Reverend Benjamin G. Lawson
Benjamin Lawson was born in 1835 in Sumter County. He is believed to have married Anna Lawson who was born in 1833. Emmaline, their daughter was born in 1862. Brother Lawson lost his first wife some time prior to 1880.
Benjamin Lawson was ordained as a Baptist Minister when numerous African-American members of Sumters First Baptist Church withdrew to organize Shiloh Baptist in mid 1867. Missionaries Reverends Charles H. Corey and James H. Hamilton from the American Baptist Home Mission Society along with Reverend Paul Granthan composed the ordination council for Brother Benjamin Lawson. Others attending the ordination included Brothers Richard James, Gabriel Wright, John Capel, J. Granthan, O. Roach, J. Brisbern and Adam Ramsey all members of Shiloh Baptist Church, Sumter, SC. Reverend Lawson served as the first pastor of Shiloh Baptist and Bethesda Baptist both of Sumter County. Reverend Lawsons brother Vinson Lawson was selected as clerk of Shiloh Baptist.
Reverend Lawson and the Shiloh Baptist Church were charter members of the Gethsemane Baptist Association constituted at Gethsemane Baptist Church of Chester, South Carolina on November 14, 1867. Reverend Lawson had responsibility for the pastoral care of 141 souls constituting the Shiloh Baptist Church in 1867. Pastor Lawson baptized some 100 souls in 1868 at Shiloh and assumed the pastorate of Bethesda Baptist in 1868. The membership increased by 29 in 1869 under the leadership of Reverend Lawson. The church continued to display unity and create strong mission minded ministries. One such ministry included the organization of a church choir by Pastor Lawson. The choir was lead by Brother Vincent T. Lawson.
In addition to serving Shiloh and Bethesda, Reverend Lawson served as a missionary in Sumter County constituting and assisting African-American Baptist Churches.
Calvary Baptist Church of Clarendon County called Reverend Lawson as pastor in 1869. Reverend Lawson served Calvary up to 1873. Reverend Lawson was able to serve church so remotely removed from each other because most churches held worship only once a month.
November 15, 1870 Reverend Lawson and the Shiloh Baptist Church hosted the Gethsemane Baptist Association for the first time. The Association had grown to 77 churches representing some 21,662 Baptists. The following year the Gethsemane Baptist Association divided itself into the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Upper Division and the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Lower Division. The Shiloh Baptist Church and Reverend Lawson were placed in the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Upper Division in 1871 after the division of the original Gethsemane Baptist Association. Reverend Lawson was elected to the Executive Council and served for three or four years in that capacity. During 1872 Reverend Lawson assisted in the organization of Olive Grove Baptist Church in Williamsburg County with Reverends Sampson Ham, A. Stevenson and Abram Manning.
Reverend Benjamin Lawson ordained several men to the Gospel Ministry. On March 30, 1872 Brother Stephen Brown was ordained by Reverend Lawson after being called to pastor a local church. Rev. Lawson also ordained Brother Charles Watson in 1872. In addition to ordaining several brethren to the Gospel Ministry Reverend Lawson work closely with Deacons G. Wright, R. James, James Button all of Shiloh Baptist and York James of Calvary Baptist in Clarendon County.
The Shiloh Congregation and Pastor Lawson decided some time after 1873 to relocate. Plans commence immediately to raise funds to assist in this effort. Financial support was sorted from the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York to aid in the process. The new sanctuary was located on the west side of Main Street between Bartlette and Oakland Streets.
Shortly after assisting Shiloh Baptist in securing additional land in 1873, Reverend Lawson began to pursue securing land for his family and himself. Reverend Lawson purchased more than 10 acres between 1873 and his death.
The Gethsemane Baptist Association, Upper Division placed Reverend Lawson in the Field as a Missionary. He was paid $59.00 in 1873 for his services as a Missionary. Brother Lawson preached numerous messages, baptized many converts, strongly encouraged to masses to get educated, ordained church officers and organize churches. Reverend Lawson organized 3 churches and ordained 7 deacons in 1873. Gethsemane Baptist Church of Sumter was organized by Reverend Lawson in 1874. The church called Reverend Lawson to serve as Pastor. This congregation had more than 200 members in 1874.
Reverend Lawson continued his work in Sumter and Clarendon Counties organizing churches and ordaining individuals to the Gospel Ministry. Brother Peter Pringle was ordained by Reverend Lawson on June 25, 1875. Brother Pringle was called to serve as the first pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church, Manning, SC.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit was evidence in a big way between 1875 and 1876. The Spirit of God worked in Pastor Lawson to encourage 63 souls to come forward to give their lives to Christ. Shilohs membership totaled 432 at the end of 1876.
Pastor Lawson and Shiloh were affiliated with the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Upper Division when it divided itself in 1875. Shiloh was placed in the newly formed Pee Dee Baptist Association in 1875. Reverend Lawson was elected to the Executive Board of the Pee Dee Baptist Association in 1875. Reverend Lawson strongly supported the efforts of the Pee Dee Association to support the creation of a state convention. Reverend Lawson was heavily involved in the formation of the Educational, Missionary and Sunday School Convention of South Carolina. The following details the initial steps taken to organized the convention:
During the first annual session of the Pee Dee Baptist Association held at Zion Baptist Church, Columbia October 21, 1875, Rev. Isaac Peter Brockenton recommended contacting the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Lower Division and Gethsemane Baptist Association, III Division about organizing themselves into a state convention. The following Association convened at Macedonia Baptist Church, Darlington, SC on October 21, 1876. Reports were addressed and handled followed by the report on forming a state convention.
The Association resumed its regular business and, on motion of Brother Giles Carter, the report of the messenger sent last year to the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Lower Division, in relation to the organization of a state convention, was called for.
Brother Isaac Brockenton, the messenger, made his report, which was received. After hearing Rev. Brockentons report, Brother Edward M. Brawley offered the following resolutions, which were adopted:
Whereas the colored Baptists of South Carolina have no state organization, and their several interests, religious and educational, require united efforts; be it therefore,
Resolved, That in our judgment the time for the organization of a state convention has fully come.
Resolved, That as the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Lower Division, and the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Third Division, have expressed themselves favorably toward such an organization, a committee, consisting of Brothers James H. Hamilton, Isaac P. Brockenton and Benjamin Lawson be appointed to confer with similar committees from the other Associations of the state regarding the issuing of a general call to the churches, and fixing the time and place for the organization of the convention.
Report of Committee on Organization of State Convention written in the 1877 minutes of the Pee Dee Baptist Association
Those Committees held a joint meeting at Sumter (Shiloh Baptist Church) on March 21st and after organizing themselves into a General Committee of Arrangements issued a call for the organization of the Convention at Sumter ( Shiloh Baptist Church) on the first Wednesday in May, 1877.
In response to this call, brethren from several Associations met and duly organized the Baptist Educational Missionary and Sunday School Convention of South Carolina. The minutes of this meeting are published, and are already in your hands. You are then aware of the objects and methods of work of the Convention.
We desire to call your attention to the fact that it is of supreme importance that we do all we can to push forward the work of the Convention and as a means of imparting such information as may be desired by brethren present. We recommend the some time be set apart during our present session, in which some of the officers of the Convention who are present with us, may address us.
We recommend the passage of the following resolution:
Resolved, That this evening a mass-meeting be held, to consider the work and claims of the State Convention.
Rev. Isaac Peter Brockenton )
Rev. James H. Hamilton ) Committee
Rev. Benjamin Lawson )
Officers of this Convention were Rev. Isaac P. Brockenton, President; Rev. Fred Brown, Vice President; Rev. Edward M. Brawley; and Rev. Benjamin Lawson, Treasurer. The Board of Managers included the officers and Reverends Jacob Legare, Edward Green, Sampson Ham, Julian A. Chase, Daniel Jesse, Paul Grantham and J. B. Green.
Pastor Lawson was elected to the Board of Managers of the Baptist Educational, Missionary and Sunday School Convention of South on May 2, 1877. He also served on the Committee for Preaching recommending Reverend Sampson Ham to preach at Shiloh during the convention in its first annual session. Reverend Lawson paid $5.00 during the convention and became a Life Member. The following year, Reverend Lawson motioned the Educational, Missionary and Sunday School Convention endorse The National Baptist and that the Pastors be urged to extend its circulation. This motion was adopted by the convention.
Silverstreet Baptist Church called Reverend Lawson as pastor in 1878. Silverstreet was located in Newberry County some 50 or 60 miles away from Sumter County.
Pastor Lawson organized Enon Baptist in 1879 with members of Shiloh traveling long distances from western Sumter County. This new church called Reverend Lawson as her pastor.
Reverend Lawson like numerous other pastors strongly supported forming a Ministers Insurance Fund to assist aged ministers and families of deceased minister. A committee composed of Reverend Lawson along with Reverends Brawley, Butler, Boykin and Legare proposed the following resolution at the May 7, 1879 Baptist Educational, Missionary and Sunday School Convention of South Carolina:
In consequence of the low salaries which are generally paid to our pastors, they are unable to save any money so as to provide for their families after they are dead. It is a sad fact that some of the most eminent brethren that have filled places in our ministry, have died without leaving anything for the support of their wives and the education of their children. Now when it is remembered that these brethren lived lives of great self-denial, simply because they loved the cause of Christ; that they, in nearly every case, left profitable trades just in order that our churches might be organized and meeting houses built; and when we recollect that many of these brethren are now aged, and yet still have their hands on the plough, working for the Master, seeking to uplift their younger brethren, it becomes a plain truth that the churches, and the younger men in the ministry, owe a duty to their aged brethren, in assisting them to provide for their families.
We very heartily recommend the formation of a Ministers Insurance Society, or that the same end be secured by making it a feature of the Conventions work.
We recommend that the whole matter be referred to the Board of Managers, with instruction to mature a plan, and to set it in operation just as soon as they can.
Reverend Lawson served the following churches in addition to Shiloh, Enon, Silverstreet and Bethesda: Antioch, Prosperity, SC 1887; Zion Mt. Moriah, Hopkins, SC 1887; and Mt. Zero, Manning, SC 1888.
Reverend Lawson was elected Moderator of the Wateree Baptist Association in 1882. He continued to serve as moderator until 1884. The relationship between Reverend Lawson and Shiloh Baptist soured in 1884 when he parted ways from the church. Several years later Reverend Lawson charged that Shiloh Baptist was false in practice and doctrine. The same charge was referred to the Executive Council of the Wateree Baptist Association on October 16, 1888.
Emmaline Lawson, the daughter of Rev. Benjamin Lawson, married Joseph Grantham around 1884. Joseph Grantham was the son of Reverend Paul Grantham, one of the pioneer African-American Baptist minister in Sumter County. Reverend Lawson deeded land to Rev. Grantham for the benefit of Joseph and Emmaline Grantham around the time of their marriage.
Reverend Lawson married Grace E. Weston around 1885. Reverend Lawsons new wife was the daughter of Mr. Moultrie Weston (a White man of Lower Richland County) and Phoebe Ward (a former slave of Mr. Weston). Reverend and Mrs. Lawson had two children, Benjamin (1887) and Joseph (1889) Lawson during their short marriage. Reverend Benjamin G. Lawson died on April 18, 1889.
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