Church History

First Union Missionary Baptist Church

1027 Avenue K, Galveston, TX ~ Telephone: (409)763-4236

Reverend David Lee Everson, Sr., Pastor (May 17, 1999 – Present)

First Church in Texas Organized by The American Baptist Free Mission Society of Boston


Founded July 15,1870, the First Union Free Mission Baptist Church was organized by a delegation representing the American Baptist Free Mission Society of Boston, an interracial antislavery group. First Union was the first church organized by the society in Texas. The Reverend Benjamin J. Hall, who served as pastor from 1878 to 1914, earned praise for his efforts to rebuild the sanctuary after the 1900 Storm and for enhancing the church’s role as mother church of the Texas State Convention. The present structure was erected in 1955.


The Origin and History

of the

First Union Baptist Church

The First Union Baptist Church of Galveston was founded on July 15, 1870. Its origin, however, can be traced back nearly thirty years earlier and are rooted in the north - south split of the American Baptist Churches over the issue of slavery in the years to the American Civil War. 

In the early 1840’s, the American Baptist Churches were divided over the issue of slavery in the United States. In the North, where slavery had been abolished some years earlier, many Baptists were opposed to continued Southern slavery.

In the South, where slavery had become an entrenched institution, many Baptists had accepted slavery as a part of life. At the time, Baptist churches nationwide equally contributed funds to support missionary activity. Some Northern Baptists were opposed to accepting money from the Southern Baptist Church. They felt it was “blood money” contributed by northern slave holders. Southern Baptists were also uncomfortable contributing money to a missionary fund which might support anti-slavery sentiment.

By 1845 this conflict had caused a formal division of the American Baptist Churches in Northern and Southern Sects. The fundamental basis of the split being the desire of Northern churches to end slavery and the desire of Southern churches to maintain the status quo.

While many Northern Baptist were concerned with ending slavery; they were not concerned with the social emancipation of the slaves. Despite the fact that Northern Baptist opposed slavery, they did not accept the equality of the Negro, nor did they feel that Blacks and Whites should worship together under the same roof. A more radical fraction of the Northern Baptist did.

Just prior to the formal split of the Baptist Churches into Northern and Southern Sects, a third Baptist body was being formed. This group desired a pronounced severance from all influence of slavery within the Baptist Church. They accepted the equality of the Negro and sought from their outset to become an integrated body. This idea was considered too radical for even the most liberal of the Northern Baptist who opposed slavery. Thus, a new body was formed and in 1843 the group met in Boston at the Temple Baptist Church and there organized themselves into a new sect known as the American Baptist Free Mission Society.

Now the division of the Baptist was three: The Southern Baptist, The Northern Baptist, and The Free Mission Baptist. Of the three, only the Free Mission Baptist sought beyond the end of slavery, the ultimate social emancipation of the Negro.

The new Free Mission Society grew and prospered in the years prior to the American Civil War. Their devotion to social progress led them to find a university in McGrawville, New York, which had an admission policy of allowing students irrespective of race or sex. In Canada they founded the Dawn Institute which served as a refuge for fugitive slaves from the south. When the Civil War began many Free Mission Baptist served as military chaplains in the Northern Army, and in the wake of that army’s advance, brought their mission to southern slaves.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the Free Mission Society began to establish churches for the newly freed slaves throughout the south. Up to this time, most missionaries of the society had been white, now black missionaries were also being utilized. One such man was the Reverend Israel Campbell. Campbell, a former slave was missionary for the Negro American Baptist Missionary Convention, a group allied with the Free Mission Society. Campbell came to Galveston in 1866 and became pastor to the African Baptist Church; now known as Avenue L Baptist Church.

The Free Mission Society had established a strong base in New Orleans and from there sought expansion into Texas via Galveston. Henry White, a white missionary, is believed to have initiated this effort. He had dispatched a delegation of Black missionaries to Galveston to mediate any differences with the Reverend Campbell. When these negotiations proved fruitless, the decision to organize a new church in Galveston was made. The result was the founding of the First Union Free Mission Baptist Church in the summer of 1860. The early years of the new church were hectic. The Missionary Baptist sought to discredit the Free Mission Baptist and controversy ensued, centering on a matter of doctrine, concerning Baptism. Free Mission Baptist conducted baptism through total immersion, while Missionary Baptist practiced baptism through sprinkling. Despite the controversy, the new church survived and thrived. It also assisted in the founding of other Free Mission Churches throughout the Texas Gulf Coast. In 1872 the American Baptist Free Mission Society disbanded, never having achieved integration of the races under a single house of worship.

In 1882, the various churches and districts came together to form the American Baptist Free Mission Convention of Texas; later affiliating itself with the Negro National Baptist Convention of America in the 1890’s.

In 1938, the state convention voted to drop the words “Free Mission” from its title, accordingly, all member churches did the same. The body is known today as the American Baptist Convention of Texas.

First Union was first established at the southeast corner of 11th and Strand in 1870, destroyed by fire in 1885, and rebuilt at 1109 Avenue K. That church was destroyed in the 1900 Storm and the congregation was forced to meet in a makeshift structure for nearly a decade. In 1909, a new sanctuary was built at 1027 Avenue K. It served the congregation until 1955 when a new and larger facility was erected.

Throughout its 131 years numerous outstanding and very able Pastors served First Union.

The first was the Reverend Ben Holmes, who served from the founding until 1874.

Next was the Reverend Joseph Robinson - from 1874 until 1878.

Then was the Reverend Benjamin J. Hall, from 1878 until 1892 when he was called away to serve in McKinney. Pastor Hall had been an inspirational leader and the church grew and prospered under his leadership. During Pastor Hall’s term, First Union’s two sister churches were founded in Galveston, namely West Point Free Mission Church in 1882 and the Mount Pilgrim Free Mission Church in 1884, both congregations thrive to this day, as does First Union.

The Reverend Morris E. Terrell was the churches fourth pastor and served four years, until 1896, when a controversy erupted, it appears that Reverend Terrell’s personal convictions eventually led him to identify with the Missionary Baptist and he sought to lead us to a Missionary Association. Pastor Terrell was dismissed, the congregation split over the issue, Reverend Terrell and his supporters left First Union to form The St. Luke’s Missionary Baptist Church.

Pastor Hall was recalled, in an effort to restore unity. Therefore, Pastor Hall served a second term at First Union, from 1896 until his death in 1914. He was followed by several other able Pastors, including:

Reverend Ollie Edwards 1915 and 1916.

Reverend Smith --------------------------- 1917and 1918

Reverend William H. Gannon --------- 1919 thru 1923

Reverend J. H. McGinnes ---------------- 1924 to 1929

Reverend James Nathaniel Byrd --------- 1930 to 1933

Reverend John W. Willians -------------1934 thru 1939

Then in 1940, the Reverend James Irving Jackson assumed the pulpit and served First Union for some twenty-eight years, it was during his term that the present sanctuary was erected. “The Jackson Era” is fondly remembered by much of the congregation to this day. July 3, 1968, we mourned his passing.

In February of 1969, the Reverend James A. Wrenn of Dickinson, Texas was called. Reverend Wrenn accepted the challenge, became our Pastor, and continued to carry out “The Mission of The Church.” Pastor Wrenn was known for his powerful prayer life, and he served faithfully for 28 years.

Under his leadership, the church built a new parsonage, and constructed a parking lot. Pastor Wrenn worked with both the county and state historical commission and secured the official Texas Historical Marker which now serves to denote the church’s long and proud history. Under Pastor Wrenn the church grew and prospered.

One of over 200 historical markers on the island, this marker is located at one of the oldest black congregations in Texas. The marker is located at the First Union Baptist Church established by an interracial antislavery group. The marker was erected in 1993 by the Texas Historical Commission.


Marker Inscription

This church was founded in 1870 as the First Union Free Mission Baptist Church by a delegation representing the American Baptist Free Mission Society of Boston, an interracial antislavery group. First Union was the first church organized by the society in Texas. Its founding resulted from and continued a period of intense rivalry over the recruitment of former slaves in Texas between the newly arrived Northern Free Mission Society and the established Southern based Missionary Baptists.”

First Union promptly began an ambitious missionary effort that resulted in the establishment of the Texas Free Mission (Eastern District) Baptist Association in 1871, a Western District Association in 1873, and numerous Free Mission churches throughout the region. The Eastern and Western Districts united to form the American Baptist Convention of Texas in 1882.”

The Rev. Benjamin J. Hall, First Union pastor for all but four years (1892-1896) from 1878 until his death in 1914, earned praise for his leadership, efforts to rebuild the church sanctuary after its destruction in the storm of 1900, and for enhancing the congregation’s role as mother church of its Texas state convention. A new brick sanctuary was erected here in 1955.”

Pastor Wrenn’s last sermon was “The Lord is My Refuge.” A few days later he closed his eyes to walk with us no more. We mourned his passing for many months, while asking God to keep us working His plan.

Then 44 sermons later -

While sitting on His throne, God looked down and said,

It is time for my flock at First Union to be fed.

For my sheep there are hungry, their sorrows will I mend,

To fill the void they think they have, And I know just who I’ll send.


So He summoned two of His Angels, And He assigned them to the night,

To speak to the committee assigned to selecting the Pastor,

And He did this all by flight.

God said, “Go sit in on their meetings,

Listen to their concerns and their cares,

listen to the members, to what they say,

For I have already heard their prayers.”


Then, go and touch David L. Everson, Sr.

Don’t disturb his sleep, don’t touch his soul,

But get him ready for this assignment,

I know he can achieve this goal.


He is already prepared.

I know Satan will try to make him stall,

tell him to complete his business.

Then have that committee to make that call.


In fact touch the entire First Union Church Family heart to heart,

Go whisper in the ear of Pat, tell her to get ready to move,

Then awaken Little David and his family,

And don’t forget Timothy and his family too.”


Touch the First Union Members with my welcoming spirit,

When he gets there, he will see,

This move is of Me!


I will send My Holy Spirit

before he crosses the threshold of the church door.

He will be led and guided; He will even have some fun.

For my shepherd will do whatever is necessary,

For “My” will to be done,

For he will be completely anointed,

And at contact one will have no choice,

but to receive the anointing that I have for them.

Even at the sound of his voice.

And for those who try and interfere,

Do not cripple them, don’t even touch their health,

For “I Am” far greater than you my servant,

And I will handle them myself.

(Poem by Tonya Boxley)


On Monday, May 17, 1999, Reverend David Lee Everson, Sr. accepted the challenge to pastor The First Union Baptist Church. On the fourth Sunday, May 23, 1999, Pastor Everson preached his first sermon as “Pastor” of the First Union Baptist Church.

Subject: “I Know What Prayer Can Do”

Scripture: Acts 3:1-6

Under Pastor Everson’s administration, we have acquired a new van for transportation, purchased a baby grand piano, completed major structural repairs and renovations to our church, modified areas to achieve handicap accessibility, added a security system and enhanced our public address system.

The church today pursues a threefold task of: Mission, Education and Benevolence

The first involves the winning of souls for Christ and the baptism of believers. The second involves the learning of church doctrine and the teaching of the Holy Bible. The third involves assisting the poor and needy.

Yes, First Union Baptist Church has withstood the test of time. Today, we continue the vital and active role in the spiritual development of the Galveston community, as we . . . record the past, live the present, and build for the future!

Today, we declare First Union is a “Church Triumphant, Alive and Well.”

We are the church where GOD is Moving…

Note: (by Cordella C. M. Daniels - June 2002)

This is an updated and condensed version of our History. A Historical Narrative submitted as application for a Texas State Historical Marker by Harrold K. Henck, Jr. dated February 1992 is archived.