The Ebenezer (Third) Baptist Church was organized by Reverend C. Ward, February 1875, in the home of Mrs. Elisa Hawkins at 1104 East Tenth Street. The eighteen charter members were: Martha Carrington, Maggie Bucker, Queen Shaw, Betsy Madison, Isabella Johnson, Margret Pollard, Martha Egeleston, Henrietta Willis, Louanna Harrison, Elizabeth Glasco, Lucy Jackson, Betsy Johnson, Eliza Hawkins, Nelly Brewster, Robert Burdett, John Sanders, and John Spencer.
The first frame structure was built at the corner of Catalpa and Curve streets. The membership outgrew this church, and a brick sanctuary with stained glass windows was erected at the corner of East Tenth and San Marcos streets in 1885. Mrs. Henrietta Willis named the church, Ebenezer, meaning, “Stone of Help”.
In 1915, the stucco tabernacle was erected. Later, under the pastorate of the Reverend Jerome C. Lott, the members began plans for expansion. The present Sanctuary and Education Complex was erected in 1950-1955, under the leadership of Rev. Robert L. Rowe, whose ministry extended from 1949 to 1968. The limestone and brick structure is of Gothic design and the tower houses the bell from the first brick church. Also, under the Rowe administration, a parsonage was built at 1203 Cotton Street.
Dr. Marvin C. Griffin, called in 1969, led the congregation in a Mortgage Burning Ceremony during the celebration of the church’s 100th anniversary in November 1975. He initiated a Meals-On-Wheels Program for the elderly, and Radio, Television, Tape, and Bus Ministries. On November 14, 1976, through the research of Mrs. Algerene Akins Craig, Ebenezer was awarded the Texas Historical Marker. Historical photos that include dates and places of worship were hung in the Sanctuary, January 27, 1985.
Since 1969, Ebenezer acquired the following properties: the south parking lot, May 11, 1971, the Brown property, 1915 East Tenth Street, June 8, 1984; Campbell property, 916 Waller Street, November 25, 1985; 3101 East 12 Street, December 27, 1988, and the Brady property, 1007 – 1015 East 11th Street and 1015 San Marcos Street, January 18, 1989.
The Brady property is home for the recently organized East Austin Economic Development Corporation and a new parking lot. Under Dr. Griffin’s leadership a partnership was formed involving day care and economic development including a private developer, the Lilly Endowment, the City of Austin, Nations Bank, and Ebenezer Baptist Church. A building project in excess of $1,000,000 was implemented.
Ebenezer has a rich heritage in music. Virgie Carrington-Dewitty who later became Music Director for the National Baptist Convention of America, served as Director of Music at Ebenezer for more than fifty years. She directed the Ebenezer Choir that became the first Black choir to serve on a commercial radio program in Texas in 1938. The choir was called “The Bright and Early Choir.” On October 14, 1981, the three adult choirs – Ebenezer, Gospel, and Chancel choirs – merged to form the Sanctuary Choir. The Music Ministry has expanded to include handbell choirs (youth and adult), Men’s Chorus and the Voices of Praise.
Reverend Dr. Marvin C. Griffin retired July 10, 2011 after forty-two years of faithful pastoral service to Ebenezer Third Baptist Church. Reverend Rodney L. Swisher was selected by the Deacons of Ebenezer on July 11, 2011 to be Interim Pastor. He served from July 11, 2011 to September 22, 2012.
Reverend Dr. Ricky Freeman accepted the call to be Pastor of the Church August 22, 2012 and preached his first sermon as Pastor, September 23, 2012. Under his leadership the Church celebrated its 140th Anniversary February 15, 2015.
Ebenezer is identified with the St. John Regular Baptist Association, Austin Baptist Association, Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Southern Baptist Convention.
Ebenezer’s educational offerings include programs with emphasis on youth, mission outreach, tutorials, and community service. Scholarships are provided annually to Ebenezer’s college-bound youth selected by the Scholarship Committee.
Pastors of Ebenezer Baptist Church and their terms of office are:
- The Reverends E.S. Corn and C. Ward served as interim pastors until 1876
- Reverend Andrew Herbert, 1876-1883
- Reverend Chester Anderson, 1884-1885
- Reverend C. P. Hughes, 1886-1888
- Reverend A. W. Moss, 1889-1891
- Reverend Lee Lewis Campbell, 1892-1927
- Reverend Jerome C. Lott, 1928-1949
- Reverend Robert L. Rowe, 1949-1968
- Reverend Robert R. Williams, 1968-1969
- Reverend Marvin C. Griffin, 1969 to 2011
- Reverend Rodney L. Swisher, 2011 to 2012
- Reverend Dr. Ricky Freeman, 2012 to present
The Reverends Robert Williams, David Williams, Leslie Warren, Willie Bartee. M.P. Swisher, Charles Watts, and W.R. White were faithful leaders who preached the Word at Ebenezer during the period between 1968 and 1969
As we reflect on Ebenezer’s glorious history, we extend our thanks and praises to God. Through His grace and mercy, may we continue to move forward in His wisdom and perfect will.