Second Baptist Church
The Second Baptist Church at 217 S. East Lane was built in 1917-1918 and now serves as the Blairsville Underground Railroad History Center.
Reverend Booker served as the pastor of this church for thirteen years. During this time the church was raised to allow for a basement. Eventually the basement floor was cemented and a kitchen and restrooms were added. Upstairs an extra choir area was added.
Reverend Pollard was the next pastor and during his years of service the inside of church was remodeled. Over the years, Lucius Wilson, Forte Johnson, Ira Neal, Denny Claycomb, Hubert Gibson and Henry Brantley were licensed to preach.
Initially, the church was a member of the Association of the Pennsylvania Baptist Convention. Through the years, the church became a part of the Union Baptist Assoc. of Pittsburgh. This group later merged with the Allegheny Baptist to form the present Allegheny Union Baptist Association.
In 1976 the church was under the leadership of Reverend Wylie Seals. Several more improvements were made to update the church. In 1981/82 a new roof was installed. In 1982 Reverend Richard I. King became the pastor and three years later the church under his leadership purchased the former A.M.E. Zion building on Campbell St. which is the present location of the Second Baptist Church.
The Blairsville Historical Society has a photograph taken of the foundation being laid for the church in 1917. Identified in the photo is Henry English, one of the founders of the Second Baptist Church in Blairsville. A copy of this photograph is now displayed in the UGRR Center.
The Center serves as an educational facility and is open May through October by appointment. It houses two main exhibits: Freedom in the Air which was developed by Dr. Chris Catafalmo and is on loan from the Indiana County Historical and Genealogical Society. This is the story of the county Abolitionists and their efforts to assist any enslaved person seeking freedom in Canada.
The second exhibit Day in the Life of an Enslaved Child was developed by Denise Jennings-Doyle, one of the founding members of the UGRR program. Using a grant from the Pittsburgh 250 project funded by the Sprout Foundation, the display shows the daily life of enslaved children.
The interactive exhibit allows young people to experience some of the choirs and activities of that time.
The entire project of “Passport to Freedom” was funded by DCED and had its beginning with the historic marker honoring Blairsville citizens for the “Rescue of 1858” when the local people defended one of their community members, Richard Newman, by driving slave catchers out of town. This documented account and its reenactment each year has been awarded National Parks Service status.