Rock Hill Church

At the crossroads of Manchester Road and McKnight Road, in the northeast corner of Rock Hill, Missouri sits the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church. The church is at the crossroads of its life and a cradle of the Civil Rights Movement.

A decision has been made to save the Fairfax House, a house built by James C. Marshall.  However, the church is still scheduled for demolition. The church is at the crossroads of, will it be saved or will it be demolished?  

The Rock Hill Church can be called a cradle of the Civil Rights Movement because of the work of some great men in the Rock Hill, Webster Groves, and St. Louis area: James C. Marshall, Artemus Bullard, Elijah Lovejoy, Dred Scott, John Berry Meacham, and Emmanuel Cartwright. 

In 1832 James C. Marshall with his brother, sisters and family slaves came to the Rock Hill, Missouri area from Virginia.  In 1845, James C. Marshall donated the land and built the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church. The Roof for the church was built by the Marshall slaves on Sunday, as their contribution to the church. This is a church where white and blacks worshiped together and were buried together in the same church cemetery.

In the 1840’s Arthemus Bullard helped organized the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church.  He also organized and started the Webster College for Boys, which is now called Edgewood Children’s Center.  During the civil war the Edgewood Children’s Center was said to be part of the Underground Railroad.

Elijah Lovejoy was a Presbyterian Preacher. The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy was named after Elijah Lovejoy. He was also an anti-slavery journalist, newspaper editor and martyr. He was killed in 1837, in Alton, Illinois because of his protest against slavery. 

Dred Scott was a Missouri African-American slave who sued for his freedom and the freedom of his wife. Dred Scott was taken from Missouri to Illinois and Wisconsin in the 1830’s. He first sued for his freedom in 1847 and the case was taken all the way to the United Supreme Court in 1857. Dred Scott lost the case because he was declared property and did not have the rights to sue. Even today it is considered one of the major landmarks of American judicial history.

In 1866, after the Civil War ended, three new churches were started in Webster Groves from the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church; First Congregational Church of Webster Groves, Webster Groves Presbyterian Church and First Baptist Church of Webster Groves. The First Baptist Church of Webster Groves was started at the Old Community Baptist Church site. One of the early preachers of the First Baptist Church of Webster Groves was Emmanuel Cartwright. 

Rev. John Berry Meacham was the first pastor of the First African Church of St. Louis, now called the First Baptist Church of St. Louis. In 1847 it became illegal to teach Blacks to read and write in Missouri. The story is John Berry Meacham built the steamboat freedom school to teach Blacks after the authority closed his school in the basement of his church.  

In 1854, Emmanuel Cartwright ran the steamboat freedom school after John Berry Meacham died. Rev. Emmanuel Cartwright also started the Rose Hill Baptist Church in Kirkwood. In 1866 the first school for blacks in the Webster Groves School District met in the basement of First Baptist Church of Webster Groves. Emmanuel Cartwright was the second pastor of First Baptist Church and worked with James Milton Turner, the Assistant State Superintendent in charge of post war Negro schools. The first high school for blacks in the state of Missouri was established in 1866 at Lincoln Institute, now Lincoln University, by the Buffalo Soldiers. The first high school for blacks in the St. Louis area was established in 1875 at Sumner High School. The first principal of Sumner High School lived in Webster Groves.

Letting the Rock Hill Church be destroyed will be an injustice to the Rock Hill Community, the Webster Groves Community, the St. Louis Community, the State of Missouri Community and the United States of America Community. 

For more information, visit www.savetherockhillchurch.org.

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