SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH is the oldest congregation of black BAPTISTS in Cleveland and second only to ST. JOHN'S AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL (AME) CHURCH as Cleveland's oldest church. The nucleus of the early membership consisted of a group of recent AFRICAN AMERICAN migrants from the South who worshipped at the FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH and regularly gathered at a small grocery store owned by Michael Gregory at 245 Erie (East 9th) Street. Alarmed by the growing number of black worshippers, some of the white members of the First Baptist Church sought to prevent any more blacks from joining the congregation. Their proposal was contested by JOHN MALVIN, leader of Cleveland's black community, and some of the white members, leading to a compromise for the formation of a Mission church for black Baptists. In August 1849, the First Baptist Church formed the mission in a converted storage barn on Brownell (East 14th) Street and appointed Rev. J. Weeks to serve as a pro-tem pastor. The membership initially consisted of the Gregory group along with other black members of the First Baptist. The mission gained official recognition as a Baptist denominational church, Shiloh Baptist Church, in August 1850. Rev. William Pennington Brown, a native of West Virginia ordained by the First Baptist Church, was appointed the first pastor of Shiloh in August 1851. Under his leadership, the membership surpassed fifty and the church moved to larger quarters on Central Avenue near Perry (East 22nd) Street. Rev. L. E. White succeeded Brown, serving at Shiloh from 1863 to 1865. He oversaw the organization of the church's first Sunday School and Baptist Young People's Union (BYPU). During the pastorate of Rev. I. V. Bryant (1867-85), Shiloh acquired property on Sterling (East 30th) Street near Scovill Avenue, which the congregation fashioned into a commodious church. Rev. Riley Wilson, who succeeded Bryant in 1885, organized the church's first Board of Deacons and Trustees, but internal differences resulted in his resignation in 1893. Over half of the congregation left Shiloh at Wilson's urging, forming the nucleus of the ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH. Under the leadership of Rev. D. E. Dandridge (1895-1903), the church secured a loan from JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER to erect a brick and stone edifice in place of its frame building. The new church building contained a large auditorium, a lecture room, and a water-powered pipe organ. Rev. Dandridge, however, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, leaving Shiloh to form the Mt. Haven Baptist Church after internal dissension arose. Unable to pay the mortgage on its building, Shiloh closed its doors in 1903 and the congregation temporarily gathered at the home of Deacon Watson on East 31st Street.
Rev. Boston J. Prince of Texas was dispatched to Cleveland in late 1903 by the Ohio State Baptist Convention to reconstitute Shiloh and, after two years of litigation, the church regained its property. Following the departure of Rev. Prince in 1907, Rev. Edward H. Smith of Kentucky assumed the pastorate at Shiloh. He secured the cancellation of a $3,000 mortgage owed by the church and modernized the physical plant of the church by installing heating and electrical systems. Smith, however, resigned in 1916 following the resurgence of internal discord in the congregation. Rev. Charles Fishback of Kansas led a growing church of some 1,500 members during WORLD WAR I and inaugurated a fundraising campaign for a new church building, raising $29,000 before his untimely death in 1921. Rev. Prince returned to lead the congregation in 1921. He continued the fundraising drive and purchased the former B'NAI JESHURUN synagogue at East 55th Street and Scovill Avenue for $110,000 in 1923. Shiloh relocated to its new quarters in 1925 following the Grand March to the synagogue from the old church building. Internal disagreements led Rev. Prince to resign his post at Shiloh in 1926 and establish the Messiah Baptist Church with his followers. Rev. Alexander L. Boone of Texas assumed the pastorate at Shiloh in 1927. He proceeded to pay off the mortgage on its large building, expanded the church services and facilities, and acquired a pipe organ for $12,000. Alas, Boone passed away in 1947 after serving the congregation for twenty years. Rev. A. Henson Jarmon, who served as the interim pastor for a year, was selected to lead Shiloh in 1948. He founded the Shiloh Herald, a quarterly magazine for and about the church, organized the Shiloh Credit Union in 1960, and initiated major renovations, including the construction of a new Baptistry. Like many of his predecessors, however, Jarmon resigned from Shiloh due to internal conflicts and formed the Fellowship Baptist Church in 1962.
In 1963, Rev. Alfred M. Waller, Sr. became the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church and he served the congregation for 27 years. During his tenure, Rev. Waller renovated and upgraded the physical plant of the church sanctuary, organized the Educational Board to aid students seeking higher education, formed a food bank, and welcomed more than a thousand new members to the congregation. Rev. William F. Crockett, the church's youth preacher, served as the interim pastor for a year following the retirement of Rev. Waller in 1991. Rev. Jewell D. Jones, Sr., who served as pastor from 1992 to 2005, initiated the Educational Enhancement Initiative in partnership with the neighboring EAST TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL that drastically improved the school's attendance rate. He also organized basketball and drill teams, resurrected the Boy Scout Ministry, and launched new outreach programs, such as the Health Ministry and Young Men on the Move Ministry. In an effort to attract younger worshippers to Shiloh, church members took to the streets, canvassing Central Avenue and talking with young people. The church also sponsored the Walk Thru the Bible seminar for adults and children. In 2004, the church underwent a $1.2 million renovation under the direction of architect Michael Benjamin. The Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects honored the renovation of Shiloh Baptist Church with the historic preservation award in 2006. In 2009, Rev. Cory C. Jenkins assumed the pastorate at Shiloh Baptist Church and the congregation numbered about 300 members. The church building has been designated a Cleveland Landmark by the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission.
See also RELIGION.