When my husband Greg, a videographer, produced a video for an African-American church, I found the church’s history most intriguing. The first preacher of this church was a slave, George W. Dupee, who after many years of ministering to his congregation was sent to be sold at auction. A group of Lexington ministers got together to purchase him and set him free. This scenario provided the inspiration to write my first novel, Ransom My Heart, Book One of the Cheapside Series. Though the location and family background of my fictional character Micah are different, certain events in my story are based on Reverend Dupee’s experience.
The following is an excerpt from a document found in the Scott County Public Library. It’s about the history of First Baptist Church in Georgetown, Kentucky, including the story of what happened to Reverend Dupee.
Baptist History Homepage
HISTORY OF THE FIRST CHURCH BAPTIST
The First Baptist Church in Georgetown, Kentucky was organized in 1810, by a small group of white Baptists who met in the old Court House. Rev. George Briggs presided and pastored followed by Rev. Theodore Bouldware. The church prospered and many members were added by baptism. In 1815, a meeting house was built on Jefferson Street, facing northward, just above the Big Spring, a very beautiful site. During the slavery period, it was customary for slaves to worship in a specific place within the white congregation. Records from 1837-1855, show that the Georgetown Baptist Church was one of the first to receive slaves by baptism as members and as preachers and exhorters of their own race. They approved and licensed them. Various members were appointed to supervise them.
In 1840, Dr. Howard Malcom, D.D., was the Pastor of Georgetown Baptist Church and the President of Georgetown College. During his tenure, a beautiful new brick church was erected on Hamilton Street. The relocating congregation gave the black members of the congregation a lease for ninety-nine years on the original site, providing it be used for a place of worship. (Deed Book #8, pg. 466). On July 16, 1956, a clear deed of transaction was granted by Rev. Dan C. Moore and the Trustees of the Georgetown Baptist Church to Rev. W. R. Brown, Pastor and the Trustees of First Baptist Church. A special service was held and both congregations were inspired.
Associational records show Revs. London Ferrell, James Monroe and Harry Evans as ministers of the then First African Baptist Church. However, the first official pastor was Rev. George W. Dupee (1851-1862). Born of slave parents, while pastoring the church, he was put on the block at the Court House and sold. Rev. William Pratt and others from Lexington bought him and set him free. He divided his time between this church and Pleasant Green Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky.
[Sesquicentennial History of First Baptist Church, 1992. Document from the Scott County Public Library.]