Located at the corner of Catherine and Hamilton, the Second Baptist Church began in the year of 1860 and is the second oldest black church in Ypsilanti. Black Ypsilanti Baptists first worshiped at the City’s First Baptist Church. Second Baptist was founded by, among others, William Casey and HP Jacobs, both having escaped from slavery and early pastors. Jacobs would go on to play a central role in the founding the black Baptist Church in Mississippi after the war. He became a State Senator there and helped to write the State’s Reconstruction constitution. He was also helped to found the Natchez Seminary, which would develop into Jackson State University.
A January 11, 1865 Ypsilanti Free Democrat writes this about the Church then:
‘Rev. Mr. Jacobs, for a number of years a janitor at the Normal, is pastor. He is a good a thorough worker, and of good natural abilities. The Church have entered the house [the old Presbyterian Church] under very promising auspices. There is debt resting upon the purchase. They look to the benevolent in our city and elsewhere to aid them. There is also a ladies aid society, whose object is to take care of the sick and bury the stranger dead. It meets once a week for moral improvement. Rev. H. Jacobs is president of the society.’
Another important figure in the early church was Civil War veteran William Cazy, often called Father Cazy or Deacon Cazy. The obituary below contains a wealth of information on the history of Second Baptist as well as the life of Father Cazy.
Meetings were held in the old Presbyterian Church, bought for $1200, which was left by the Presbyterians in 1857 and since used as the ‘colored’ school in the city.
Later on they would meet at 217 Babbitt Street and in the Adams Street School before setting their roots down for good at the corner of Catherine and South Hamilton, one block west of Adams.
Residents of Adams Street were members of both the AME and Baptist churches. In 1900, the pastor for Second Baptist was George Martin, then living at 419 South Adams. For decades there were just two churches serving the religious needs of black Ypsilantians, Brown AME and the Second Baptist. Second Baptist played a strong social, as well as religious, role in the life of Ypsilanti, including giving support to the early NAACP and continuing struggle for civil rights.
Second Baptist is still active on the corner of Hamilton and Catherine, over 150 years after its founding. Their website is here.
Please also see the newspaper archive of the Second Baptist Church.