This church, founded in 1865, grew out of an antebellum praise house for black members of the Baptist Church of Beaufort. During the Civil War, after the Federal occupation of the town, it hosted a school for freedmen. Rev. Arthur Waddell (1821-1895), its founding pastor, had come to S.C. from Savannah, Ga. In 1867 Rev. Waddell and two black ministers from Savannah formally organized this church. In 1885 the congregation, with more than 900 members, built this "handsome and commodious" Carpenter Gothic church. Rev. Waddell continued to serve this church until he retired in 1894. At his death in 1895 First African Baptist was described as "one of the most aristocratic colored churches." Robert Smalls (1839-1915), Civil War hero, state legislator, and U.S. Congressman, was its most prominent member.