Missouri's Little Dixie African American History Tour

Arrow Rock: Brown's Chapel Free Will Baptist Church

Brown's Chapel Free Will Baptist Church was constructed around 1869 in the north part of town by the Black members of Arrow Rock. The first minister was John Brown, for whom the chapel was named along with the fraternal lodge down the road. In 1883, a team of mules helped move the building to where it stands today. The first African American school was also housed in the church until 1892, while its own building secured funding and was being built.

Life revolved around the church in Arrow Rock. During the World War II era, the Baptist church hosted annual dinners to support the community and to have fellowship. These were called 'Rally Basket Dinners' and 'Homecoming Basket Dinners.' People would congregate and eat in the yard out front and in the street. Everyone would cook and bring their own large dish to share. Whites would also participate in some activities, such as dancing, though Blacks were never permitted or invited to white activities.

The churches in the African American community of Arrow Rock served the community just as churches did in times before emancipation. People worshiped, gathered, ate, sang, and cried there. They developed a sense of community that no one had to pay duties to join. Like the fraternal lodges, the churches provided a secure place for Black families and friends to socialize and support one another as they grew outside the white community in Arrow Rock. The churches were not just places of religion, but also places to receive help from and to champion freedom in the community. The last service at Brown's Chapel Free Will Baptist Church took place in 1988.