The more than 140-year-old Shiloh Baptist Church will be the site of an open house hosted by the Greenfield Historical Society on Saturday, June 19.
The society acquired the building several years ago and is beginning the process of restoration, the historical society said in a news release. The community is invited to tour the building from 1-4 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
The Shiloh Baptist Church was organized in 1866 or 1868, depending on the source you use, according to the news release. The congregation originally met several miles north of Greenfield and is reported to have used a school house the first several years. In 1874, the Jackson family property on Lafayette Street became the site for the church structure. The building also was used in later years by the Cedar Grove No. 17 A & FM Lodge, Prince Hall affiliation.
“The society welcomes everyone to stop by during the open house to learn about the church and discuss our plans to restore it,” the news release said.
On July 8, 1866, a council was held at which elder J. Powell served as moderator, and elder J. M. Meek as clerk. A church was organized consisting of 14 members. John Cannon, a son-in-law of Augustus West, who founded the Augustus West Settlement, and T. H. Butler, were trustees. Officers in 1880 were listed as: E. Steward, William Burns, and T. H. Butler, deacons; George Breckenridge, licentiate; Frank Elkins, Henry Mankins, and W. H. Hackley, trustees; Harvey Stevens, clerk; Samuel Cosby, treasurer. Pastors: John Powell, Benjamin Sailes, Asa Pratt, Samuel Carr, Walter Shelton, a book produced by the historical says.
“The Rev. George C. Braxton was the pastor for many years (and) greatly loved and respected by the people of Greenfield. He had been a slave in Virginia and had served in the Civil War,” the book says. “In addition to his preaching he gained a reputation for his ability to install draining tiles for the farmers. His slave master had taught him to keep track of the years of his life by cutting notches on a ‘birthday stick.’ According to his count, he lived to the age of 115 years. He died in Columbus in 1942 and was buried in Greenfield. The citizens of Greenfield erected a monument over his grave with the inscription, “Slave, Free Man, Christian Gentleman.’”
The church building was erected in 1874. Before that the members worshipped in the school houses about three miles northwest of Greenfield, the book says.
“The church is rich in African-American history and since it had been sitting vacant for a number of years, supporters of the Greenfield Historical Society felt that there should be an effort made to see that it is preserved,” the book says. “There were only a few remaining trustees of the church still living in the area and they were approached in 2017 to see if there was something that they and the historical society could do to save the structure and eventually see it restored and once again used to serve the Greenfield community.”
In April 2018, the trustees of Shiloh offered the church to the historical society and the society’s board voted to accept the gift. Since the historical society finalized and accepted the gift of the church, some cleaning has taken place and some minor repairs have been made to secure the building.
“Now the society must evaluate how best to utilize the church and how to secure funding to make the vision a reality,” the book says.