By the 1890’s, Salt Lake’s small Black population was large enough to support the formation of independent institutions to meet the spiritual needs of the Black community. A small group of Black women came together to pray. Meeting in various private homes, they were soon designated as the “Baptist Prayer Band”. They assembled under the leadership of Sister Emma Jackson (“Mom Jack”), and her home became their primary meeting place.
These strong Black women worked long hours in private homes, including that of the Governor, as maids, cooks, and wash ladies. At the same time they kept their own houses, tended their children, and cared for their husbands. They turned to Black centers of worship as havens of fellowship which provided positive images, personal strength and opportunities for responsible participation in community building.
By 1892, that group grew into the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, a haven for African American fellowship, worship, education, and personal sharing. Outgrowing their private homes on April 18, 1896, they met at the facilities of the First Baptist Church where Sisters Emma Hatfield, Mattie Ketchell, and Eliza McAfee were the first three to be baptized as members of the “colored” congregation. The people worshipped God with great excitement, high energy, moving vigor, spiritual fervor, and call-response participation.
Soon thereafter, in1898, they located what the Broad Ax newspaper called “the little colored house of worship” in the alley off West Temple Street” at 37 ½ South West Temple. They invited the Reverend A. E. Reynolds to permanently start the work. After about six months, Pastor Reynolds departed and the Reverend D. Jones of Topeka, Kansas came generating a great deal of excitement. However, he left abruptly. In 1901, the Reverend James W. Washington became leader of the congregation and preached stirring sermons such as “Never A Man Spake Like This Man,” “Prodigal Son,” and “The Wagon That the World Used to Ride In.” The congregation outgrew its facility and Rev. Washington led the congregation and community in a “Building Fund Possum Festival” with ten fat ‘possum, five wild-turkeys, and Belgian hares. They were prepared by Sisters Lloyd Blanchard, Fannie Barker, Emma Jackson, Nellis Johnson with Brothers Lloyd Blanchard and Anderson J. Spears. Instead of building a church as intended, Rev. Washington led the congregation into a building on June 29, 1902 at 472 East 200 South.
Pastor Washington convened the Alexander Dumas Literary Society and published the Tri-City Oracle Newspaper In 1911, the Congregation secured The Eastside Baptist Church at 679 East 300 South from the Emmanuel Baptist Church under the leadership of The Reverend William A. Magett. When the Reverend Allen Newman became pastor in 1912, he urged the distinguished educator Booker T. Washington, on his planned visit to Salt Lake City, to deliver his concluding message to the African American community. He spoke at the Calvary Baptist Church on March 26, 1913 at 9:30 o’clock.
In 1917, the Reverend George Hart(s) called together missionary Baptist congregations and organized the Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming Baptist Association. The first annual session was held at the Ogden Wall Avenue Baptist church on August 20-24, 1918. The Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP was organized on February 19, 1919 by Pastor George Hart, Sister Thelma Steward (Beridon), and other concerned members of Calvary.
The Calvary Baptist Church was incorporated under the leadership of the Reverend George Hart on May 11, 1921. After a number of other pastors served and left, the Reverend William A. Lucas became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, the Association changed its name to Rocky Mountain Baptist Association, and Pastor Lucas was elected as its moderator on July 12, 1944.