Stone Street Baptist Church
Stone Street Baptist Church
|NRHP Reference #||85001749|
|Added to NRHP||August 8, 1985|
|Designated ARLH||November 26, 1975|
Stone Street Baptist Church is a historic African-American Baptist church in Mobile, Alabama. The congregation was established well before the American Civil War, with Stone Street Baptist recognized today as one of Alabama's most influential African-American Baptist churches. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 8, 1985.
Stone Street Baptist Church was the second church building constructed by members of this congregation. In 1843 the white trustees of Saint Anthony Street Baptist Church purchased a plot of land at the southwest corner of Chestnut and Tunstall streets for the use of the African branch of the church, which became the Stone Street Baptist Church. Twenty-five years later the title to the property was transferred to the African-American trustees of the Stone Street Baptist Church.
The first African-American pastor for the congregation was Richard Fields. In 1859, after descendants of the Clotilde settled in Africatown, they also joined in with members of Stone Street Baptist Church. These descendants had ancestral roots in Ghana and the Kingdom of Whydah, Dahomey, located in present-day Benin. In 1864, Reverend Benjamin Franklin Burke of Richmond, Virginia, became pastor and led the congregation for 38 years, until his death on September 27, 1902. It was Burke who moved the congregation to 311 Cleveland Street in 1870. Cleveland Street was later changed to Tunstall Street in honor of former pastor Dr. Charles A. Tunstall. Reverend K. D. Watkins, who pastored from 1907 to 1915, rebuilt Stone Street Baptist Church in 1909. The church received a major renovation in 1931 under the leadership of Reverend M. C. Cleveland.
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This historical congregation has had only sixteen pastors in 196 years. Richard Fields, also called “Uncle Dick,” was the first pastor, followed by Reverend Kadar Hawthorn, Reverend Benjamin F. Burke, Reverend Henry Watson, Reverend Jacobs, Reverend K. D. Watkins, Reverend T. M. Mosley, Reverend C. H. Hawkins, Reverend W. M. Banks, Reverend M. C. Cleveland, Reverend C. T. Hayes, Reverend J. A. Robinson, Reverend V. W. Glanton, Dr. Charles A. Tunstall, Dr. Harold W. Toliver, and Reverend Milton E. Saffold, the current pastor.
Dr. Charles A. Tunstall served the longest as pastor, from 1949 to 1992, a total of 43 years. Under his leadership, the church membership increased, land around the church was purchased, an expansion of auxiliaries took place, a ministry for the hearing impaired was instituted (the first such ministry within the Alabama and National Baptist Convention), and the modern educational building was constructed in 1981, which was named in his honor—The Charles A. Tunstall Educational Building. These accomplishments were testaments to his leadership, dedicated service, and love for the Stone Street Baptist Church family. Pastor Tunstall died April 3, 1992.
After the death of Dr. Tunstall, the congregation called Dr. Harold W. Toliver as pastor on September 30, 1992. Dr. Toliver served eight years under Dr. Tunstall as his Assistant. Under the leadership of Dr. Toliver, over 120 members joined the church, an outreach wheelchair ministry was established where wheelchair using members are picked up every Sunday on a specially equipped van, a Ward system involving Deacons was set up, Deacons were assigned to auxiliaries, a strong Laymen’s group was organized, needed repairs to the church were made, an all male chorus was organized to sing praises to God, and the Gospel was both preached and taught. On September 25, 2002, the congregation called as pastor, the Reverend Milton E. Saffold of Montgomery, Alabama. He currently serves as the sixteenth pastor of the Stone Street Baptist Church. Reverend Saffold leads the congregation through preaching of the Gospel, teaching of the Bible, and growth in the congregation.
Under his leadership, several new ministries have been established or continued. They include the Christian Education Ministry, the Deaf Ministry, the Married Couples Ministry, the New Members Ministry, the Outreach Ministry, the Singles Ministry, the Youth Ministry, and the Seniors Ministry. Also during this time the church’s quarterly newsletter has been revived, “The Stone Chronicle,” which is published, written, and distributed by our Youth Department, “casual Sunday” has been put into practice, where every fifth Sunday the entire membership worships in appropriate, casual attire, the church is now a Partner in Education with neighborhood schools, the Boys Scout and Girls Scout troops—at all levels—have been reorganized in the church, needed repairs have been made around the church, the first ever City Wide Resurrection Sunrise service was conducted at Cooper Riverside Park in downtown Mobile, for Easter Services, which is now an annual event, yearly revival services are scheduled, quarterly leadership workshops for officers and members are offered, a year-end Memorial Service is held remembering loved ones lost during the year, and an annual Watch Night Service is held on New Year’s Eve.
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- National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "The Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage" (PDF). preserveala.org. Alabama Historical Commission. June 21, 2013. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
- Bantens, Anne Sieller; Shirley D. Qualls (August 15, 1984). "Stone Street Baptist Church" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form. National Park Service. Archived from the original on March 16, 2014. Retrieved March 16, 2014. See also: "Accompanying photos" (PDF). Archived from the original on March 16, 2014. Retrieved March 16, 2014.