Wesley had its beginning in the balcony of First Methodist Church, then located at 4th and Laurel Streets. Segregated from the White congregation, the newly emancipated slaves decided to remove themselves from the balcony and build a structure for themselves. Among those early pioneers were: Ruben Jordan, Mother Sarah Gordon, Martha Morris, Mother Hester Williams, Hannah Salsamoor, Beverly Salla, Maria Andrews, Emma Thomas, Margaret Andrews, Fanny Pinkney, Emma Green, Louise Holt, Mary Jennings, Aaron Lee, Louise Houston, and Harriet Herron. Land located in the 500 block of Government Streetwas purchased from one William D. Mann on May 26, 1866. On this site a modest wooden structure was built; built by strong minded laymen who axed, felled and floated logs down the Mississippi River to Harbor Mill where they were sawed into planks. The small congregation was served by an itinerant minister. That building was destroyed by a storm in 1882. Between 1882 and 1885, a second wooden structure was built. It served as a spiritual, educational and social action center for the community. The basement of this two-story building housed the first public school for Negro children. Many of our early educators began their training there. Blundon School and Orphanage for Homeless Children also had its beginnings in this building. This structure was destroyed by fire (exact date not known) which swept the entire block between St. Charles and Napoleon Streets. Services was held in the Parish Court Houseuntil a new structure was erected in 1885.
The third building, a red brick structure, was the place of worship from 1885 to 1965. In 1909, it was damaged by a storm, but was repaired. Many pictures, written documents. and memorabilia in personal collections document the 80 years that the Wesley congregation worshiped there.
In the early 1960’s, it became apparent that the congregation needed to take some serious steps toward rebuilding. The growth and hub of activity led to a need for more space. On July 3, 1965, Wesley announced plans to build a new sanctuary and education building. Residential structures on each side of church property was purchased in order to accommodate the new building. The plan was for the congregation to continue worship services in the old building while the new one was being constructed. Those plans were completely altered with the arrival of Hurricane Betsy in September 1965. The fierce winds overwhelmed the wall of the old red brick structure. As a result, the Wesley congregation held its services in the old McKinley School on East Boulevard. The new church, our current facility, was completed in 1966. Within our church walls, sermons have been preached and heard, the Good News taught to adults and children, people’s lives have been committed to Christ, men and women baptized, broken lives made whole again, the sick brought comfort and support for those who mourn. The 144-year-old history of our congregation is one example of a church trying to be faithful to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the head of the church.
Wesley United Methodist Church 544 Government Street, Baton Rouge LA 70802 * (225)343-8421 * firstname.lastname@example.org * Rev. Fredrick Sweetwyne, Pastor