The First African Baptist Church is the third oldest
black congregation in the United States
Photograph by Eric Thomason,
courtesy of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
The First African Baptist Church was founded c.1790 to serve
the religious needs of African Americans in the Lexington area.
The First African Baptist Church is the third oldest black Baptist
church congregation in the United States and the oldest in Kentucky.
The first pastor of the church was Peter Durrett, known affectionately
by his congregation as Old Captain. Old Captain immigrated to
Kentucky with his master around 1785 and soon began leading the
early church where he preached the Gospel.
The site where the present First African Baptist Church
stands was originally the site of the Old Methodist Meeting House.
was sold to the First African Baptist Church in 1833 under the leadership of the
Reverend London Ferrill. Ferrill was a freed slave who came to Kentucky with his
wife in 1812 and was allowed to stay here by an act of the Kentucky legislature. By 1850, Ferrill had increased the congregation from 280 to 1,820 people, making it the largest, black or white, in Kentucky. When the pastor passed away in 1854, his funeral procession was reputed to have been the second largest
ever held in Lexington, second only to Henry
The present Italianate style church was constructed in 1856. The large, arched
windows are a testament to this style of architecture. In the years following
its construction a large stone portico was added and a two-story parish house
was constructed adjacent to the church. The congregation of the First African
Baptist Church has since moved to another location and the building is no longer
used for church services. The church is not only significant for its religious
history, but also for the prominent role it played in the lives of Lexington's
early African Americans.
First African Baptist Church, looking southwest.
Courtesy of Kentucky Heritage Council, photo by Richard S. deCamp
The First African Baptist Church is located at the corner
of Short and Deweese sts.
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