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Second Baptist Church, one of few historic Black churches in Ohio River Valley, gets new life

Historic New Richmond Inc. takes over church
New Richmond Second Baptist Church
Posted at 8:16 PM, Apr 15, 2022

NEW RICHMOND, Ohio — An old church with historical significance has a new owner.

Historic New Richmond Inc. took over Second Baptist Church, one of the few historic Black churches left standing in the Ohio River Valley. Now, the historical society is working with preservationists from Northern Kentucky University to restore it back to what it looked like in the 19th century.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for stories that have been overlooked, discounted and not seen for how important they were,” said Greg Roberts of Historic New Richmond Inc.

Second Baptist church sits on Market Street. In 1860, it was once a meeting place for a secular group known as the Union Association for the advancement of the Colored Men of New Richmond Ohio, an organization that predates the NAACP by more than 50 years.

“There were abolitionists here and we were very active on the Underground Railroad and we had a very vibrant African American community,” Roberts said.

Mary Allen, a resident and major donor of the project, said her ancestors were the founding members of Second Baptist.

“My great-great-grandfather was the treasurer of the Union Association," Allen said. "They were the founding members of that church. My family attended the church for a number of years. For me, it’s personal and it's philanthropic because I know that acquiring the church will allow us to have a location within the village that can be used for meeting space and museum purposes.”

Roberts and Allen said they hope to get more partners to help get the church back to what it may have looked like when it was founded.

“It’s lost a lot of its original fabric and there are vestiges of its old tin ceiling that is behind drop ceilings,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the inspiration for the project came more than a decade ago while giving a tour of New Richmond to the late Civil Rights activist Carl Westmoreland.

“He said, 'That church is significant historically — not just for your little village, but for this entire country,'" Robert said.

Once its restored, Second Baptist will become a meeting space filled with displays that share stories of the church's rich history and meaning to the Black community.

“The contributions of our African American community has historically been overlooked and not celebrated,” Roberts said. “That was one of the incentives to seek out a place like Second Baptist Church for preservation. So we can tell the story for future generations.”

Roberts said he and his team will gather a lot of the research from records housed at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus.

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