Directory of the Churches of Christ Colored (1942), G. P. Bowser

In 1942 George Philip Bowser published Directory of the Churches of Christ Colored.  A stapled pamphlet of 40 pages, it contains the names of 307 congregations (comprising 17,349 members) and 342 preachers from California to New York and from Michigan to Florida.  For each congregation Bowser sought an accurate membership count, the number added during 1942, the value of church property and a contact name.  He noted that since some information was lacking, an “approximate record” was given.

1942 Directory of the Churches of Christ Colored, cover

Preston Gray, Jr. says this in his Forewords, “We are happy to look out over the vast harvest field of the Lord’s and behold the rapid progress; that is being made among us; although the reapers are few the pace that you have gained thus far is indeed encouraging.  Let us, therefore, press on with a greater determination.  “FORWARD,” is our motto.  Phil 3:13-14.”

As a snapshot of the African-American Churches of Christ at mid-century, it discloses information unavailable elsewhere.  There is no indication in this document that it updates or supplements earlier publications.  While Leslie Grier Thomas’ New Directory of the Churches of Christ in the United States (Cincinnati: F. L. Rowe, 1939) notes “colored” congregations, it omits many of the congregations on Bowser’s list.  Thomas does not list preachers.  However Thomas, with George Henry Pryor Showalter, shortly thereafter issued Church Directory and List of Preachers of Churches of Christ (Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1943).  Here appear white preachers and song leaders, “Colored” preachers and song leaders, “Mexican” preachers and “Foreign” preachers and song leaders.  In order to identify African-American congregations in this 1943 booklet, it will be necessary to check each entry, something I have not attempted.  A similar situation obtains for John P. Fogarty and Olan L. Hicks, 1946-47 Yearbook Churches of Christ (Abilene: Hicks Printing Company, 1947).

Not until Annie C. Tuggle, Our Ministers and Song Leaders of the Church of Christ (Detroit: Annie C. Tuggle, 1945), do some of the names in Bowser’s list find faces and stories through biographical sketches with accompanying photographs.  Acknowledging that some did not send in photographs, and thus were omitted, she anticipated their inclusion in a projected second volume.  Tuggle lists 134 preachers, 13 song leaders, plus 12 “under age preachers” (among whom is Fred D. Gray) and 3 “under age song leaders.”  One will need to search page by page through the various volumes of Preachers of Today and New Testament Churches of Today to locate, where possible…perhaps, additional information beyond what Bowser provides.

Bowser’s list, therefore, appears to be the earliest and most complete of its kind for its time.  I spent three evenings working through the lists of congregations and preachers.  I do not claim to be a statistician; however, I trust the various data arrangements and charts below will be helpful.  Whatever I have done, it is no substitute for reading the actual document.  I realize this is no easy task as it is held in only two libraries, Abilene Christian University and Freed-Hardeman University.  Should anyone have a copy of this in a personal collection, please consider making it more widely available if only by mailing a photocopy of it to your nearest university or research library.

I welcome additional information, clarification or correction.  I should note that I have worked from a copy held in Abilene Christian University’s Center for Restoration Studies, which lacks pages 26-27.

Summary of congregations by state:

15 states (AZ, CO, NY, NM, NJ, NC, PA, KS, LA, CA, OH, IN, MI, MO and GA) have 1-9 congregations each

5 states (IL, KY, TX, OK and FL) have 10-19 congregations each

2 states (AR and MS) have 20-29 congregations each

No state has between 30-39 congregations

2 states (AL and TN) have above 40 congregations each

Number of congregations by state:

1 each: Arizona, Colorado and New York

2 each: New Mexico, New Jersey and North Carolina

3: Pennsylvania

4 each: Kansas and Louisiana

5: California

6: Ohio

7 each: Indiana and Michigan

8: Missouri

9: Georgia

10: Illinois

14: Kentucky

15: Texas

17: Oklahoma

18: Florida

27: Arkansas and Mississippi

46: Alabama

71: Tennessee

Number of congregations by city:

6: Nashville

4 each: Detroit MI and Memphis TN

3 each: Los Angeles CA and Houston TX

2 each: Chicago IL, Indianapolis and Terre Haute IN, Louisville KY, Senatobia MS, Kilgore TX

All other cities have one congregation each

The Nashville congregations are:

Jefferson Street, 500 members, value of church property $4000, R. E. Campbell, 1404 Jefferson

South Hill, 57 members, value of church property $500, Joe Dewee, 90 Wharf Ave.

Horton Street, 35 members, value of church property $1000, Ollie Anderson, 1300 15th Avenue

Jackson Street, 142 members, value of church property $5000, Robt. Cato, 1912 Morene Street

Green Street, 98 members, value of church property $2500, P. H. Black, 1039 21st Avenue

East Nashville, 6th Street, 84 members, value of church property $2000, Jas. Reese, 618 N. Ninth Street

To present the data in a different form, I color coded two US maps, one according to number of congregations, the other by number of preachers. 

1942 Directory of Churches of Christ Colored, key to maps

Congregations:

1942 Directory of Churches of Christ Colored, congregations

Preachers:

1942 Directory of Churches of Christ Colored, Preachers

Summary of preachers by state:

14 states (NC, NM, WV, VA, AZ, LA, KS, MO, PA, OH, IN, MI, KY and CA) have 1-9 preachers each

3 states (IL, GA and OK) have 10-19 preachers each

2 states (MS and AR) have 20-29 preachers each

2 states (AL and FL) have 30-39 preachers each

2 states (TN and TX) have above 40 preachers each

Number of preachers by state:

1 each: North Carolina, New Mexico and West Virginia

2 each: Virginia and Arizona

4 each: Louisiana and Kansas

5: Missouri

6: Pennsylvania

7 each: Ohio and Indiana

8: Michigan (it may be that Fred Cowan refers to Fred D. Cowin, a white preacher)

9 each: Kentucky and California

10: Illinois

13: Georgia

19: Oklahoma

20: Mississippi

26: Arkansas

30: Alabama

36: Florida

57: Tennessee

63: Texas

Two are unaccounted for inasmuch their address did not list a state.  Ten names were duplicated.

Largest congregations:

The top 12 congregations, of 200 or more members each, number 4588 total members:

Valdosta, Georgia: 740

Bradenton, Florida: 586

Atlanta, Georgia: 535

Jefferson Street, Nashville, Tennessee: 500

Muskogee, Oklahoma: 425

Montgomery, Alabama: 400

Oklahoma City: 299

Quitman, Georgia: 287

Cameron, Detroit, Michigan: 213

Chattanooga, Tennessee: 203

Lawton, Oklahoma: 200

Ensley, Alabama: 200

These 17 congregations, from 84 to 178 members each, number 2229 total members:

Tampa, Florida: 178

Thyatira, Mississippi: 176

Lebanon, Tennessee: 175

Okmulgee, Oklahoma: 160

McMinnville, Tennessee: 160

Huntsville, Alabama: 149

Center Point, Arkansas: 147 (listed as Enter Point, which I take to be a typographical error)

Jackson Street, Nashville, Tennessee: 142

Conway, Arkansas: 130

Halls Chapel, Alabama: 120

Statesville, North Carolina: 109

Kileton, Mississippi: 107

Compton, California: 102

Mobile, Alabama, 100

Oak Grove, Tennessee: 98 (in West Tennessee?)

Murfreesboro, Tennessee: 92

East Nashville, Tennessee: 84

Number of congregations, members and preachers alphabetically by state:

State Congregations Members Preachers
Alabama 46 2587 30
Arizona 1 50 2
Arkansas 27 1100 26
California 5 269 9
Colorado 1 22 0
Florida 18 1509 36
Georgia 9 1755 13
Illinois 10 234 10
Indiana 7 227 7
Kansas 4 142 4
Kentucky 14 360 9
Louisiana 4 186 4
Michigan 7 400 8
Mississippi 27 878 20
Missouri 8 220 5
New Mexico 2 42 1
New Jersey 2 55 0
New York 1 40 0
North Carolina 2 115 1
Ohio 6 153 7
Oklahoma 17 1500 19
Pennsylvania 3 161 6
Tennessee 71 4358 57
Texas 15 986 63
Virginia 0 0 2
West Virginia 0 0 1
Unknown * * 2
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