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Historical Timeline

Here are just some of the historical highlights from First Bryan's history


  • 1784 – Andrew Bryan, Hannah Bryan, and Kate Hogg baptized by George Leile.

  • 1784 – Andrew Bryan given permission to preach January 20, 1788 – First Bryan Baptist Church organized, Andrew Bryan ordained and installed as the First Pastor.

  • 1793 – Andrew Bryan obtained his freedom and purchased the present site of this church for $150.00.

  • 1795 – First church building completed.


  • 1812 – Andrew Bryan’s Death.

  • 1815- Andrew Marshall became the second pastor.

  • 1826 – First Sunday School for Blacks, organized by Lowell Mason, Superintendent of the Independent Presbyterian Church.

  • 1832 – Church split over doctrinal matters with pastor and a portion of the membership moving to a building on Franklin Square.

  • 1833 – Church remained in continuous operation under the deacons led by Deacon Adam Johnson.

  • 1835 – Administration of Sunday School relinquished by the Independent Presbyterian Church and assumed by the Black Church.

  • 1836-1916 – Period of struggle, decline in membership and a series of six ministers but still in continuous operation.

  • 1853 – March 19, Death of Deacon Adam Johnson after 40 years of service.

  • 1861 – Ulysses Houston installed as pastor.

  • 1866 – First Bryan Baptist Church Chartered by the State of Georgia.

  • 1873 – Congregation decided to build a new and modern church – Plan drafted by John B. Hogg(or Howard), a Civil Engineer.  Building razed – Cornerstone laid October 13, 1873.

  • January 20, 1888 – Present edifice completed at a cost of $30,000.00 and occupied for the first time.

  • 1888 – Covenant, Constitution and By-Laws written,  printed and distributed to the membership.

  • 1888 – Pipe Organ built by H. Knauff and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1856, installed at a cost of $1,250.00.

  • 1888 – Death of Ulysses L. Houston.

  • 1888-1915 – Growth of congregation, monumental program broadened, physical plant modernized.


  • 1916 – Monument to George Leile erected on this site by authorization of the National Baptist Convention, Inc.

  • 1938 – 1st Sesqui-Centennial Celebration held.

  • 1945 – Dedication of addition to the main edifice to provide a choir stand at the rear of the pulpit.

  • 1956 – Dedication of the Educational Annex ($25,000.00)

  • 1974 – Participation in planning for Bicentennial Celebration of the United States with the “Downtown Nine” historic churches.

  • 1975 – Completed a brief historical sketch up to 1975.

  • 1976 – Cultural Bicentennial Contribution Morehouse Male Glee Club, March 14;

  • Bicentennial Recognition Banquet honoring 3 outstanding church historians, April contributed historical material to “Savannah’s Time-Capsule”, issued Memorial Plate, 1788-1976;

  • Musical Contribution to “Night in Old Savannah”, began permanent historical exhibit of church, evaluated church and furnishings($500,000.00);

  • Applied for Historic Landmark Status; opened the church to the public on a restricted basis;

  • Reissued and promoted sales of original history.

  • 1977 – Hosted the 107th Session of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, Inc.

  • 1979 – January 20, unveiled plaque indicating Historic Landmark Status.  This is placed on the exterior of the main sanctuary.

  • 1979 – February 11, recording of First Live TV. Ministry telecast for Coastal Georgia on WJCL-ABC Channel 22.  Televised from the walls of the sanctuary of the Mother Church of Black Baptists.

  • 1979 – April 15, the first live TV. Broadcast appearance Easter Sunday Morning having received one of the highest TV. ratings for religious broadcast programs in 1979 on WJCL-ABC Channel 22.

  • 1979 – May 20, unveiled the first historical marker, granted to blacks in Georgia.  This marker is situated on the land area in front of the church and may be read from either direction.  Dr. Elizabeth Lyon, Chief of Georgia’s Historical Preservation Section, was the main speaker.

  • 1985 – Reverend Edward Lamar Ellis Jr., is the 18th pastor of First Bryan Baptist Church.  He is a native of Monroe, GA, and the eldest of four children born to the late Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lamar Ellis, Sr.

  • 1987 – During a massive renovation, stain glass windows were installed.  The altar windows were redesigned to include a picture of Rev. Andrew Bryan, the founding pastor of the church.

  • 1988 – January 10-20, Celebrated Bicentennial.  Theme – “We’ve Come This Far By Faith”. The theme “Moving Forward in Love, the More Excellent Way, as We Continue in the New Millenium” was implemented during Pastor Ellis’ tenure.

  • 1988 – Celebrated its Bicentennial on January 20, 1988, the birthday of the church; the cornerstone laid in October 1873 was opened.  It contained some 400 artifacts, coins, jewelry, etc.

  • 1988, July 10, Pastor Ellis presided over the laying of another cornerstone that contained a bible, church records and other articles donated by members.

  • 1994  – Dr. Charles J. Elmore, Professor of Humanities at Savannah State University, historian and author, was authorized by the church to write a history of First Bryan Baptist Church.  The title of the book is First Bryan 1788-2001 The Oldest Continuous Black Baptist Church in America.  It has been well received and is now in circulation locally and throughout the United States.


  • 2011 – Rev. Aaron James installed as Pastor

Our Pastors:
Andrew Bryan – 1788-1812
Andrew Cox Marshall – 1815-1832
Thomas Anderson – 1833-1835
Stephen McQueen – 1835-1841
John Benjamin DeVeaux – 1842-1845
Isaac Roberts – 1846-1849
Brister Lawton – 1849 – 1850
Garrison Frazier – 1852-1860
Ulysses L. Houston – 1861-1889
George Griffin – 1889-1907
Daniel Wright – 1908-1923
Lawrence M. Glenn – 1924-1934
Levi M. Terrill – 1935-1943
Nathaniel E. Holsey – 1943-1949
Richard M. Williams – 1949-1965
Ervin J. Jennings, Jr. – 1965-1973
Arthur D. Sims – 1974-1982
Edward L. Ellis, Jr. – 1985-2011
Aaron M. James, Sr. – 2011 – 2016

Christopher Pittman-2019-present

Timeline: Text
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