2007 HERITAGE AWARD RECIPIENT
The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.
2nd Baptist Church
420 East Stuart Avenue
Most of the history of the Second Baptist Church is oral history collected by the various congregation members through the years. However, the Citrograph newspaper first places the Second Baptist Church on Orange Street in 1891. The article on July 4th of that year states that the building was sold and a lot purchased on East State Street with a new church under construction. The building was finished quickly because a Literary Concert was held on October 23, 1891 in the East State Street church. In 1892, Reverend Sebron Lee became the first pastor of the Second Baptist Church congregation.
In 1924, the present location was purchased for $10.00 on the corner of 9th and Stuart Street. This effort was led by Reverend F.W. Cooper. Two stories are told regarding the acquisition of the lumber to build this new church. One talks of lumber from a demolished hotel and the other recounts that a barrack from the old Franklin Elementary School was given to the church and its lumber used to build the current building. Regardless of where the lumber came from we know that it was recycled and Arthur Gregory had a hand in securing the lumber. As a wealthy member of the First Baptist Church with a generous heart he clearly made it possible for the Second Baptist community to build their church. The First Baptist Church donated wooden chairs, a pulpit, pulpit chairs and a pipe organ which was “too large for (the) small congregation to receive at that time.”
Through a series of fund raisers which included chicken dinners, ice cream socials and musicals the new church was raised. The building design is said to be modeled similarly to the House of Neighborly Services, which stood at 612 Lawton Street in 1920. This Spanish Eclectic style building is characterized by low-pitched roof with no eave overhang. The red tile roof with stucco walls all add to the ambiance of this style. Configured in the shape a capital “I” the front features a side-gabled roof. At each end of this facade are round tile vents. The centrally located arched opening over the heavy plank front door is another distinguishing characteristic of this style. The building we see today was completed in 1928.
Israel Beal, one of the founding members and an elder of the Second Baptist Church, was an officer of the Redlands African Mutual Benefit Association in 1892. He is well known as a Redlands pioneer. Further investigation shows he was a gentleman of good character. His integrity was highly respected in the community. Born into slavery in 1848 but freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, he served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Released from the army in 1865, he traveled by steamer ship to Northern California and worked in the mines. In 1870, Myron H. Craft asked Beal if he wanted to work for him. By 1874 he purchased a ranch in Lugonia where he planted fruit trees. Then in 1881 he was working for the town’s founders, Judson and Brown, teaming and grading portions of the original town. He helped in construction of the Redlands reservoir, pipelines and the original Big Bear Dam. Later he moved houses. Dieing in 1929, it took 66 years for a headstone to be placed. The Redlands Area Historical Society, spearheaded by Christie Hammond, raised the funds to install a marker for Israel Beal and his wife Martha Embers Beal. The Redlands Daily Facts, of April 27, 1995, noted that a dedication would be held at Hillside Memorial Park on May 6 at 10:30 a.m. “with brief remarks from Beal’s grandson Herbert Rona, Mayor Swen Larson, and Redlands historian Larry Burgess”.
Originally a small house was located behind the church building which was used as a parsonage. Later the official first parsonage was purchased, at 534 East Stuart Avenue, for $700. From 1941 to 1946, under the leadership of Reverend R.L. Amos, the church obtained pews, a cooling system and carpeting. Pastor Amos was the first black in Redlands to serve on the Redlands Chamber of Commerce. In 1958, during a time of growth, a new parsonage was purchased at 833 West Sharon Road for $12,000. Under Reverend Jonathan Brooks, in 1976, a proposal for future expansion was launched and 4.68 acres of land was purchased for $19,500 on the corner of Texas and Lugonia in Redlands. The $17,400 mortgage was retired after only three years.
The Redlands Area Historical Society commends and thanks the Second Baptist Church congregation for their continued stewardship of their church building by presenting this well deserved Heritage Award.
Researched and written by Judith Hunt.