“And your young men shall see visions…” Part Six


This week we are back on the pamphlet written by the Gadsden Women’s Club called A little book about Gadsden, which tells about the early periods of the Gadsden area. It continues….

“On August 23, 1855, a small group of Baptists under the leadership of Rev. J.J.D. Renfroe, met and organized the First Baptist Church. Phillip Archer helped write the Articles of Faith. Before they built a church of their own, church members worshipped in a building where now [was] stands the office of the Kyle Real Estate Company. At a cost of nearly $2,000, the members erected in 1860 their first church, which stood on the present site of the Princess Theatre (now the Cultural Arts Center), paying N.H. Thornton $100 for the lot.

“A bell purchased that year still hangs but is no longer used. It was rung on a night in January 1861, to spread the news of the secession of the State of Alabama from the Union. It is said that General Clan-ton’s army camped in this church and removed both the bell and the communion service but later returned them.

“In 1898, a second church was built on the northeast corner of Forrest Avenue and Seventh Street. A few years ago, one of the finest edifices in the state was erected at the corner of Walnut and Fifth streets.

“On September 20, 1860, a group of Presbyterians consisting of 11 members and one elder met and formed an organization. The members worshipped in their sister churches until 1875, when they purchased a church from the Methodists, situated on the north side of Broad Street between Third and Fourth streets. 

“In 1879, their first church on the present site (Chestnut Street between Fifth and Sixth streets) was built. Soon outgrowing this modest structure, the faithful congregation built the beautiful church house in which it now worships.

“About 1877, four or five Catholic families organized St. James Catholic Church. Members of the Baptist church donated the lumber. Their first building was completed in 1886 at the corner of Chestnut and Sixth streets. In 1927, the St. James congregation erected a larger house of worship on Chestnut Street. The parish now has 350 members.

“In 1882, the Church of Christ was organized in the home of a member. The group worshipped in any available hall until the present church on Walnut Street was built in 1908.  

“The East Gadsden Baptist Church was organized in 1887 in a blacksmith’s shop. The members worshipped in one room on Hokes Bluff Road until the present church on Mitchell Avenue was built in 1928.

“On July 23, 1888, a small group of Episcopalians met at the Printup Hotel and organized the Church of the Holy Comforter. For a few years, the members worshipped in a church built on a site on Christopher Avenue that was donated by the Alabama Land and Improvement Company through its president, Colonel R.B. Kyle. In 1891, the Reverend J.C. Johns came to serve as the first rector. The members built, in 1896, a new church on the corner of Chestnut and Sixth streets.

“In 1909, the Reverend R.R. Harris inaugurated the first vested choir in Gadsden. On Christmas Day, 1918, fire destroyed the church. A new lot was purchased on the corner of Chestnut and Ninth streets, and a beautiful brick structure was erected. In 1938, a house adjoining the church property was bought and remodeled for use as a parish house.

“The Mount Carmel Baptist Church was first a log cabin on Lookout Mountain. In 1888, a new church was built on Mineral Avenue. The church burned in 1904. Part of the congregation wished to build on Twelfth Street, while others wanted to rebuild on the same lot. Finally a division occurred, and Mount Carmel was rebuilt on the old site. Part of the members withdrew and built the present Twelfth Street Baptist Church.

“The Eleventh Street M.F. Church was established in 1888. It was first known as the McTyiere Memorial. A frame building was first erected on Third Avenue. When this [building] burned, the “Little Brick” was built. Later the congregation built on Eleventh Street and named it the West Gadsden M.E. Church.

“The Dwight Baptist Church, organized in October, 1897, first worshipped in Dwight Hall, later in the Union Church. The present building was dedicated in October 1903.

“The Alabama City Methodist Church dates back to about the same time. Its present membership is 562.

“The North Gadsden Methodist Church was first a Union Church. It was organized in 1903 and built by the North Alabama Furnace Company.  

“The East Gadsden M.E. Church was built in 1904 on a site donated by the Paden Estate. The organization of the North Gadsden Baptist Church soon followed.

“The Second Baptist Church, originally called Mt. Carmel, was established January 17, 1904. This is one of the most active churches in the city and has one of the largest congregations.

“Beth Israel, the Jewish Synagogue, was organized January 2, 1910. The members first met over the Gadsden National Bank and later in the first M.E. Sunday School room. In 1920, the members erected their temple on the corner of 8th and Chestnut streets. The cornerstone was laid in 1922 by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Alabama. The building was dedicated February 16, 1923.

“The East Gadsden Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1912. The present church was built in 1913. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church on Eleventh Street, organized in 1913, is the outgrowth of the old Gospel Tabernacle, which was begun in 1888.

“The Christian Science Society became active du-ring 1913, and for several years met at the home of one of its members. 

“In 1929, the society obtained a charter from the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, Mass. In 1930, the members moved to the Reich Hotel, where services are held every Sunday and Wednesday. A Reading Room is maintained on the mezzanine floor.

“The Christian Church worshipped three years in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church before building on Forrest Avenue in 1920. The South Eleventh Baptist Church was organized in 1929. The Eastside Presbyterian organized in 1930. The members built the church with their own labor.

The Calvary Baptist Church was organized in 1931.  

“In 1931, the Free Will Baptists of Alabama City organized. The Forrest Avenue Baptist Church has 300 members. The Walnut Park Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1936. The Gospel Tabernacle was organized in 1936.

“The Walnut Street Baptist Church was organized in 1937. The Lutheran Church was organized in 1937.

“The local branch of the Salvation Army was organized during the World War (I). It stands for Evangelism, Character Building, and Social Welfare, and its doctrine is preached in 91 countries and in 74 languages.

“Mention must be made of Forrest Cemetery Chapel, a building which is so unique as to attract nationwide attention. Patterned after an English Parish Church of the 12th century, the building’s cost has not exceeded $1,500 to the city, although it has been valued at $50,000. It was built entirely of native stone and by local workmen.

“For many years, the pastors of Gadsden, Alabama City, and Attalla have been meeting once a week for a period of fellowship, inspiration, and instruction. This Ministers Association has promoted a spirit of harmony, which has been a blessing in the religious life of Gadsden.

With Black churches, Friendship Baptist Church was organized in 1870. It is the oldest colored church in town. It was known as “Bush Arbor” in the early days. Sweet Home M.E. Church was organized in 1873; St. John Methodist Church began in 1888; Grant’s Chapel A.M.E. was started in 1890; Shiloh Baptist Church came out of Friendship Church in 1891; the Union Baptist Church separated from Friendship Church in 1895; and Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church was organized in 1911.


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