Six believers of the gospel: Deacon Timothy Peacock and his wife; Mr. John Williams and his wife, Minerva; Mrs. Mary Chism, and Mrs. Zelphia Williams had a vision to organize a Baptist Church. On the above date, these six pioneers prayers, dreams and hopes were fulfilled with the help of a Baptist minister from St. Louis, Missouri. Reverend Leonard was chosen as interim minister and served for two months in the old Garfield School building at 4th and Winstanley Avenue, which was the site of the first worship service. Reverend Nathan Parks was the first pastor to be installed at St. Paul Baptist church. Under his leadership, the church membership grew rapidly and soon a lot was purchased a 7th Street from the L&M Railroad Company. On this lot, the first St. Paul was built at a cost of $1,200.00 Reverend John DeShields was called to pastor in September, 1897. Being endowed with great spiritual capabilities and leadership. St. Paul’s membership soon outgrew the small church building, which they owned. In 1903, under Revered Deshields leadership, an expansion program was executed and a new church structure was begun. A basement was erected in the 400 block of Baugh Avenue in East St. Louis, Illinois at a cost of $5,000.00 This building was the second home of St. Paul Baptist Church. By December 11, 1910 an auditorium was added at a cost of $12,000.00. In 1917, a disastrous race riot decimated the church membership. In spite of adverse circumstances, the few remaining members worked diligently and succeeded in paying off the entire indebtedness of the church. On Sunday, December 29, 1918, St. Paul burned its mortgage. In early 1920, an industrial plant, the Eagle-Pitcher Lead Company, bought the property surrounding the church and this created a hazardous condition. Again St. Paul was confronted with a monumental decision of relocating. In August 1922, the property on Baugh Avenue was sold to Eagle-Pitcher Lead Company for $13,000.00. A new site was selected at 1500 Bond Avenue. In March 1923, construction was begun on the third home of St. Paul Baptist Church. The funds were soon exhausted and a loan for $17,000.00 was obtained from McLean-Gavin Realtors. The new building cost more than $31,000.00 The first service Watch Meeting was held on December 31, 1923. A financial hardship in the early 1930s adversely affected the church’s income. The members paid only the interest on the mortgage of the church for eleven years. The real estate company offered St. Paul $4,000.00 debt reduction if they could pay $10,000.00 on the mortgage in twenty-four months. After 28 years of service in the North End of town, St. Paul was now a spiritual institution in the South End of the community. The membership was soon restored to full participation. On April 13, 1950, Reverend John Deshields tenure ended with his transition into death. Revered S. J Vincent was installed as the third Pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church on October 10, 1950. He served for four in a half years. Under his leadership parsonage was purchased at 802 Market for $7,500.00, the membership grew and the spiritual fellowship was high. Revered Emmit Theophilus Caviness, a youthful but dynamic leader, was installed as the fourth pastor on June 23, 1955. Reverend Caviness possed great leadership and organizational abilities. The church’s program was expanded to include active participation of all members of the church. St. Paul was completely renovated with modern church furniture and equipment and a central air conditioner at a cost of $36, 145.00.
St. Paul was free of all debts and the members were able to worship in one of the most beautiful churches in the city. Revered Doctor Obie Rush accepted the position as pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church on November 1, 1960 and on February 18, 1961 he was installed as the fifth Pastor of St. Paul. Under his leadership, the program of the church progressed rapidly, but on April 16, 1962; the church was destroyed by fire.
For more than three years, services were held in the Lincoln Senior High School auditorium at 12th and Bond Avenue. Trustee James Reed, a member and employed of the Southern Illinois Bank, used his influence with bank officials and St. Paul was granted a loan of $75,000.00. The total cost for the new church was $200,000.00 The Dedicatorial Services were held March 8-12, 1967. In 1973, through the diligent efforts of Mrs. Reba Hill, President of the Tower Committee, a monumental tower with a lighted cross was constructed at a cost of $21,000.00. This addition greatly enhanced the beauty of this magnificent edifice. Following year, 1974, was a glorious year for St. Paul. The membership increased tremendously through Revival and Worship Services. The church purchased several lots across the street at the cost of $10,000.00 to enlarge parking facilities. Under Reverend Rush multiple auxiliaries and ministries were formed. The Benevolent Fund was established in 1969 for the members who need money in case of emergencies. The Comfort Committee for bereaved families of St. Paul. Members assisted with shopping and transportation. Additional ministries are the Laymen’s League. Women Union Contact Committee, Nursery for preschoolers, Board of Education, John Deshields/Fred Smith Scholarship Committee, Evangelism Team and St. Paul Saturday for Boys and Girls. These are just a few ministries that flourished through St. Paul still during this present time. Pastor Rush envisioned that a Senior Citizens Apartment Complex should be built on the property adjacent to our church. To help facilitate that vision, the Ascension Development Corporation was formed. The ADC organization applied to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) three consecutive years without being approved. However, on October 31, 2006, the ADC organization received news that the application had been approved for a grant of 5.9 million dollars! The new board of directors was formed which included the St. Andrews Group of St. Louis, Missouri. St. Andrews would be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the complex. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on October 5, 2008.
Rev. Gaston initiated the forming of the pastors search committee. He held frequent meeting with the deacons and trustees to discuss needed repairs and other important issues facing our congregation. As a result of these meeting, he launched a $50,000.00 drive to make repairs and to demolish the Rockaway building to make room for additional parking. Rev. Gaston established a church library and encouraged more participation by the youth. He also re-established the Health Unit Ministry and opened a first aid room in honor of the late Dr. Lorraine Williams. On September 11, 2011, Rev. Gaston was installed as the sixth pastor in the history of St. Paul Baptist church. It was Pastor Rush’s desire to have Rev. Gaston to be his successor. During Pastor Gaston’s short time as a spiritual leader, St. Paul has made tremendous improvements. The Rockaway building was demolished at a cost of $20,000.00 on January 22, 2102. Lots have been purchased to extend the parking area around the church. A computerized announcement board is being utilized as well as computerized financial records. A new piano was purchased at a cost of $2,385.00. Under Rev. Gaston’s guidance. St. Paul has continued to grow spiritually, numerically, and materially. It is our vision that our church will continue to be a Beacon Light in a world of darkness, shedding its beams far and wide. St. Paul Baptist Church is a historic pillar in the community of East St. Louis, IL and will continue to stand firm. St. Paul Baptist Church has moved towards a new transition of worship and a place of fellowship. Offering members more hands on positions to meet the needs of those in the church and community. From our history, you will find that St. Paul has endured many trials and tribulations.
Standing through it all we will celebrate our 125th Church Anniversary in March 2020. St. Paul has many striving ministries that are still striving today. Under Reverend Rush multiple auxiliaries and ministries were formed. The Benevolent Fund was established in 1969 for the members who need money in case of emergencies. The Comfort Committee for bereaved families of St. Paul. Members assisted with shopping and transportation. Additional ministries are the Laymen’s League. Women Union Contact Committee, Nursery for preschoolers, Board of Education, John Deshields/Fred Smith Scholarship Committee, Evangelism Team and St. Paul Saturday for Boys and Girls (now known as P.A.U.L Youth Ministry).