Our History

Our Roots

Mt. Prospect Baptist Church, originally known as First Baptist Church, Colored, was established in Rock Hill’s in 1883 by Reverend Thomas Samuel Gilmore. After meeting in homes and a brush arbor (roughed in shelter made of upright poles driven into the ground over which long poles were laid across the top and tied together in lattice fashion to serve as support for a primitive roof of brush or hay that served to protect the worshippers and seekers from the elements), and having two buildings, constructed in 1885 and 1900 destroyed by fire, the present brick sanctuary was completed in 1915. The building has historical recognition and significance in the National Register of Historic Places, for its early twentieth century architectural distinction and that it is relatively intact.

Mt. Prospect History

As stated in the National Register of Historic Places, “Mt. Prospect has had a significant impact on the development of the ethnic heritage of Rock Hill’s black community.” In 1887, the first joint convention (York County and Chester County Sunday Schools combined) was organized at Mt. Prospect Baptist Church in Rock Hill. On October 12, 1891, Rev. Dr. Mansel Phillip Hall, who served as the Baptist Joint Convention President for 11 years, founded Friendship Normal Industrial Institute. With the cooperation of Reverend T. S. Gilmore and his members of Mt. Prospect Baptist Church in Rock Hill, Friendship Institute, which later became Friendship Jr. College, was opened in the Old Mt. Prospect Baptist Church, with 11 students. Friendship Institute provided an education for black children before public schools were opened for blacks in Rock Hill, in 1921.

History of Juneteenth and Juneteenth Rock Hill
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.  June 19th - which was quickly shortened to "Juneteenth" among celebrants - has become the African American addendum to our national Independence Day. The mission of Juneteenth is to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American History and Culture. 

The first Juneteenth celebration in Rock Hill, SC was started at Mt. Prospect Baptist Church in the late 1990s with Zora Holmes leading the Board of Christian Education committee to develop the Juneteenth program. At the time, she wanted to bring light to the national celebration. Later, Dr. Ann Cain became chair of the committee and continued to lead the planning of Juneteenth.  Dr. Cain and Mt. Prospect Baptist Church had a vision to make Juneteenth a city-wide event and joined with Dr. Love Mills-Byrd, member of the African American Cultural Resource Committee and the Juneteenth Rock Hill board was formed in 2014. 2015 marked the first year that the board celebrated the first city-wide Juneteenth Rock Hill event. 

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