The history of Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church begins in the mid-1800s at First Baptist Church of Milton, and by 1849 the membership included eighty-three white and thirty-three black parishioners. Shortly after Emancipation, African American members who left First Baptist Church constituted the charter membership of the Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church in 1866 and purchased land on Canal Street. Mary Ellen Johnson, Mt. Pilgrim Trustee, and City Councilwoman made note that “We continue to have a strong relationship with First Baptist Church and we help each other. They are our parent church.”
Mt. Pilgrim went on to become the parent church for four other Black Missionary Baptist churches and in 1890, became one of the first to donate money toward the land for Florida Memorial University, a private Historical Black University, still in operation today. After the original wood-framed church on Canal Street was destroyed by fire in 1916, the current building was erected by church members; many of whom were first- and second-generation descendants of formerly enslaved Africans.
Today, on the corner of Alice and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the Historic Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church, is still a staple in the City of Milton where parishioners continue to serve.
Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church is a contributing resource to the City of Milton in addition to being listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1992. Constructed in 1916 by one of the first African American Architects, W. A. Rayfield, the structure is a one-story Gothic Revival building with Biblical imagery displayed throughout the sanctuary. In recent years, the need for restoration became evident by both the congregation and City. The City of Milton and Mt. Pilgrim congregation combined efforts to seek a Special Category grant through the State Legislature and Florida Historical Commission. The City and Mt. Pilgrim each contributed $30,000 to match the State’s $60,000, making the completed project worth $120,000.
The restoration and repairs conducted are only Phase 1 of a 3-Phase architectural rehabilitation for the church. Architect, Eddie Todd of Pensacola, FL assisting the congregation with this restoration project, said he is pleased with the outcome of Phase 1 “The first phase included everything underneath including footing, electrical, and moisture removal of the basement.” The project addressed site slope issues as well as building supports that threatened the building's integrity. Electrical and mechanical issues caused by the age of the building that created potential safety issues were repaired, in addition to sealing various window openings and exterior envelope openings that have formed over the years. Mr. Todd noted that Phase 2 of the project would include working the way up and replacing stained glass windows, wood and door repairs, insulation, and continuing tuckpointing.
The City is proud of the recent achievements of Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church in their efforts to maintain the integrity of this National Historic Resource. Please join us on November 16, 2019, at 10am to celebrate the recent completion of Phase I of the restoration and rehabilitation of Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church.