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Historical marker tells story of Friendship Baptist Church

Since 1866, Friendship Baptist Church has been making history, and a new marker will show its history for many generations to come.

As a way to honor and to teach those in Aiken about the history of Friendship Baptist Church, a historical marker was unveiled to community and church members to recognize the church's history in Aiken for the last 157 years. 

The new marker  – made possible through a grant through the Aiken County Historical Society – is the 30th one to be erected in the city since the society was reestablished in 1999. 

The  grant was worth $2,750 and was made possible by The Watson-Brown Foundation.

On Sunday the society will erect another marker at the Williams House on York Street. 

Friendship African-American Baptist Church began in a brush harbor on Kershaw Street on the southern side the railroad, and the group was taken by in the First Baptist Church in 1865.

Once Black members started to outnumber the whites, Black members decided to leave the church and start the current church through the leadership of Reverend John G. Phillips, an ex-slave, aided by the Reverend Luscious Cuthberth, a white minister. The Friendship African Baptist Church was constructed and completed in 1866.

The original church was destroyed in fire after a revival service in 1893, and Phillips helped the members to construct a new church in 1894.

In 2016, the church celebrated its 150th anniversary, and a book was published to celebrate its history. 

Aubrey Ogletree, who is part of the church’s history committee, said the church has been involved in the spiritual community, educational and civic activities and enriching the life of young people ever since its founding.

Joyie Bradley, who serves as the church's trustee and the chairman of the history committee, said getting the marker was made possible by working with Aiken County Historical Society and was nominated by the society's president, Allen Riddick. 

“My heart is just overwhelmed and bursting with pride because he inspired us not to say our history but to write it and document it, which many of us don’t do,” Bradley said.

Aiken City Councilwoman Lessie Price said the marker is counting to add to he churches history. 

“History is being made right now,” Price said.

Terrie Williams,  a new member to church, said the marker is something special. 

“It means a lot to the community, it means a lot to our members to have them recognized for all these years and to be recognized as a historical site for all these years in Aiken County," Williams said.

Deacon Charles Mitchell has attended the church since 1980 and is thankful he is alive to see the historical marker erected.

“I am glad to be a part of it and happy to be living long enough to be part of it,” Mitchell said.

Rev. Clinton Edwards said the marker does not just recognize the church's history, but it also can serve as an educational tool for the younger generations.

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