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Beecher Memorial United Church of Christ records addendum

Identifier: 487-1

Content Description

This deposit includes agendas for the Beecher Memorial Church Council in 1996 and a copy of the Beecher charter from 1905. Other materials include audio recordings of 1989 sermons by Barry E. Brandon and a 1993 sermon by Elder McFarland.


  • Other: 1962-2001


Historical Note

The London Avenue Congregational Sunday School met on September 4th, 1904 to organize a congregational church for the area of downtown New Orleans bound by North Claiborne Avenue, Franklin Avenue and St. Bernard Avenue. The church was named the London Avenue Congregational Church with a seven member Deacons Board and a nine-member Board of Trustees. The various boards, committees and groups within the church were to be elected annually. E.H. Phillips was elected the Superintendent of the Sunday school.

Reverend Alfred Lawless Jr., was elected as a temporary pastor to work until the annual meeting in January of 1905 where he was elected for the year. He was offered ten dollars per month with a request going to the American Missionary Association to contribute to his salary and support. Charter members of the London Avenue Church were Reverend Lawless, Mrs. Harriet Lawless, Mr. Stanlaus Jackson, Sr., Edward H. Phillips, Mrs. Eliza Phillips, Mrs. Cecelia Phillips, Mrs. Frank Simmons, Mr. Charles Thornhill and Mrs. Harriet Williams.

The church became incorporated on October 19th, 1905 and the name was changed to the Beecher Memorial Congregational Church after abolitionist and clergyman Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was hoped the name would help to bring in needed funds.

Four lots of land on North Miro Street between Allen and Annette Street were purchased for five hundred dollars in December 1905. A grant from the Congregational Church Building Society and contributions from the community helped to procure the funds needed to build a church building. The building committee was established and the completed building was dedicated in 1907 with Reverend Henderson H. Dunn of the Central Congregational Church preaching the dedication sermon.

There were early funding problems for the church, including problems in paying Reverend Lawless’s salary, but the Beecher Church community and groups still participated in activities to help the sick, shut-ins and poor. The Deacons Board was responsible for the spiritual life of the church community. Members were expected to attend services and contribute financially to the various church funds. Even with funding problems the church sent delegates every year to the congregational national conventions and conferences with E.P. Phillips being one of the first to be sent to the National Convention of Congregational Workers among Colored People in 1906.

In 1910, Reverend Lawless became superintendent of the Southeastern Conference of Congregational Christian Churches and left as pastor. Reverend Abraham Simmons and Reverend S. L. Laviscount succeeded him as ministers from 1910 to 1918. There is little information available on the ministers and church activities from 1910 to 1939. Only that the first residence for ministers of Beecher was built during the time of Reverend Milton L. Williams pastorate 1920 to 1930 and for a time church services were held in the evenings to accommodate Reverend Norman A. Holmes who was serving both Beecher Memorial and Central Congregational between 1938 and 1939.

Education has a long historic connection to Beecher Memorial. The church grew out of the Sunday School, which was already established in 1904. In 1906, Reverend Lawless, E.H. Phillips and other members of the community organized the Seventh Ward Educational League. This club’s purpose was to raise funds to establish a local school to education children in the Seventh Ward community. The Miro School was established in a building bound by Annette, Galvez, Miro and St. Anthony Streets. A storm in 1915 destroyed the school buildings and from this point classes where held at Beecher Memorial, in family homes and two cottages rented opposite the original school. The name of the school was changed in 1921 to Valena C. Jones School, named for a popular teacher who had been an 1897 graduate of Straight University. Dr. J.A. Hardin reorganized a committee which went to the New Orleans School Board for funds for a new school. The new school building was opened in 1929. The Normal Training School was added in 1931and the Nursery School followed during the 1935-1936 term. An evening school for adults also became part of the Valena C. Jones School.

There is little information available for the decades between 1930 and 1950. The Thirties saw four ministers service Beecher Memorial. The longest pastorate was from 1933 to 1938 with Reverend Sidney R. Smith. Financial information on the church’s activities can be found in the account books and the minute book for the Trustee Board. In March 1931 the first African American Boy Scout troop was established with much work from Reverend E. H. Phillips. Troop 123, was sponsored by the Valena C. Jones School and Beecher Memorial Congregational Church. Members were originally from the Boys Club of Beecher Church and other boys clubs in the community, which had been established previously due to lack of recognition by the national boy scout organization. Reverend Phillips contributed to the establishment of the first African American playground in the city of New Orleans. Labor for the playground was contributed by members of the church community and Reverend Phillips personally contributed the materials to build the needed swings and seesaws. The playground was named the Ben Lindsey Playground and dedicated to the use of children in the Seventh Ward.

Young people were also involved in the Pilgrim Fellowship and activities at Kamp Knighton. The Pilgrim Fellowship enrolled young people from the ages of 12 to 17 and was a missionary program. Locally the Beecher Memorial Pilgrim Fellowship Beecher participated in fundraising, religious education and community work. Nationally the Pilgrim Fellowship was a world service program organized under the Congregational Education Society, with specific goals and focus for each year. Kamp Knighton’s purpose was as a training school for children and adults in religious education and a center for idealism for the community. It was located in Morbihan, Louisiana and supported by the Louisiana Congregational Conference and later the Plymouth Conference of the Southeast.

In 1940, Reverend John T. Enwright became minister for Beecher Memorial Congregational Church. Phillips Child Care Center was established during his tenure as pastor to help care for children of working mothers. The financial troubles of the church resolved enough to allow it to become self-supporting. A director of religious education became employed as a full-time staff member. The church building was repaired and renovated and a Hammond Organ purchased. The Annual Tea celebration came into being along with monthly music programs by the choirs of Beecher Memorial Congregational Church and Central Congregational Church. In 1947 the Plymouth Conference of the Southeast was established. The conference was concerned with race relations and the plight of the African American in the United States as well as congregational missionary action. Reverend Robert L. Parker became Beecher Memorial’s youngest pastor following Reverend Enwright in 1950.

The Building Fund lost much of its momentum in 1929 when the stock market crashed. It was revived by Reverend Robert D. Sherard who came to Beecher Memorial in 1953. During this time a union was proposed between the Congregational Christian Churches of the United States and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. In 1957 the United Church of Christ was established with the unification of these national organizations. During Reverend Sherard’s pastorate membership substantially increased. He organized various groups in the neighborhood. He chaired the New Orleans Prayer Pilgrimage delegation in Washington, D.C. and played a role in the desegregation of buses and City Park in New Orleans. There is very little information in the collection regarding his pastorate. Most correspondence from the time focused on church building maintenance rather than Reverend Sherard's Ministry. He was a moderator for the Plymouth Conference and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Convention of the South. Reverend Sherard resigned in August of 1958 to minister to the Corona Congregational Church in New York.

The documentation available for the collection is extensive from 1958 to 1968 when Reverend Milton L. Upton became minister. He was recommended to the Pulpit Committee by Reverend J. Taylor Stanley, Superintendent of the Convention of the South of Congregational Christian Churches. Reverend Upton also a member of the Convention of the South previously ministered as pastor of Rush Memorial Church in Atlanta, GA. The minutes and annual reports document the various church groups and Memorial Untied Church of Christ Archives their activities during this time period. The reports for annual church meetings, Deacons Board, Building Committee, Laymen’s Fellowship and Nursery Committee of the Phillips Child Care Center, as well as more church groups can be found in Series III. The Laymen’s Fellowship was very involved with Civil Rights issues locally and often had special speakers at their meetings, such as Mr. J. Harvey Kerns, Executive Secretary of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans and Mr. Frank Simpson, Executive Secretary of the Civil Rights Commission for the state of Connecticut.

Reverend Milton was also greatly involved in the Civil Rights Movement as the Executive Vice President of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of New Orleans and Vicinity. Desegregation of lunch counters at Woolworth’s and McCray’s Stores and the desegregation of Audubon Park and the Public School System are documented. He wrote a letter to Mayor Schire of New Orleans to support the proposed appointment of Reverend A.L. Davis to the Human Relations Council of the City of New Orleans. He sent a letter of protest to the American Medical Association who was sponsoring a meeting on aging which was not open to members of the African American medical community because the Roosevelt Hotel where is was to be held did not permit them to use its facilities. He also protested that the Negro Protestant Churches were excluded from telecasting religious meditations because they were excluded from membership in the Federation of Churches of Greater New Orleans.

In September 1965, Hurricane Betsy devastated the original church building and it was decided it had to be torn down. The Building Committee, chaired by Frank L. King, Sr., immediately began work to raise fund for a new church building. The parsonage and rental cottages had also been damaged in the storm. Reverend Upton and family relocated to allow the Sunday School to use the parsonage. Beecher again turned to the Congregational Church Building Society for funding. The Emergency Relief Fund was established to gather and transfer all funds received from the organizations and auxiliaries of the church. The current Church Building was dedicated on November 19th 1967. Reverend Upton assumed the position of Secretary to the Board of Homeland Ministries, Division of Church Extension, Department of Ministries to Communities of Special need in New York City in 1968. A Testimonial Banquet at Xavier University was held in his honor in 1969.

There is little correspondence in the collection for the decade of the 1970s. Only one folder for the Board of Trustees correspondence in 1973 is in the collection and few reports are available for the years before 1975 which cause little to be known about the activities for those years. There was no minister for the year 1969 causing all responsibilities to be shouldered by the Board of Trustees, with Mr. Frank King, Sr. as president. The board realized they had no policies or procedures in place to operate the church smoothly. Following this year in June 1970 the Board decided to make amendments to the charter and constitution of the church and to have them reviewed more frequently. The Church Council is the policy making body of the church and the Board of Trustees function is to oversee the financial situation of the church and Memorial Untied Church of Christ Archives they are the custodian of the church records with various committees within this group to carryout functions.

Reverend C.B. Goudeaux was at Beecher Memorial UCC only a short period of time. There were problems with the recreational program and it was shut down temporarily in 1971. Reverend Ralph Beets worked as interim minister from 1971 to 1973 when Reverend Winston Waugh assumed the position in 1974.

It was decided by the Church Council that a religious social program was needed. The Board of Christian Education was formed. It was officially organized on February 6, 1977. This board was designed to supervise the areas of adult education, bible school, youth choir, Sunday school and youth groups. Also established in 1977 was the M. Power Stewardship Program designed to increase funding for the church’s programs. Reverend Waugh also suggested advertising as a means to increase membership and funding. The council, board and deacons were concerned during this time that younger people were needed in the church membership to participate in the various committees, fellowships and groups. The main focus of Reverend Waugh’s pastor ship was his concern with increasing membership and support for the church as well as the spiritual life of the members. Rev. Waugh was also active on the Board of Directors of the South Central Conference, the Urban Studies Committee of New Orleans and the Executive Board of Greater New Orleans. He was also the chair for the Youth Empowerment Committee of New Orleans.

In 1980 Reverend Barry E. Brandon became minister of Beecher Memorial and held the post for thirteen years. There are approximately 410 items of correspondences for 1980 to 1981 from Reverend Brandon. He was the longest serving pastor to the church, originally coming from a post at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago Il. Rev. Brandon was very involved with the welfare of the church membership and religious education. He increased adult bible study lectures during his tenure and his correspondence to the membership is extensive for the yearly part of the decade, showing his personal concern for the people under his ministry. He was a very active minister and served as Moderator of the New Orleans Association of the Untied Church of Christ, C.U.E. Representative, a Board member of the South Central Conference, Urban Ministry Steering Committee, United Black Christians of the UCC and Commission for Racial Justice of the UCC. He was also the first black Chaplin to the New Orleans Fire Department. He was succeeded by Reverend Robert J. Eaddy in 1995.


0.417 Linear Feet (Received Extent)

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Beecher Memorial United Church of Christ records addendum
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Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

6823 Saint Charles Avenue
Tilton Hall, Tulane University
New Orleans LA 70118 US
(504) 862-3222