Monday, July 24, 2017

The History of Greater St. James A.M.E. Church of Hammond, LA.

Greater St. James AME Chruch
Hammond, LA 
Several months ago, Dr. Antoinette Harrell was invited to lunch meeting by Hammond President/Councilman Lemar F. Marshall to meet with Rev. Shelton Myers and others. They informed me that the church has submitted an application to the United States Department Interior National Park Service to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The history of Greater St. James A.M.E church is indeed a rich history.

The church had just celebrated their 150th anniversary on March 26, 2017.  Greater St. James was established in 1867, it is a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the first black church in Hammond, LA. It was organized by Rev. Charles Daggs, who served the church faithfully until his death. As a coal burner after the Civil War in New Orleans. Daggs work brought him to Hammond. Upon his arrival, he found there was no place for blacks to worship; so he sought to organize a church for blacks. A small band of worshippers, led by Daggs, went from house to house holding prayer meetings. 

Charles Daggs was born around 1830 in Washington, D.C. He was married to Eliza Thomas Daggs. They were the parents of; Louis, Charles, Emanuel, George, James, Williams, Isaac, Sophia, Rachel, and Lucinda.

Charles mother was named Rachel Daggs. Rachel was born around 1800. Rachel arrived in New Orleans on Oct 1, 1835, on a slave ship named the Tribune. The Port of Departure Alexandria, District. The first shipper/owner was named John Armfield. The second shipper/owner was Brandon McKenna and Wright. 

After a period of time, they were given permission to worship in a small school house located on of  their own Richard Allen, the band then moved to a different location East Thomas Street. A wealthy citizen of Hammond, Charles Cates, donated the site and it still remains at 407 E. Thomas Street to this very day.
Greater St. James Cornerstone
South Oak Street that was owned by whites. The building was used as the sacred tabernacle for whites, which forced black worship services to be held last. It was there, that they worshiped for several years until their assembly began to perish. The white congregation grew socially and spiritually disconnected which caused the black congregation to seek an art of their own. Grace Memorial Chruch, gave the worshipers permission to use their property to nurtured in the spirit

Under the leadership of Daggs, the first church was erected. Daggs previously worshiped at historic, St. James AME Church in New Orleans and came to Hammond with that named deeply rooted in his heart. He desired the same spirit in the newly erected Hammond church. Naming the church was easy; the church was named Saint James in honor of Daggs' home church in New Orleans. Rev. James Reese presented the official request to the Louisiana Annual Conference. The conference assigned the church their first pastor, Rev. O.J. LaBeouf.

I've had several conversations Juan Rigo Castille, the great grandson of Alexander C. Evans about the work of his grandfather. He put me in contact with his mother to learn more about Alexander C. Evans. Alexander built the church in 1925.


National Register of Historic Places of Registration Form

U. S. Census

Dr. Antoinette Harrell oral interview with Juan Rigo Castille

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