Centerville Baptist Church

Historical Marker #2178 in Bourbon County marks the Centerville Baptist Church, a historic African American congregation established in 1867.

Before the Civil War, if enslaved individuals wished to participate in religious services they most often had to attend white churches with their owners. And although they met in the same buildings, African Americans were likely relegated to separate sections of the church, such as the back pews or a balcony. Sometimes, however, slaves were given permission to form their own congregations and worship in their preferred manner; albeit often with a white official in attendance. Such a situation arose when Reverend Elisha W. Green in Paris, Kentucky, succeeded in convincing the members of the community's white Baptist church to allow them to establish a separate congregation. Approval was granted in 1857 and the African Baptist Church began conducting its own separate worship services in Paris.

When emancipation was achieved after the Civil War, black churches developed as one of the most important institutions in the black community. In the post-war years it was in the churches that important political topics such as voting rights and testifying in court were discussed along with Bible lessons. With Rev. Green as their inspiration, the Centerville Baptist Church was organized in 1867. In 1904, the present brick building replaced the previous wooden frame building.

The town of Centerville is located halfway between Paris and Georgetown, as well as halfway between Lexington and Cynthiana, thus its name. Centerville was a booming small town with a large business from drovers and teamsters before the railroad came through in the 1850s. Drovers herded cattle and hogs to market in Cincinnati and teamsters hauled produce in wagons. After the railroad was constructed and roads were macadamized, the teamsters and drovers were no longer able to compete. During the second half of the nineteenth century Centerville fell into a decline. By the 1880s the little town was merely a village that a white population of 64 and a black population of 100 called home.

Today, Centerville Baptist Church is still an active congregation that has remained faithful to its mission of serving its community throughout its long history.

Images

Rev. William Alexander

Rev. William Alexander

Rev. Alexander was minister of Centerville Baptist Church from 1920 to 1949. He is the first pastor to have a photograph that survives. He was preceded by Rev. Thomas Gant in 1867, Rev. S. P. Young in 1908, Rev T. J. Smith 1908-09, Rev. P. M. Young in 1913, and finally, Rev. J. W. Million 1913-1920. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Centerville Baptist Church

Centerville Baptist Church

This early photograph shows part of the 1904 church building. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Centerville Baptist Chuch

Centerville Baptist Chuch

This congregational photograph likely dates from the early 1900s. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Rev. Elisha Green

Rev. Elisha Green

Credited with inspiring the founding the Centerville Baptist Church, Rev. Green's picture appears in his autobiography, The Life of Rev. Elisha W. Green, Life of the Rev. Elisha W. Green, One of the Founders of the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute--now the State University at Louisville; Eleven Years Moderator of the Mt. Zion Baptist Association; Five Years Moderator of the Consolidated Baptist Educational Association and Over Thirty Years Pastor of the Colored Baptist Churches of Maysville and Paris. Written by Himself. Maysville: KY: The Republican Printing Office, 1888. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Hopewell Museum, “Centerville Baptist Church,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed March 24, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/429.

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