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First Congregational Church, U.C.C., Atlanta, Georgia records

 Collection
Identifier: aarl94-015

Scope and Content Note

The First Congregational Church Records is 16 linear feet and date from 1874 through 1995. Found within the collection are Church History Records, Church Order of Service, Church Financial Records, Church Administrative Records, Church Anniversaries, Programs and Events, Church Social Clubs, Church Pastor’s Newsletters, Seasonal Greeting and Invitation Cards , and Church Photograph Collection.

Dates

  • 1874-1941

Creator

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on research use of this collection.

Copyright Restrictions

Prior permission from the Research Library must be obtained in writing before any portion of this collection can be published or reproduced.

Historical Sketch

The First Congregational Church of Atlanta (United Church of Christ ) came into existence on May 26, 1867. It was the third natural development of the traditional Pioneer Pattern. This church was destined to make effectual the new “Open Door’ in an eager community.

When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, three young men, sitting in a Yale University dormitory room, pledged their life work to the education of the Freedmen. They joined the American Missionary Association forces. Two of these young men, Edmund Asa Ware, later the founder of Atlanta University, and Erastus M. Cravath, later the founder of Fisk University, chose to come along to the far South with the Reverend Cyrus W. Francis, an American Missionary Association spokesman. They traveled the length and breadth of Georgia, visiting the larger plantations and planning, with the proprietors and the Freedmen, for the new “Open Door,” an educational center in Atlanta.

“Key Mothers” were selected from the more populous sections to come to the city. They were to canvas the homes as they were established and find boarding-homes for the many expected pupils, some to be sent by their families, other to come unattached.

Soon the Freedmen from every section were setting their first city homes in Atlanta. Here the American Missionary Association had established the first primary and elementary school for Freedmen and their children. This school, the Storrs School, situated on the northern side of Houston Street near the corner of Piedmont Avenue, was a social service center for the ever-growing community. Its chapel became a focal point for religious-minded patrons. They looked forward eagerly to the “Worship Service” conducted by the New England missionaries. Ere long they expressed a desire for a church of their own in which their children could be trained to that type of reverence and quiet dignity in worship.

On the Wednesday evening preceding May 26, 1857, “having in mind the organization of a Congregational church,” a body politic was formed in the Storrs School chapel. Reverend Frederick Ayer served as Moderator. “It was voted to organize such a church on the following Sabbath, May 26th.”

“The public services by which the church was constituted were held in the chapel in the afternoon and conducted by reverend E. M. Cravath of Cincinnati, Ohio, secretary of the A.M.A.” (Quoted from the original book of minutes as recorded in the hand-writing of Edmund Asa Ware).

There were ten original members. Six presenting letters were Reverend Fredrick Edmund Asa Ware, Charles H. Morgan, Jacob B. Fuller, and Robert Johnson. Those confessing were Mrs. Charles H. (Anna) Morgan, Mrs. Celia Graves, Stephen Berry, and Abraham Farrar.

The Rev. Ayer was acting pastor for them months. He died after an illness of three weeks. Rev. Cyrus W. Francis was installed as the first regular pastor. Edmund Asa Ware was elected Clerk and Treasurer.

During the first period, 1867-1894, the following missionaries served as pastors: Reverend Frederick Ayer, Reverend Cyrus W. Francis, Reverend Enoch E. Rogers, Reverend Charles M. Southgate, reverend Simon S. Ashley, Reverend Charles W. Hawley, Reverend Evarts E. Kent and Reverend Samuel H. Robinson.

These men, recommended by the A.M.A.. had studied in the leading preparatory and divinity schools of New England. Working in close cooperation with the Storrs School, each pastor led the church to bigger and better fields of endeavor. The A.M.A. supplied substantial financial support.

The first church building was erected during the ministry of Rev. S. S. Ashley. The building committee was authorized on December 13, 1875. To pay for a perch of stone that had already been delivered on the lot. The lot was located at the northeastern corner of Courtland and Houston Streets. The doors of this structure were opened for services on November 18, 1877. The design was that of the typical New England “Meeting House” made of red brick with a spire, a gray slated roof which was set upon a velvet-green lawn.

Sturdy oak chairs were used in the main auditorium and long hard pine benches in the basement Sunday School rooms. The windows of the first floor, done in soft shades of green, showed entwining grape vines with deep purple grapes. A red ribbon threaded it all, “symbolizing the interdepdence of a rich life and the blood of Christ.” There was a comfortable and serene atmosphere which attuned one for worship.

The American Missionary Association financed the venture. The congregation’s supplement was $2,000.00, a reverent sacrifice. The A.M.A. also financed and stationed Miss Lizzie Stevenson as Official Missionary of the church.

The first parsonage, built on the adjoining lot, was erected while Rev. Evarts Kent was pastor. The building was constructed by students in the Trades Department of Atlanta University.

A second period and a New Day began in 1895 when Henry Hugh Proctor, a graduate of Fisk University and Student at Yale Divinity School, became the first Negro pastor. The church soon became self-supporting and in turn benefactor to the A.M.A. In due time it added Social Service features which, at that time, were unheard of in a church program in the South. Under his leadership, the church became largest and most progressive Negro Congregational Church. In 1919, Dr. Proctor resigned to aid the Nazarene Church of Brooklyn, New York in its fight for existence.

In 1908 the cornerstone for a new building was laid. This building, two-story and basement, is Spanish Mission in design. It is a spiritual memorial of sentiments – religious and social. It was planned particularly for the children, for their indoctrination.

The original soft reflected lighting, the centered golden-piped organ, given by the Carnegie Corporation, and the traditional red carpeting and cathedral-blue wall gave an air of eloquence that is never surpassed.

Bruce and Everett were the architects who worked so faithfully with Dr. Proctor in materializing his “dream.” The contractor, Robert E. Pharrow, was a leading Negro builder. He used as many Negro artisans as possible.

The windows of the auditorium of The First Congregational Church of Atlanta are unique in many ways. They are the work of master craftsmen, whose studio was within three blocks of the Church. The windows were carefully planned to symbolize the fundamental structure of Christianity and the historical foundations of emancipation and rise. Such symbols as the Trinity, the Twelve Apostles, the Four Gospels, Universal Beneficence, the Blood of Christ, Brotherhood, Motherhood, Love, Sacrifice, and Stewardship are represented in the different windows. They are all reproductions of famous religious pictures with the exception of two. One of these is a photographic reproduction of a sculpture made by Augustus Saint-Gaudens of Abraham Lincoln, the other is Rev. George Standing, a distributor of Bible Society, posing with two children, Mildred Greenwood Hall and Roy Proctor.

In 1920 Reverend Russell S. Brown became the pastor. He was followed by Reverend William J. Faulkner, Reverend John C. Wright, Reverend Homer C. McEwen, served as a dedicated pastor for 32 years and rendered invaluable service to the church and community, Reverend Marvin Morgan, and Reverend George Thomas, senior pastor.

Extent

16 Linear feet

Arrangement of Collection

Arranged by type.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Auburn Avenue Research Library, Archives Division received First Congregational Church Records as a gift from the Church’s Administrative Board Members in 1995.

Related Materials at Other Repositories

First Congregational Church, U.C.C., Atlanta, Georgia Collection; Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta, Ga.

First Congregational Church, U.C.C., Atlanta, Georgia Collection; Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, Ga.
Title
Inventory of the First Congregational Church U.C.C. Records aarl94-015 aarl94-015
Author
Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Okezie Amalaha, 2017
Date
2004 September 15

Repository Details

Part of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History Repository

Contact:
101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta GA 30303
404-613-4032