Who does not love history; written or by word of mouth from those who have experienced it? History
tunes the listening ears, unlocks the heart and frees the imagination for what has taken place and what is to come. It is
the purpose of this very short article to give you an insight into the beginning of this church, its Ministers, and the accomplishments
to the present time. It is our hope that in the future we will be able to do a full history in a more detailed manner.
In 1869, at the comer of Main and Bridge Streets, the Rev. Spencer Harris gathered around him eight consecrated
souls for weekly prayer meetings. These meeting continued and they formed a Mission which, in spite of many changes in meeting
places, continued and grew. In the year 1871, large numbers of people came to this city from Virginia and about one hundred
became members of the Mission. Reverend
Spencer Harris, our first pastor, organized the first Negro church in Springfield and significantly called it Pilgrim
Baptist Church. This was in 1872. Rev. Harris resigned in 1873.
Rev. Peter Smith, who succeeded Rev. Harris, and
the congregation attempted to purchase Old South Church for $8,000.00. After making a payment of $14,000.00 it was discovered
that the sale had been made under false pretenses. This was a staggering blow. Soon after Rev. Smith's resignation in
1880, we found a sufficient group
leaving Pilgrim Baptist Church and forming the Berean Baptist Church.
The third pastor of Pilgrim
Baptist Church was the Rev. 1. N. W. Matthews who resigned in 1883 and was succeeded by the Rev. William Henson. During Rev.
Henson's leadership and under the influence of a Council of the Westfield Association: the two groups combined under the condition that neither would use its former name: thus the Third Baptist Church came into existence. Rev. Henson
fifth pastor, Rev. Eli N. Smith, came in 1885 and straight a way started a building fund, which by 1890, when Rev. Smith resigned,
had accumulated $800.00.
The sixth pastor, Rev. S.
Henri Brown, in 1891, purchased land for a church building on William Street at a cost of $800.00 and this new church, free
of debt, with coal bins full and $400.00 in the bank, was dedicated in 1892. This church building included among the picturesque
sights in New England built from the ground up. Third Baptist Church flourished and because of Rev. Brown's remarkable leadership, he received a call to continue his services in a larger field in Michigan. He left in 1897.
The seventh pastor, Rev. William C. Boone, came in 1898. In 1899, he assumed the pastorate
of a group that left Third Baptist, which was known as Calvary
Baptist Church. This group later reunited with Third Baptist.
eighth pastor, Rev. E. C. Brown, came in 1901 and resigned in 1903.
Rev. William T. Amiger, a Lincoln University and Newton Seminary graduate, came as our ninth
pastor in 1903. The church again flourished and purchased its first parsonage at 151
Walnut Street. Rev. Amiger resigned in 1908 to accept the Presidency of Kentucky State University at Louisville, Kentucky. Later he served overseas as a Chaplain in World War I and then served
as a foreign missionary in Monrovia, West Africa.
The Rev. E. Luther Cunningham, our tenth pastor, assumed the ministry
in 1908. Now the constitution and by-laws for the Church government were drawn up. With
the help of Andrew Carnegie, a beautiful pipe organ was installed. The church was redecorated and newly carpeted. In two years,
he raised more money than the other pastors did and one hundred twenty members were added to the church. Rev. Cunningham was
instrumental in having our first ministerial candidate, Rev. David W. Johnson, enter Howard University for his divinity studies.
Rev. Garnett R Waller became pastor and had the second longest
pastorate, 1914-1934. He initiated and organized the first meeting at Third Baptist Church for the organization of the Springfield
Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Many properties were purchased, including
our present location at Pendleton Avenue and Walnut Street. Dr. Waller was the eleventh pastor of Third Baptist Church. During
his pastorate, the Duplex Envelope system was installed and the parsonage on 80 King
Street was purchased. After twenty years of service, Dr. Waller retired and returned to Baltimore.
Rev. Edward D. Caffee, Sr. our twelfth pastor, came to us in 1934 from a long experience in Virginia and Pennsylvania. His theme song, "Have Thine Own Way"- is a constant reminder of
Rev. Caffee. He not only helped to dig the foundation, but also dug the first shovel full of dirt for the new church.
The pastor and every organization worked diligently for our church. After the great flood and the Coconut Grove holocaust,
the William Street Church was condemned as unsafe. Dark days came to Third Baptist. First Baptist Church again opened its
doors for our services. We renovated the Social Center at 151 Walnut Street and held services therein. Finally, Rev. Caffee
accepted a call and Rev. Hezikiah Hutchings, our thirteenth pastor, continued services in the chapel at First Baptist Church.
We purchased a parsonage at 116 King Street. The war effort retarded our building efforts. A large group left and established
the Alden Street Baptist Church. Rev. Hutchings resigned from Third Baptist to become a pastor of the new church.
During 1943 when things did not seem bright for Third Baptist, one of associate
ministers took hold of the reins for our church, namely, Rev. Charles Basiden. Inspired
by God, he held Third Baptist together until our search committee found our fourteenth pastor, Rev. H. A Rogers.
Rev. Hugh A Rogers, our fourteenth pastor, came to us in 1944. He had served as a Chaplain in both
World War I and TI. He taught in denominational schools and also pastored in New Mexico and Oklahoma. His keen business acumen and perseverance obtained for the church loans from the Massachusetts Baptist Convention that was sufficient to nearly complete our basement. Also,
$500.00 was contributed to World Mission Crusade. After three years, Rev. Rogers resigned to accept a pastorate in
New York City.
The Rev. Emory R Taylor
was called to Third Baptist Church as its fifteenth pastor in September 1948. Approximately
40 members were worshipping together in the church's parsonage which was adjacent to the site on the comer of Walnut Street
and Pendleton Avenue where a new church was being built. There was a confident feeling, a strong faith, that the membership
would experience a rebirth in Christ and that God would lead them victoriously into the Church's basement which had been
incomplete for 15 years. On Sunday, December 26, 1948, the members held their first joyful worship service in the basement
of Third Baptist Church. Large numbers were attracted by Rev. Taylor's eloquence,
and membership increased significantly. Under his brief ministry, a children's choir was organized.
The Rev. Paul A Fullilove was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. He was pastor
of the Union Baptist Church in New Bedford, Ma. Before he accepted the pastorate at Third Baptist Church. In September 1950, Rev. Fullilove became the sixteenth minister
of Third Baptist Church. Under his leadership, a Department of Religious Education and
Social Services was established. He also installed a Baptistery, a modern system of financial records and new clubs
were founded: i.e. Flower Guild, Willing Workers, Good Samaritan Guild and Hospitality Committee. In 1961, under the leadership
of Rev. Fullilove, the upper auditorium was started and finished. He had the longest pastorate in Springfield and the Commonwealth.
Rev. Fullilove gave this Church 40 long years of dedicated service.
The church was without a pastor for approximately one and one-half years. Nevertheless, the Lord provided capable leadership for the church, The Associate Ministers, Deacons, Deaconess, Trustees
and many others. During this time a new parsonage was secured.
Since his arrival at Third Baptist, Rev.
Nathaniel Smith Sr. has placed great emphasis on the spiritual development of the Church
through developing a comprehensive training ministry, Christian education and community ministries. As a result, the
church's membership has increased. Through these, God has blessed and confirmed Pastor Smith's call to this church.
Eight ministers have accepted the call to the preaching ministry: Bro. Deaven Williams, Bro. Donald Hall, Bro. Carl Howard,
Sr. and Bro. Leroy Dixon, Sis. Willie B. Kelly, Sis. Gwen Haynes, Bro. Charles Howell and Bro. Walter Cisero. Four of the
eight has been ordained for the pastoral ministry. Eight deacons have been placed in the deacon's
ministry, seven trustees have been added to the trustee's ministry and ten deaconesses have been consecrated. Our
Children's Ministry is rapidly expanding, along with our youth ministry.
Some of the physical accomplishments that Pastor Smith has made are renovation and refurbishing of
the entire main floor, sanctuary, and basement. A new roof for the church and liquidation
of the mortgage on the parsonage. The Women of Third purchased and installed an
air conditioning system and the sound system both upstairs and downstairs. Acquired
additional property and gated and fenced property on Walnut and Pendleton.
Pastor Smith looks forward in
meeting the challenge of his day during the twenty-first century together with God and
Third Baptist Church. "Third Baptist Church, let us march together as we press toward the mark for the prize of the high
calling of God in Christ Jesus."