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Emancipated men gave city so very much in early years

By W. T. Block

Reprnted from Beaumont Enterprise, February 20, 1999.

NEDERLAND—In Feb., 1890, an Indianapolis newspaper published the following comments:

"...Beaumont, Texas is noted for colored Americans who, having little education, yet have a surprising abundance of good solid common sense. One to which we wish to draw particular attention is Rev. Woodson Pipkin. He is one of the founders of the A. M. E. Church at Beaumont, and by his untiring work, his liberal aid, and striking argument from the pulpit, he has done much to make it second to none in the city..."

Only 25 years earlier in 1865, Rev. Pipkin had been emancipated from slavery. His former owner, Rev. John F. Pipkin, Beaumont’s Methodist minister, believed that Woodson would make an excellent preacher, so J. F. Pipkin taught him to read and write so he could understand and explain the gospel.

Few written or published records survive from that Reconstruction era, but it is known that St. Paul’s AME Church was organized in 1868, and there is a deed recorded for it in 1873. The Beaumont Lumberman of June 21, 1873, noted the following in its church directory of that date:

"...St. Paul’s A. M. E. Church—Service every Sunday at 3 PM in the church, and at night. Rev. Woodson Pipkin, Pastor. Sunday School every Sunday morning at 11 AM in the church..."

Pipkin also organized a Black affiliate of Beaumont’s Temperance Union, which by 1881 had 50 members. In May, 1881, St. Paul’s AME Church conducted a four-day festival and fair to raise funds, and its members presented a drama that month, entitled "The Mistletoe Bow."

Now 130 years old, St. Paul’s A. M. E. congregation still survives in its brick sanctuary at 3320 Waverly St., a solid tribute to the man who founded it.

It is difficult to assess Pipkin’s role in pioneer Beaumont’s Black education without mentioning the roles of Messrs. Charles Charlton, Elisha Adams, and J. J. Pollard, but space will permit only a brief discussion of Pipkin’s contribution.

The city’s first Black school was organized by Pipkin about 1870, and by 1877 there were two Black schools with 127 pupils. In 1879 one school had 30 students and one teacher and the other had 115 pupils and three teachers.

The earliest school connected to St. Paul’s Church reputedly had a white teacher at its beginning. Charles Charlton disagreed with Pipkin over employment of a white teacher for black students, so he organized the second school, affiliated with Live Oak Baptist Church. Elisha Adams began teaching in Beaumont in 1873, and some years later a school was named for him. Soon after 1900 a high school was named for Charlton and J. J. Pollard, the latter serving a long time as its principal.

According to scripture (Luke 12:48), more is expected of the person to whom "much is given." Yet three pioneer Beaumonters, each born a slave, gave so much, when they had little else, except love, determination, and a rudimentary education, to give.

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W. T. Block of Nederland is a historian and author. His website is http://block.dynip.com/wtblockjr/ This database is very large (350 articles) and is intended as an area history source for students.

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