Church History


Gillfield Baptist Church is nestled in the historically rich community of Petersburg, Virginia (population 31,500). The City has 182 miles of roadway with two major interstates (I-95 and I-85). Petersburg has a council/manager form of government and a real estate tax rate of $1.38 per $100.00. The Petersburg Public School System has one high school, two middle and seven elementary schools. Virginia State University, Richard Bland College and John Tyler Community College are located in the immediate Petersburg area. Within an hour’s drive of Petersburg, are ten additional colleges and universities, including Virginia Union University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. (See the attached Petersburg info.)

Gillfield Baptist Church, one of the oldest African American congregations in the City of Petersburg, had its beginning in Prince George County in 1788. The church, located at 209 Perry Street, houses:

  • A Sanctuary that seats 1600 people
  • A Chapel, capacity 150 people
  • Byas Fellowship Hall with full Kitchen
  • A Media Lounge
  • The Earl Vann Allgood Library
  • The Mamie L. Reed Heritage Room
  • Sunday School Classrooms
  • Administrative offices, with state of the art equipment

Throughout its history, Gillfield’s church leaders were fortunate to have called capable stewards who strove to promote the momentous issues of their time. During its 209 years of existence, only 11 ministers have served the four congregations, (Davenport Church, Sandy Beach Church, The Church of The Lord Jesus Christ, and Gillfield Baptist Church). The legacy each has left behind is duly recorded in the history of Gillfield.

The Founding Years

1788
Gillfield Baptist Church had its beginning in Prince George County and was known as Davenport Church. At that time whites and blacks worshipped together.

1797
Davenport Church became an autonomous institution. The present Gillfield Church dates its history from this church.

1800
Davenport Church moved to Petersburg and the two memberships separated. The blacks located on the Appomattox River in Pocahontas. The name was changed to Sandy Beach Church. Flood problems forced the church to move to Collier’s Alley. The name was changed to the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of Petersburg.

1810
The church joined the Portsmouth Baptist Association (a white association).

1815
The Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of Petersburg joined with First Baptist of Richmond, VA in the formation of the African Missionary Society. Rev. William Pittman (white minister) was the pastor.

1818-1819
Land known as Gill’s Field – located on Perry Street, was purchased from Moses Pillsborogh at a cost of $550.00. The first house of worship at this site was called the “Red House” with an entrance on Collier’s Alley.

1821
The African Missionary Society was responsible for sending our first missionary, Lott Carey, to Africa.

1831
State Law, during the civil war, prohibited or hindered colored churches from having meetings and colored men from preaching. Colored churches could not have meetings unless a white person was present. No night meetings could be held. White ministers pastored the church during this time.

sampson-white

Elder Sampson White

1837
Elder Sampson White (colored minister) was called to serve as pastor. He served until 1838.

1840-1858

“The White House” worshipping structure, built between 1840 and 1842 on Perry Street, burned, THOMAS B. CREATH (white minister) served as pastor from 1842 to 1844. HOSEA CROWDER (white minister) served from 1845 to 1858.

1858-1865
The Reverend William N. Robinson

  •  Was the last white pastor.
  • Served when the Civil War began and continued until the war ended.
  • Erected the “First Brick House.”

The Building Years

henry-williams

Reverend Henry Williams, Jr., D.D.

1865-1900
The Reverend Henry Williams

  • Identified with the Underground Railroad Movement
  • Organized the Sabbath School
  • Was elected as a member of the Council of the City of Petersburg in 1870
  • Began the agitation of colored teachers for the colored schools in Petersburg.
  • Organized the Gillfield Baptist Beneficial Society to pay small sick and death benefits
  • Fostered church growth
    • In 1871, adjoining land was purchased
    • In 1874, the erection of the present structure, costing $26,200 was begun.
    • Completion date was 1878. The church was then styled (named) Gillfield.
  • Was honored (after his death) in 1901 with the erection of a monument located in Blandford’s Little Church Street Cemetery.
Reverend George B. Howard, D.D.

Reverend George B. Howard, D.D.

1900–1912
The Reverend George B. Howard, D.D.

  • Modernized the sanctuary
    • Placed glassed lights in the sanctuary
    • Installed a hot air furnace
    • Installed electricity
  • Purchased a reed organ for the choir

 

The Growing Years

samuel-a-brown

Reverend Samuel Allen Brown

1913-1951
The Reverend                      Samuel Allen Brown

  • Organized the
    • Henry Williams Bible Class
    • Steven Jordon Bible Class
    • Boy Scout Troop
    • Girl Scout Troop
    • Flower Club
    • Church Aid Society
    • Fostered church bldg. improvements
  • Remodeled the main sanctuary in 1917 at a cost of $5,298.72
  • Installed new pews and stained glass windows
  • Purchased first parsonage
Dr. Grady W. Powell and Dr. Samuel D. Proctor

Dr. Grady W. Powell and Dr. Samuel D. Proctor

1951-1953
Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor
Served as Interim Pastor for two years

1953-1960
Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker

  • Served during the turbulent years of fighting segregation
    • Was jailed for sitting in the white section of the public library. As a result, many pro-integration changes took place in Petersburg
  • Organized the
    • Channel Choir
    • Parish Club
    • Tither’s Fellowship
    • Tots’ and Children’s Choirs
    • Dabney Club
  • Promoted church renovations
    • Added cathedral lights in sanctuary
    • Renovated church

THE SERVING YEARS

1961-1997
Dr. Grady Wilson Powell, Sr. 

  • Organized the…
    • Women’s Fellowship and the Men’s Fellowship
    • Children’s Ministry
    • Gospel Choir
    • Men’s Chorus
    • Lord’s Ministry
  • Ordained the first women deacons in a Black Church in the United States.
  • Instituted the Day Care Center and Gillfield Crater Nutrition Program.
  • Established a housing board for the building of Gillhaven.
  • Presided over the Church Mortgage of $250,000.00 Education Building.
  • Promoted church renovations
    • Installation of heating and air conditioning systems
    • Installation of new baptistery
    • Purchased new Pipe Organ for the church

THE GATEWAY YEARS

1998-1999
Dr. Michael A. Battle and Dr. James Daniely 

  • Served as interim pastors.

2000-2004
The Reverend Glenn Eugene Porter, Sr., D.Min.
Served as Gillfield’s eleventh pastor in March 2000.

  • Led congregation in study of Church Covenant
  • Promoted church renovations
  • Instituted the “Over and Above” giving incentive
  • Installed Gillfield’s first salaried Youth Minister.
  • Reorganized the church structure, the word “Ministries” replaced the traditional “Boards.”
  • Reorganized Bible Study, adding; Monday and Wednesday Evening Bible Classes, an Evening Class for Youth and Children and a Noon Bible Class.
  • Baptized 14 children on one Sunday morning
  • Licensed three new ministers; two female and one male.
  • Increased the membership of the church.

2004-2008
Dr. Harold E. Braxton
Served as Interim Minister (2004-2008)

2008-Present
Dr. George W.C. Lyons, Jr. 
Assumed the Gillfield pulpit on Resurrection Sunday, March 23, 2008. Installed as 12th Pastor on August 31, 2008