A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Our Rich History: Ninth Street Baptist Church is 150 years old and ‘still standing’ — and working together

By Marcia D. Johnson
Special to NKyTribune

In 1864, the “Bremen Street Baptist Church” in Covington, KY was organized. Its first pastor was Rev. Jacob Price. Many of the city’s black Baptists worshipped there. The congregation was called “Big Baptist,” and later officially became First Baptist Church (African-American). During this period, the only other black congregation was Methodist—what later became known as the Ninth Street United Methodist Church, or “Big Ninth.”

Towards the end of 1869, Covington’s African-American Baptist community was at the middle of a major crossroads. Progress and population growth had dictated the need for a second Baptist church home. The church building simply could not accommodate the growing congregation. Sunday morning church service became too overcrowded, so some people allowed church services to be held in their homes. Secondly, there was a difference of opinion between congregants about the education of black children in Covington.

Ninth Street Baptist Church, Covington, KY, 2019. (Photo by Marcia D. Johnson).

In November 1869, a group of church members from the Eastside neighborhood left the First Baptist Church and began worshipping in a new location, called “Little Mission” on Main Street, in Covington’s West End (now called Main Strasse). Rev. H. Haggard was their first pastor. He served for seven years. In 1876, Reverend Davis pastored there until 1886. Afterward, Rev. Jacob Price, a very successful local lumber businessman, succeeded him. Price had been the organizer of the Bremen Street (later, First Baptist Church). He served until 1890.

As time went by, the new church underwent various transitions of leadership and locations, including the Seventh Street Market House, at Seventh and Madison Avenues.

In 1890, church worship services were being held in the Murray Hotel on Harvey Street. Rev. J.F. Drane was the new pastor, but he was not pleased with this location. He enlisted measures towards the acquisition of property at 231 East Ninth Street for “Little Mission” Church in 1900. It was a small frame building that had been previously occupied by the St. James African Methodist Church. Later in the same year of 1900, Rev. H. Miller arrived and purchased the property. He started renovations on the old structure in 1905. Miller served as pastor until 1908.

Rev. Richard Fowler and the Ninth Street Baptist Church choir, 2019. (Photo by Marcia D. Johnson).

In 1911, Rev. William Taylor arrived from Lexington and completed what Rev. Miller had started. Construction began on the building that still occupies the space. The congregation changed its name to Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church and laid the cornerstone in 1914. The church held its worship services in the basement until the sanctuary was completed in 1921.

Rev. Taylor passed away on January 25, 1931, after serving as pastor for 22 years. Then, Associate Pastor, Rev. G.W. Buckner, was appointed as the interim until the permanent position was filled by Rev. George M. Lacey on August 14, 1931. Lacey was a very dynamic and influential preacher.

It was in this time period that Ninth Street Baptist Church began their tradition of calling pastors from within their congregation, to present day. Rev. Lacey pastored for 30 years until his passing in 1961. During his tenure, the vastly devastating Great Flood of 1937 happened in the Ohio Valley, wreaking havoc from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois. It displaced many people and destroyed countless businesses in its path. The church, being located near the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers, was a direct hit and received major damages to their building. Much of the Ninth Street Baptist Church’s historical documents were destroyed in the flood. They had to move their church service to the Lincoln Grant School basement until the building restoration was completed.

Rev. Richard Fowler in November 1984.

Associate Pastor Rev. William P. McCullough, Sr. became interim, and then full pastor, in 1962. Some significant building expansion came under his leadership, including the addition of a choir stand, baptismal pool and office space for the pastor. He resigned on June 17, 1972. Associate Pastor, Rev. Eddie Jordan, served as interim until Rev. Henry M. Poyntz was elected on October 21, 1972. During his 11-year span, the church was redecorated, the parking lot was expanded, and a church van was purchased. Rev. Poyntz resigned on May 23, 1983.

Looking back since 1869, there have been eleven appointed pastors who have served Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church (aka Ninth Street Baptist Church), along with the pastors that served as interims. The current pastor, Rev. Richard B. L. Fowler, is now approaching his 36th year of service. He was installed on October 3, 1983. He has seen many major accomplishments and blessings during his tenure.

Rev. Fowler has witnessed the ebbs and flows of church growth and the acquisitions of additional land properties to expand facilities for educational class space and parking. The congregation has formed and hosted a variety of non-profit programs. These programs have served as a liaison for social services for the community, including youth, seniors and educational factors, such as GED tutorials, computer instruction classes and summer lunch programs.

The church educational annex was built in 1988. They established a non-profit 501c3 agency, called O.A.S.I.S. Inc. (Offering Assistance, Subsistence Information, and Support, Inc.). It was a very helpful community resource for many years. And even though this particular program is no longer in operation, the church still provides youth outreach programs that familiarize children with Bible teachings, in addition to the normal Sunday service.

The congregation of Covington’s Ninth Street Baptist Church is inviting the public to help celebrate their 150th Anniversary Gala at The Madison, 740 Madison Avenue (8th Street entrance) on May 24 at 6 p.m. The theme for this anniversary celebration is, “We Are Still Standing,’’ from 2 Thessalonians 2:15.   
This is a formal black-tie fundraising event. Cost is $35 per person. There are various sponsorship levels that range from Title, Gold, Silver and Fan Sponsors, as well as sponsorships for the Church Van and Sunday school and Commemorative Anniversary Program Booklet are also available. The Anniversary Committee is accepting donations for a silent auction. For ticket and donor information, contact Debra Vance at 859-866-3459.

There are a number of special anniversary events that have been planned throughout the year to celebrate their 150th Year milestone. For a Calendar of Events and more information, contact the church or their website.

With substance abuse plaguing Northern Kentucky for so long, Ninth Street Baptist Church was the host site for the Narcotics Anonymous program for twenty years. This program provided help for recovering persons moving from addiction to freedom.

The Ninth Street Baptist Church has established partnerships with several local churches to help minister to the needs of people. Some of their “good work ministry” has reached places as far away as Haiti. They have continued to keep track of the community’s pulse, and have joined in on some very pertinent causes, as well as tackled some national front-page news ministries, including the Flint, Michigan water crisis; the Cynthiana and Falmouth floods; and Katrina Hurricane victims, in New Orleans. They have hosted several community panel discussions for candidates running campaigns for city and state government positions. In 1999, the church released a professional 120-voiced music recording, entitled, A Decade of Anointed Praise, which evolved from an earlier choir workshop partnership.

The Ninth Street Baptist Church’s ministries are developed to make the worship service a very welcoming, memorable and spiritually encouraging experience for the community. Church members have served in various roles to form a stable and strong church membership. From Bible teaching to worship training, they have encouraged members to live lives connected to the Gospel message. Their radio show ministry has been running for two years, on several stations, including WCVG.

Ninth Street Baptist has a clear vision of the additional services that are needed in their community. Plans are in order for the purchase of land parcels along East 10th Street to build a Family Life Center that will include a full-sized gymnasium for youth and senior recreation. This facility will also be used for community and family events, as well as for social action.

Rev. Fowler is continuing to pursue more chapters in the rich history of Ninth Street Baptist Church.

He and the congregation have embraced their 150-year history, as a call for future opportunities.

As Rev. Richard Fowler states, “Our celebration focuses on the youth and families of our church. The month of June has been designated as ‘Youth Month.’ This is a time when we will honor our young people and hopefully, shower them with surprise gifts. As you may know, it is important to keep our youth involved in positive activities. This is where you, our community can help us. For this community involvement, we are most thankful.”

“Working Together” is an embedded theme of Ninth Street Baptist Church. This can be seen in the new church logo, designed by Mrs. Barbara Hill. It depicts three embracing figures exemplifying the vision of “Member embracing member. Ministry embracing ministry. Unified in one body. Growing in Jesus Christ.”

Marcia Johnson is a Library Specialist at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and a Covington resident. Co-contributors are Rev. Richard B.L. Fowler and Debra Vance.

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