Historic west side church still doing social ministry

Published 6:20 pm Thursday, November 3, 2016

Rock Island Baptist Church on the west side of Port Arthur grew out of another west side church, Sixth Street Baptist Church early in the 20th century.

“They (Rock Island) were very successful themselves,” said Sam Monroe, president of the Port Arthur Historical Society. “In 1910 they elected to form their own church. In July 1911 they organized Rock Island Baptist Church. Mandy Warner headed the council and the Rev. Henry Roy was the pastor.”

“They had progressive ideas even at the start. They organized the first Kindergarten for a black church in Port Arthur. Something similar to Head Start. Not all cities had Kindergartens.”

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The text to the 2011 historical marker for the church reads:

Rock Island Baptist Church in 1910, a small group of Christians (known as the Sixth Street Baptist Church) began worshiping in Port Arthur. The following year, in 1911, the Rock Island Baptist Church organized when 11 members from the Sixth Street Baptist Church decided to form a new church.

For two year, the group worshiped in a house rented from the from the Rev. N.S. Gray. The Rev. Henry Roy served as the church’s first pastor until his death in 1915.

In 1913, the parishioners purchased land on this site and built a large church building. The church served as a meeting place for religious services, but also as the first the first Kindergarten for African-American children in Port Arthur.

In 1939, a new two-story building was erected and the old church was moved to the rear of the lot. The old church building was first used by the Works Progress Administration and then by the St. John Baptist Church.

The church expanded their grounds by constructing a church parking lot in 1966, purchased land to build a new sanctuary in 1967, and added a parsonage in 1976. In 1979, the church divided and some members united with the Solid Rock Baptist Church.

Community outreach and missionary work has been an important part of the church’s mission since the congregation’s founding. The church created radio, bus, and prison ministries, established a scholarship fund, and a Vacation Bible School program.

The church continues to assist church and community members in need and also supports local charities and foreign missions. The members and programs of the Rock Island continue to act as a spiritual base for the Port Arthur area.

David Ball: 409-721-2427