profession, or at least by education, or in sentiment, and not unfrequently baptist ministers are found on the rolls of our civil functionaries.[2]

Staughton and Rice, men whom the denomination delight to honor, were long identified with the baptist interest in the metropolis of the nation. In this situation, the latter gentleman exhausted all his energies, mental and physical, to plant and foster the Columbian College, which is here established, and from which have gone out a long list of its sons into all parts of our own country, arid not a few into foreign fields of missionary toil.

The full history of this, with all our literary institutions, must be deferred to my next volume.

We have now, in our progress southward, arrived to the famous line of demarcation between the north and south. We are now prepared to enter the great State where the principles of our order have. had an extensive spread, and where we shall find the largest body of baptists of any State of the Union, except New York.

Correspondents. Rev. Messrs. M. J. Rhees, of Wilmington, Del., and Geo. I. Adams, of Baltimore, are the only men out of the many whom I have addressed by my circulars and otherwise, on the subject of baptist history, in all this region, from whom I have had returns.

Mr. Adams has taken much pains for my accommodation, and has supplied me with a small MS. history of all parts of Md., except the city of Baltimore. This he left for the pastors of the churches to do; but it so happens that none of them have written me, and so I have pieced out the history of their charges in the best way I could. The condensed manner in which I am obliged to construct my narratives, has compelled me to leave out a large portion of the historical materials sent me by Mr. A.; but they will be carefully preserved for future use.

P. S. I sent Mr. Adams a duplicate copy of my table of the Baltimore churches, and before the proof was returned, I received his reply, which enabled me to make some important corrections.

In the same letter he informs me, in answer to my request, that there are two small churches of the antimission party in the city, which, together, contain between 30 and 40 members; also, that there are two congregations of Disciples, sometimes called Campbellites, whose numerical strength is about 250; and lastly, one society of the Winebrenarians, or Church of God, whose membership amounts to about 40. These societies will all be more particularly noticed in my accounts of these respective communities.


  1. The first footnote in this section was numbered 2.
  2. These ministers, notwithstanding the distracting cares of their secular vocation, are generally ready to co-operate with the baptist pastors in promoting the, interest of their flocks, and art, the cause of religion in general. In but few cases do they succeed so well in expounding the laws of the land in the Halls of legislation, as they do in their humble vocation at home. It is often hard to break them into the new way of speaking before these secular bodies. One minister, with whom I was well acquainted, in one of his speeches, so far forgot himself as to say My Brethren, instead of Mr. Speaker;–but no harm came of it, only they got a laugh upon the elder for transforming the whole corps of legislators into a religious community.