HAMMOND—On March 26, of last year, the Greater St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated their 150th anniversary. St James was the first Black church in Hammond.
During a funeral on September 10, the floor of the historical church foyer collapsed with about a dozen of people falling in the hole.
“I was scared. My husband immediate jump in the hole helping seniors out,” said Stephanie Turner.
“It was chaos for a short time, the young people panic and forgot about the older peoples,” said the Reverend Carl Turner. The Hammond Fire Department arrived and completed the rescue, he said.
Later reports stated ternite damages was the cause.
St. James was organized by Rev. Charles Daggs, who served the church faithfully until his death. As a coal burner after the Civil War in New Orleans, his work brought him to Hammond. Upon his arrival, he and a small band of worshippers went “from house to house holding prayer meetings.” After finding there was no place for Blacks to worship, he sought to organize a church for Blacks.
After a period, they were given permission to worship in a small school house. According to historian Antoinette Harrell, the band then moved on a site that was donated by Charles Cates, a wealthy citizen of Hammond.
Under the leadership of Daggs, the first church was erected.
Naming the church was easy. It church was named in honor of Daggs’ home church in New Orleans. When, Daggs came to Hammond, that name was deeply rooted in his heart. He desired the same spirit in the newly erected Hammond church, said Harrell.
According to Harrell, in 1923 the present site of the church, 311 East Michigan Street, was bought by two of the church members, Israel Carter and Albert Gibson, who mortgaged their homes. The architect,
Alexander Cornelius Evans, and the builder, John Noble, were also church members. Church construction was completed in 1925. In August 2, 2017, St James was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
By Eddie Ponds
The Drum Founding Publisher