February marks the annual observance of Black History in the U.S. The Missourian wants to take this opportunity to spotlight some of the institutions and individuals who are part of Pacific’s history.
The Pacific area has five African-American churches that date to the late 1800s, three schools for black children and the city-owned Resurrection Hill Cemetery, which has graves that predate its official founding.
African-American life in this community became part of local records soon after the end of the Civil War in 1864.
Historic First Baptist Church, 421 S. First St., was constructed in 1874. In 1895, King William Adams and his wife Mary purchased the lots the church sat on, the first recorded African-American property purchase in Pacific, and deeded the lots to the church.
King Adams, his son Jesse, and Jesse’s son, Udell, would keep the congregation going for the next 100 years.
In 2008, the Rev. Jim Perkins was named pastor of the congregation.
The late Rosalind Jordan founded Little Beginnings Day Care in the church education building.
After being severely damaged by floods in 2016 and 2017, a committee of residents has launched a campaign to raise funds to elevate the church above the flood plain and restore the interior.
From this congregation, one man emerged to leave a distinct legacy in the city. King William Adams, born a slave, moved to Pacific after the Civil War and with his wife, Mary Summers Adams, would raise 12 children here and leave the community a legacy of language that still resonates today in the voices of his great-grandchildren.
King and Mary lived in a stone house on the slope of land north of present-day St. Bridget Catholic Church. As a free man, Adams found work in the yards of well-to-do white people, where he was known to have a fine hand with flowers.
There seems little question that he could read and write, although nothing written in his hand has survived.
His granddaughter, Ella Adams Villery Miller, who was at his bedside when he died in 1928, recalled 70 years later that he was a constant talker and teacher who urged his children and grandchildren to speak correct English and dress formally when they were not working.
At the 1894 Democratic committee meeting in Pacific, King and Mary’s son, James, was nominated for constable, “by acclamation,” with a slate of white candidates. The Democrats were defeated leaving election to office to a later generation of this family.
His son Jesse read the newspapers to neighbors and interceded for them in disputes with white leaders. Jesse Adams bought a house in the south part of the city, the second sale of property and the first home purchased by a black person.
His grandson, Udell, was a regular at city government meetings and is credited with preserving the name of Resurrection Hill Cemetery as part of local heritage.
His great-grandson, Herbert, would serve 30 years in city government, 14 years as municipal judge and 16 years as mayor.
Each of his descendants carried the family legacy of cultured speech and forged mutually respectful relationships with the white community.
Mount Calvary Church
Mount Calvary Baptist Church was founded in 1897 when three trustees, Winston Ford, J.C. Sweezer and C. M. Cooper, were elected to buy land for a church. The trio bought 7 acres with a small log house on a deep bend in the Robertsville to Luebbering Road (Highway N) from Lorenzo Evans.
The Rev. Joseph Morris was elected the first permanent pastor.
From this church two sisters would emerge to share their family’s role in African-American heritage. Mamie Hinkle Baker and Margaret Hinkle Burnett inherited the yellowed and frayed Bible that had been given to a young couple, Ben and Mary, who were slaves on the Davidson plantation in eastern Virginia.
They would have 13 children. Their master dutifully recorded the births of each child in the Bible in elaborate script.
William, known as Bill, the third child, born March 3, 1851, was Mamie and Margaret’s grandfather. When the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, Ben, Mary and their children were given the last name Davidson, for the owners of the plantation.
In 1872, the family migrated west, carrying Ben and Mary’s Bible. At about 1899, the family reached the Mississippi River and took a boat north to St. Louis, then up the Meramec to the town of Moselle, where they forded the Meramec to the Robertsville side.
With a second wife, Estella Murphy, Davidson had three children, Roy, Delma and Silverean. Bill Davidson taught Sunday school at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. A photo of his Sunday school class, with his daughter, Silverean, in the back row, was folded to fit in the Bible.
Prominent farmer and postmaster William Drake provided a home for Davidson and his second family, a small log house that sat about 10 yards from the Stellaville Stack, an arched stone iron forge built by the Moselle Iron Works in 1854, but never fired.
Before he died, Davidson started building a house across Drake School Road (now Willowford Road) from the Drake property. His daughter, Delma, married Florence Sylvester Hinkle. The couple separated when their children were small and Delma raised her three daughters, Mamie, Margaret and Alberta, and one son, Roy, in the house her father started.
R.T. Hinkle, a great-grandson of Bill Davidson and a city of Pacific street department supervisor, lives in a new house on the property that the two sisters still call the “home place.” He and his wife Marsha are the fifth generation of the Davidson family there.
Pacific Temple, Church of God in Christ, C.O.G.I.C., 113 Bellevue, is a small African-American church that was located in the south section of the city.
The church moved to Bellevue in about 1950. It had a succession of pastors from 1950 to 1985 when the Rev. Abram Perkins was asked to take over the small church.
The small congregation accumulated $22,000 to repair the church. Using the labor of church members, a room was built to the side of the sanctuary and the front door of the little church was moved to the new addition. The sanctuary interior was reversed to place the pulpit at the north end of the church and the entry at the side through the new addition.
The Rev. John Moore became the pastor in 2002. Pastor Moore’s wife and first lady of this church is Emma Jean Moore, great-granddaughter of King William Adams and a lifelong advocate of African-American heritage in Pacific.
Emma Moore was a charter member of the city cemetery committee and is frequently the source of the history of African-American families in the community. Over several years she collaborated with Pauline Masson, Pacific
Missourian editor, in compiling the details for this report.
Robertsville Temple C.O.G.I.C., Highway N, Robertsville, has been a place of worship since the early 1900s when families in the neighborhood gathered on the property each Sunday to sing hymns and worship. The men tied the limbs of tall trees together to form a shaded arbor, which was used for Sunday services.
The first recorded services of Robertsville Temple took place in late November 1921. Early services included Sunday school with Sister Ella Deshields (Lane) serving as teacher and Brother Lawrence Fleming as scribe.
One member of this congregation, whose grandchildren and great-grandchildren still worship here, would leave a unique snippet of history.
Shepard Hinkle, a teacher who married Marcella Bland, the daughter of the largest African-American landowner in the neighborhood, also attended church here.
In the 1870s, Garland Bland came to the area with his entire family and livestock and bought a small farm. Bland expanded his property until he owned 180 acres.
His great-grandson, George Hinkle Sr., recalled later that the original farmhouse sat on the highest point on what is now Drake Lane. As a boy, Hinkle walked down the hill, with all the members of his family, to Sunday church services at Robertsville Temple.
George’s father, Shepard Hinkle, who had lost one arm in a farm accident as a child, was remembered as an inspiring teacher who had beautiful scrolling penmanship, which he urged his students to copy.
Shepard Hinkle’s grandson, George Hinkle Jr., who played NFL football for eight years, returned to Robertsville at the end of his career and with his wife and sons continues to worship here.
Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Villa Ridge, was founded in 1894, 30 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
Art Disharoon, a white Villa Ridge farmer who had met a black missionary Baptist preacher, gave 1 acre of his land for the founding of a church for the black families of the area. The site, on top of a hill, was filled with wild roses, thus the name Rose Hill.
The congregation built a small frame church that would last for 60 years, until the building had to have a log propped against the side to keep it from collapsing. In 1953, two church members, Marie Henson Jones and Minnie Yokely, loaned the church money for materials and the congregation tore down the original church and built the brick building that exists today.
Out of this congregation, the personality of Marie Henson Jones shone brightly. In an undated photograph printed in the 100th anniversary booklet of Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church, a young black woman, whose long white skirt touches the top of high white shoes, stands in front of a log schoolhouse.
The door to the schoolhouse is open. Standing beside her are 16 children of varying ages. The words “Marie Henson’s School,” are handwritten on the face of the photograph.
The log schoolhouse in the faded photograph was Cedar Grove School for Colored Children on Brinkman Road in Villa Ridge, County District 12.
As a young teacher, Marie Henson had a remarkable story to tell her students. Six years earlier, Robert Peary had completed the first overland expedition to the North Pole accompanied by a black man named Matthew Henson, the brother of Marie’s father Alonzo.
Later historians would argue that it was Matthew Henson, and not Robert Peary, who placed the flag at the Pole. Henson was out in front of Peary and actually got there first.
In 1987, Harvard Professor Allen Counter would lobby for Henson to have the recognition he deserved — published a book about Henson’s descendants — and was successful in getting Henson’s body moved to Arlington National Cemetery to be placed beside the grave of Peary.
Children who went to school in Pacific prior to integration attended the B.F. Allen School at West Osage and Fourth streets.
The 24- by 36-foot frame building was the city’s first school building built on Lots 16 and 17 of the plat of the town of Franklin. When the number of students outgrew the building the district built the Pacific Public School building on West Union.
In 1887, district trustees designated the first school building as a school for “colored” children to serve the 134 African-American children in the community. It was named for B.F. Allen, a Moselle teacher.
Students would attend elementary school there until integration in 1955.
There was no high school for African-American students prior to integration of the public school system. Students took the train to Webster Groves to attend high school.
Cedar Grove School, District 38, had two school buildings. The school for white children sat on Highway O in Robertsville. The school for black children was a log building that sat on Brinkman Road. Both Shepard Hinkle and Marie Henson Jones taught here.
The building no longer exists. It is unknown when these two buildings were constructed.
In 1886, William and Mary Drake deeded 1 acre of land for a schoolhouse for the white children on the dirt road that became known as Drake School Road, now Willowford Road.
In the woods in back of the building, a second Drake schoolhouse was built for the black children. Both schools were designated County District 79.
When some of the small girls were afraid to walk into the woods, the parents brought the school building up onto Robertsville Road. This was teacher Shepard Hinkle’s primary school.
Resurrection Hill Cemetery stands on a little knoll on Highway OO, just north of Interstate 44, in what Pacific residents formerly referred to as ‘The Hollow.”
The oldest recorded burial is Jasper Wagner in October 1895.
It is not known whether he died elsewhere and was moved to this site or African-American families were using the burial grounds prior to the time the city purchased the property and established the Resurrection Hill Cemetery for Colored People in 1909.
Many graves in the cemetery do not have markers, but cemetery sexton Alan Bruns has records of who is buried in each gravesite.
The name of the cemetery would have changed in the aftermath of the Civil Rights strife of the 1960s if not for the determination of Udell Adams, a black business owner and grandson of King William Adams.
Local black citizens, who wanted to pay homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tried to change the name of the cemetery to honor the slain civil rights leader. But Adams spoke out against the change.
“Some traditions should be kept as they are,” he said. “It’s been Resurrection Hill from the beginning and it should stay Resurrection Hill.”
In October 2012 a group of white and African-American residents gathered at the cemetery for the Meramec Valley Genealogical and Historical Society dedication of a monument recognizing King William and Mary Adams and their 12 children.