First African Baptist Church 

1st African Baptist 50.jpg

A report in The New South newspaper, dated 30 August 1862, describes the organization of the First Baptist Church of Hilton Head - now known as the First African Baptist Church – the oldest church on Hilton Head Island.

The newspaper account reported that the church was established with about 120 members, all contrabands. “Of these nearly 70 were professing Christians under the rule of their late masters, while the others have been converted and baptized since our advent among them.” [1]

The church was organized and the pastor ordained on Sunday, 17 August 1862, with the assistance of Union soldiers who had established a major presence on Hilton Head Island and had brought freed slaves (“contraband”) from surrounding plantations to the Island.

The first Pastor was Abraham Murchison, a former slave from Savannah, who was literate and a leader in Mitchelville – the first self-governed freedman’s town in America.

In a report from Major General O. M. Mitchel to S. P. Chase, Secretary of Treasury, Mitchel states that “Yesterday, which was Sunday, a little church, built for the negroes, was consecrated to the worship of Almighty God.” [2] The date appears to be 12 October 1862, two months following the organization of the church.

The congregation moved to the Chaplin Community for a brief time, where they adopted the name Goodwill Baptist Church, and moved to the present location in 1889 where they initially took the name Crossroads Baptist Church before adopting the present name First African Baptist Church.

The church continues to be an active congregation with approximately 300 members. 

70 Beach City Road                               

Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

Web site:


Phone: 843-681-6427


[1] The New South newspaper 30 August 1862 page 3                                                  

[2] Cincinnati Daily Gazette 1 November 1862 page 3