Brown’s Chapel served Hastings’ black community until it was damaged by arson in 1907
Editor’s note: This story is the first in a periodic series on the history of churches in Hastings.
Many people probably do not even know it was there, but at the turn of the century in Hastings, at the corner of Fifth and Sibley streets, Brown’s Chapel served the black community.
It started in 1890 with the construction of building. But 17 years later — when a fire heavily damaged the building — the church apparently began a steady decline.
Two years after the fire the building was sold to Graus Construction for $300.
The formation of the new church was announced with the following officers: James Wallace, class leader; James Curry, class secretary; and John Wallace, treasurer. The announcement of the new church building was made in the Dec. 26, 1891, issue of the Hastings Gazette. Pastor J.C. Anderson invited people to the services.
“There are between fifty and sixty people in the above places (Hastings, Point Douglas and Prescott) identified with the colored race, and most of them have been as sheep without a shepherd, having no fold or certain place whence they were fed on the bread which comes down from heaven for the soul,” he said.
In the same announcement, Anderson wrote that at the 1890 conference of the African Methodist Church, the decision was made to organize a mission in Hastings. Anderson visited Hastings twice a month, preaching in private homes, then in rooms at Hanson’s Block.
“Experience has taught us the necessity of having a place of our own, where we may become permanently situated and worship God according to the dictates of our consciences without shame or fear,” Anderson said.
The church bought the property at the corner of Fifth and Sibley streets for $500 and asked the community for help in making the payments.
“This is the first time you have ever had an opportunity to help us in this way, though you have often helped others,” said Anderson. “We will be thankful for any amount given, but we hope none who are able will give no less than $5 and as much more as possible.”
The church was named Brown’s Chapel in honor of Bishop J.M. Brown. According to the July 16, 1892, issue of The Hastings Gazette, the congregation planned to open the building the following Sunday. Services were scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and at 3 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.
The following week’s issue reported that the services were well attended, with many worshipers coming from the surrounding areas.
Anderson also extended his appreciation to those who helped the church.
“I hereby, on behalf of Brown’s Chapel, African M.E. Church of Hastings, express deeply felt thanks, hoping that this little rising star among good agencies here may become an arm of power and a citadel, so to speak of helping hands that shall have approved morals, elevate character and save souls; we are thrice thankful, twice told.”
There were several more stories about Brown’s Chapel that year – listing times of services, the Rev. D. M. Lewis’s father dying and services being canceled, and revival meetings being well attended.
In 1896, trustees Curry and the Wallaces extended their appreciation to the people who helped pay the debt on the church.
News of the church was scarce until the fire Oct. 28, 1907.
The Hastings Gazette in its Nov. 2, 1907 issue reported: “The African Methodist Church on Fifth Street was discovered on fire Monday evening, the work of incendiaries. The woodwork had been saturated with kerosene and a blaze started. The floor was ruined, most of the pews badly charred, the walls and ceiling blackened, and the windows broken. The department turned out, and by prompt efforts, the building was saved. There was no insurance.”
The Hastings Democrat in its Oct. 31, 1907, issue reported that entrance to the building was gained by cutting a screen on a back window and raising the sash.
After Graus bought the building, it was replaced by other small buildings, which housed his business at the location for many years. Nothing more was reported about the small church.