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The First African Baptist Church (ca. 1865)

First African Baptist Church is located in the Heart of the Beaufort Historic District.  Located on what is known as "The Point" area and cloaked in Antebellum homes and mansions.  Initially a Praise House, the church's present structure was finished in early 1865.  It's first Pastor would be the famed African American preacher from Savannah, Reverend Arthur Waddell.  Born in 1821, Arthur Waddell founded churches all across South Carolina and Georgia following the American Civil War.  His story still largely told is one of evangelical greatness as he sought to provide the fragile newly freed communities of former slaves with the stability of a church.  He would perform several marriages two of which are close to my heart.  The first being that of my Third Great Grandmother and Third Great Grandmother and the other being the most controversial of his marriages being that of the Lt. George P. Wood and "a colored girl" from Beaufort Susan Ulmer.  It is a resounding statement for a preacher with such an established "negro" to perform such a marriage in the heat of the strong racial tensions still existing following the Civil War and during Reconstruction.  His grave sits to the left of the church enclosed lovingly by a small well-wrought knee-high black iron fence facing what would have been a view of the Bluff.  Before his death Arthur Waddell had amassed an army of some of the most influential black men in South Carolina.  His members would include William J. Whipper, Johnathan Jasper Wright, Renty F. Greaves and Robert Smalls.  More than a century after it was built, the First African Baptist Church of Beaufort is still standing and serving Beaufort's African American Community and those whose families have belonged to the church for generations.  


KEY NAMES affiliated with The First African Baptist Church: Arthur Waddell, Clementine Waddell, Solomon Peck, Robert Smalls, Elizabeth Singleton, William J. Whipper, Shedrick Manigo, Elizabeth Singleton, Renty F. Greaves, Hector Powell, Julius Irvin Washington and Isaac Moultrie.

Historic Gullah Heritage Images

Family Names Attributed to this church:


  • Smalls; Moultrie; Wright; Whipper

  • Waddell; Greaves; Singleton; 

  • Polite;Washington; Powell

  • Cook; Brown; Manigo


Key Dates


  • 1821 - Arthur Waddell is born in Savannah, GA

  • 1861 - The Union Army occupies Beaufort.

  • 1865 - First African Baptist Church is built.

  • 1873 - Rev. Waddell founds Horsepond Baptist in Bft.

  • 1880 - President U.S. Grant visits Beaufort.

  • 1895 - Rev. Waddell dies and is laid to rest by his church.



Coming soon.

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A look at some of Beaufort's earliest African American communities!

For more historic Beaufort images and profiles visit our image gallery.

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