The Historic Leadenhall Baptist Church is an old established church located in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore is the 19th largest city in the United States with a population of approximately 630,000. Located in South Baltimore, the church was established in 1872 with the cornerstone laid on July 15, 1872 and the dedication held on May 12, 1873. The church is nestled between Baltimore’s two major stadiums and sits on prime real estate south of Baltimore’s famous harbor in the Sharp-Leadenhall Community.
Sharp-Leadenhall is an up and coming neighborhood surrounded on all sides by expensive property with the Otterbein neighborhood to the north, and the Federal Hill neighborhood to the east.
The church was organized with a total membership of eight under the name of Leadenhall Street Baptist Church by African-American Baptists of the Sharp-Leadenhall area with the help of the Maryland Baptist Union Association. It is the second oldest church building in Baltimore continuously occupied by the same African-American congregation and one of the earliest settlements of free African-Americans in the city. By 1874, the membership had grown to 146. The congregation is predominantly African American.
The church was designed and built by Joseph B. Thomas and Son, who owned and operated a planning mill on Leadenhall Street near Montgomery Street. Thomas, a Baptist, manufactured moldings, pews, pulpits, altar rails, Gothic windows, etc. from the 1860’s through the 19th century.
On May 27, 1887, a meeting was held to draw up the church’s charter to establish, by government standards, Leadenhall as a Christian place of worship with a governing body to administer the duties. The meeting included the pastor, the trustees, and selected church members. The charter was officially completed and sealed by the City of Baltimore on November 26, 1883. In attendance at the signing of the charter were the pastor, Reverend Ananias Brown, and five trustees. They were Levin I. Hughes, Richard H. Freeman, Richard Harris, Lawrence Carrington, and Oscar Bowen. One of the six original members, Richard H. Freeman has descendants who still attend the church. This makes the Freeman family one of the oldest families in attendance at Leadenhall.
Reverend Thomas Henson (1872-1873) was appointed pastor and missionary on the field of south Baltimore. After Reverend Henson left, Reverend J. C. Allen (1873-1874), Pastor of First Baptist Church of East Baltimore was appointed to help in South Baltimore. After serving for a short while, he found it necessary to resign because working the two fields was a task too great for him to carry on.
Reverend Ananias Brown (1875-1921) In 1875, the Board of the Maryland Baptist Union Association secured Reverend Ananias Brown, Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Newport, Rhode Island, to become pastor of Leadenhall. Reverend Brown was born in Richmond, Virginia and studied at Wayland Seminary in Washington, DC. Elder Brown, as he preferred to be called, served Leadenhall Street Baptist Church for 46 years.
Reverend Robert W. Jefferson (1921-1928)
When Reverend Ananias Brown became too feeble to perform all of his duties, the church called Reverend Robert Jefferson as assistant pastor. Reverend Jefferson came to Leadenhall at the close of World War I.He had served as a chaplain in the war. At that time, he was the pastor of a church in Virginia. Reverend Jefferson had high ideals of church conduct and urged financial support of the church through systematic giving. The duplex envelop system was introduced during his pastorate. During Reverend Jefferson’s administration, the church was incorporated and the name changed to Leadenhall Baptist Church. Reverend Jefferson died unexpectedly after serving seven years. A two-year period passed before the church secured a new pastor. Deacon Robert B. Green, Chairman of the Board, was in charge of services.
Reverend Samuel H. James (1928-1935)
In 1928, the church called Reverend Samuel H. James who was at that time pastoring in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Dr. A. Clayton Powell, Sr., pastor of Abyssinia Baptist Church in New York City recommended him. Reverend James was young at the time and highly ambitious. He had dreams of Leadenhall as a great institutional church serving the needs of people in a neglected section of Baltimore. After serving seven years, Reverend James resigned to accept a call to Topeka, Kansas where he could continue his education at the University of Kansas. On June 9, 1935, he preached his farewell sermon. The topic was, “Have a Vision of God and Not a Glance.” Again, it would be almost two years before the church would have a new pastor.
Dr. Madison C. Allen (1937-1947)
On June 1, 1937, the church called Dr. Madison C. Allen as its next pastor. He brought to the church many years of experience as a pastor, teacher, and “kingdom builder” in Virginia and Tennessee. During his administration, he set up a church office fully equipped to perform the clerical work of a modern church. A system of recordkeeping was developed and officers and clerks were trained for this work. The “Tattler” was published weekly giving the order of service, songs, and notices. Many clubs were created to keep the members interested and active in several phases of church work. Dr. Allen resigned on June 1, 1947 to accept the presidency of Virginia Seminary and College at Lynchburg. More than a year passed before the church selected a pastor.
Dr. Thomas B. Davis (1948-1961)
On Sunday, November 21, 1948, the church called Dr. Thomas B. Davis as pastor. Dr. Davis came spiritually and scholastically qualified for the position from Calvary Baptist Church in Kilmarnock, Virginia. Dr. Davis revised and reformed organizations to meet some of the outstanding needs of the church. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood clubs were formed along with the Literary and Social Guild and the Young Men’s and Young Women’s clubs. The Youth and Children’s Choirs were also formed. He founded Holy Week Services, which united churches of various denominations in the south Baltimore area. The entire church mourned the passing of his wife, Sister Antoinette B. Davis. She came to Leadenhall well recognized in the church, the community, and civic organizations. Mrs. Davis rendered untiring service to all organizations of the church. Dr. Davis resigned as pastor on December 12, 1961 to continue his education at the University of Chicago.
Dr. H. Hudson Bobbitt (1963-1968)
Dr. Henry Hudson Bobbitt resigned the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Lambert’s Point, Norfolk, Virginia to answer the call to pastor Leadenhall Baptist Church. Dr. Bobbitt served Leadenhall for five years. He introduced the triplex system of giving and instituted an effective tithing system that is in operation today. Two building renovations, a modernized kitchen and additional Sunday school rooms were constructed during his administration. Dr. Bobbitt terminated his services in March 1968 to answer a call from Salem Baptist Church in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Dr. Eddie Robert Wilson, Jr. (1970-2006)
Dr. Eddie R. Wilson, Jr. was called to pastor Leadenhall Baptist Church on March 17, 1970 after having served as pastor of Liberty Hill Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia, Sharon Baptist Church in Big Island, Virginia, and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Dr. Wilson was a student of former pastor, Dr. Madison C. Allen and served as a field representative during Dr. Allen’s tenure at Lynchburg Seminary and College. Dr. Wilson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Seminary and College. After his appointment as pastor, he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1971 and a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1972. Under his leadership, the church purchased ten houses in order to redevelop the land for future projects. Many of those projects were completed during Pastor Wilson’s administration. Pastor Wilson served Leadenhall Baptist Church for thirty-six and a half years. On November 27, 2006, he died at the age of 75.
Dr. Alvin J. Gwynn, Jr. (2008- ) On Sunday, May 18, 2008, Reverend Alvin J. Gwynn, Jr. was installed as the 10th pastor of Leadenhall Baptist Church. In 2006 Reverend Gwynn received a Master of Divinity degree from Howard University School of Divinity, and in May 2010 he received a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He has been actively preaching throughout the Baltimore Metropolitan area and served as a Bible study instructor at Friendship Baptist Church. He also served as Associate Pastor at Friendship Baptist and at Leadenhall and worked under the leadership of the late Dr. Eddie R. Wilson, Jr.
Church Membership The church membership roster shows 350 members, with membership increasing each month. Seventy-five members have belonged to the church for more than 50 years and at least 113 are over the age of 65.
At one time Leadenhall was considered a community church. Changing times and changing demographics led many members to move outside of the South Baltimore community, but because of strong family ties many have remained members of Leadenhall and travel a great distance to continue their affiliation with the church. Less than 14% of the members live within the church’s immediate zip code. Twenty percent live outside of the city limits and many travel more than 20 miles for worship services.
The church population is quite diverse in terms of professional and academic background and experience. Many years ago the Leadenhall church family reflected the demographics of Baltimore with many of its members employed in the factories and mills that were prominent in the South Baltimore area. With Baltimore’s increased emphasis on technology and tourism, several of our members are employed in downtown Baltimore, which is the hub of this kind of activity. There are now many government employees, educators, corporate executives, and business owners who are members of the congregation. Many are retired and others are pursing second careers. Educational backgrounds range from bachelors to doctorate degrees, with approximately 60% of the young people from the church going on to college.