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Pilgrim Baptist Church, St. Paul

Pilgrim Baptist was founded by a group of ex-slave African Americans who arrived in St. Paul on May 6, 1863. They had been found adrift on the Mississippi River by the crew of the steamboat “Northerner.”  The group had first stayed at Fort Snelling, but the complete story of their arrival in St. Paul remains hazy. What is known is that they were accompanied by a charismatic leader, Robert Hickman who immediately gathered his flock around him to organize a prayer group that rented a Good Templars' lodge in the concert hall on 3rd St. Originally the prayer group was founded in the home on Mrs. Caroline Nelson, a highly respected midwife. She was one of four mixed-race washerwomen who had real estate whose total value exceeded $6,000, and whose personal assets $2,300. All were unmarried heads of household. A year after their arrival, the group petitioned First Baptist Church to become a mission.   In 1866 the mission was formally organized as Pilgrim Baptist Church.  Since Hickman was not an ordained minister, the congregation’s first clergy were all white.  Three years after his ordination in 1875, he became Pilgrim’s minister; a post he held until 1886. In 1876, the group organized Robert Banks Literary Soceity. The congregation acquired the old Baptist church building of St. Anthony in 1870, had it dismantled and rebuilt on a lot at 12th and Cedar that First Baptist Church had purchased in trust for them in 1866.  By 1885, as a result of an increase in membership, the congregation made a decision to demolish its old church and erect a larger and grander stone Gothic structure on the site. The gothic structure built in 1885 under Rev. Gray cost $12,000. The congregation was to remain in this building until a new church was built in 1928 at 732 Central Avenue, where it remains and active and vibrant part of the old Rondo neighborhood.

 

 

 

Current location:  732 Central Ave., St. Paul, MN

 

Timeline:

1863:  Founded as a prayer group; met in lodge room of God Temples in Concert Hall on 3rd St.

1864:  Became mission of First Baptist Church, St. Paul, MN.

1866:  Formally organized as Pilgrim Baptist and built church at Sibley near Morris St. [no address]

1886-7:  Second church built at Cedar and Summit [no address]

1928:  The congregation erected a new church at 732 W. Central Avenue, designed by architectr William Linley Alban, who also designed St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church at 507 Dale St. in Frogtown.

Clergy:  William Norris 1866-68; Andrew Torbert 1868-77; Robert Hickman 1878-86; Bird J. Wilkins 1886-7. 

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