Mount Hope Baptist Church was established on July 4, 1867, in the public school building near the site of what has been named the Preston Janifer Building. The first Pastor, Rev. A. C. Watts, was able to erect a very neat little church and laid the corner stone. The official staff consisted of the following brothers: Benjamin Barbour, John Datcher, John Janifer, Sandy Posey, John Taylor, Dennis Brown, Henry Thompson, Thomas West, Charles Brown and George Waters. Alongside with the named brothers were mothers of the church, Sisters Ellen Ward, Ellen Price, Lottie Diggs and Jane Craig.
Mount Hope Baptist Church is the site of the oldest Baptist African American congregation in Charles County. Although the church is not as architecturally as significant as other early 20th century African American churches, it is documented as the Mother of African American Baptist congregations in Charles County.
Mount Hope Baptist Church is the founding church for three other African American Baptist communities to include Oak Grove in Nanjemoy/Grayton (1883), Pleasant Grove in Marbury/Chicamuxen (1907), and Little Zion in Hilltop (1880), all located in Western Charles County. The original church was destroyed by fire. The current structure is a 1941 Church Building. The cemetery was established in the late 19th century. An early 20th century schoolhouse resides there as well. Together they reflect the emergence of African American communities after the Civil War, which reflects the importance of religion and education in that evolution. Although unconfirmed, the school house may be one of the few remaining examples of the Julius Rosenwald Schools to survive in Charles County. Mr. Rosenwald was a Chicago philanthropist, and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company.
All four of the earliest African American Baptist churches in Charles County were clustered in the Western section of Charles County. The churches were likely influenced by the strong emphasis on missionary work at the Nanjemoy Baptist Church, which had been active in the region since the 1820’s. According to the church history of Nanjemoy Baptist Church, Mount Hope was established on July 4, 1867, the year in which 27 members, presumably former slaves and freed African Americans. On October 27, 1868, Mount Hope Baptist Church was constituted with a membership of 59. In those days, baptism ceremonies were held in the Potomac River near Liverpool Point Road.
We give honor to our faithful and dedicated members who labored diligently from 1867 to 2019. Because of their dedication and commitment, Mount Hope is the beacon of hope and fellowship for many souls who have walked through its doors and have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Mount Hope Baptist Church Schoolhouse
Although the earliest history of the church is not completely documented, it is likely that Mount Hope was the home of one of the first six log schoolhouses erected in black communities in the years immediately following the Civil War. One month after Mount Hope was constituted (November 1968), a schoolhouse lot is believed to have been established nearby when Richard Posey deeded the land to Dr. W. R. Wilmer, Ragan Deakins, Joseph Posey, Carlton Carroll and James Dent. One acre of land was to be used to benefit the colored people of Nanjemoy upon which to erect a schoolhouse. Presumably the schoolhouse was used as a meetinghouse for religious ceremonies before a building was erected. Mount Hope was one of six log schoolhouses erected in Charles County by 1868. In 1872, Richard K. Posey sold an additional one acre to the trustees of the church, Jesse Thompson, John Butler and Ralph Ward. The church was described in the deed as being the first black american baptist church in Charles County and lying parallel to the schoolhouse called Bethel. In 1895, Berry G. Posey and Clara Posey, his wife, deeded three more acres to trustees Joseph Posey, John Janifer and Carlton Carroll. Additional parcels of land were deeded to the church trustees in 1974.
The schoolhouse is believed to have been a three-room school. Today, the Mount Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School located in Nanjemoy bears the church’s name which rightly endorses the church’s early beginnings of educating the community.
Mount Hope Baptist Church Cemetery
The Mount Hope Baptist Church Cemetery includes a wide sampling of African American grave traditions to include the presence of unmarked graves, graves with burial plates, wooden stakes, crosses, painted tablets, hand-painted cement tablets, cement tablets molded into unique shapes, and one of the most common elements found in African American cemeteries in Charles County, cement crosses. Some of the most unique handmade stones in Charles County are found at this Cemetery; an elaborate stone-encrusted cement cross with an inlay cross in the center can be found at this historical cemetery. The cemetery is considered to be one of the historical African American landmarks in Charles County.
The largest and most substantial monument is a memorial stone in the form of an obelisk erected for Rev. Robert Byrd Ward. According to the stone’s subscription it was erected by the Potomac and Rappahannock Baptist Association, his widow and the Oak Grove, Mt. Hope, Zion and Pleasant Grove Baptist churches. The cemetery holds the grave of Sgt. Charles Henry Brown, who served in the United States Colored Troops, First Regiment of Colored Volunteers, District of Columbia.
The church is also associated through oral tradition with the family of Matthew Henson, who accompanied Admiral Robert E. Perry in his expedition to the North Pole in 1909. Mount Hope is believed to be the final resting place for Matthew Henson’s mother.
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