CHURCH HISTORY

HISTORY OF CALIFORNIA AVE. CHURCH OF CHRIST, FORMALLY KNOWN AS BAKER ST. CHURCH OF CHRIST

  

Bakersfield was, and still is, one the largest farming areas in the United States, which is known for having plenty of rich soil. In 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, farmers used what is called "Farm Hands" or "Farm Laborers" to chop cotton, pick cotton, and harvest the abundant grape crops. People from all over the South began to migrate to Bakersfield, California in search of a better life, and many found it in the fields of Kern County. The fields were literally "white unto harvest" (with cotton).   


Among those who came to Bakersfield were Oliver and Sarah McGehee from Dumas, Arkansas. Sister McGehee was a member of the Church of Christ, but Oliver was not. He eventually obeyed the gospel later. Sister McGehee, being a devout Christian sought out a place to worship her God. The only Church of Christ here at that time was the Central Church of Christ located on California Avenue, but unfortunately blacks could not worship with the whites at that time. (This was in the 1930s.) Eventually Sister McGehee met Sister L.A. Brown, a white lady who was a member of the Central Church of Christ. She lived on Lake St. and the two became very close friends. Since Sister McGehee had no place to worship, therefore, Sister Brown and she began to worship in Sister Brown's home on Lake St. which was in East Bakersfield. 

  

In 1934, the two of them called Brother A.L. Cassius of Los Angeles for help. He came to Bakersfield and worked with them for two weeks and their efforts resulted in six baptisms. This was the beginning of the Church of Christ among blacks in Bakersfield, California. Brother Cassius returned the next year (1935) and baptized eight more souls. Brother Marshall Keeble of Nashville, TN came out to Bakersfield in 1936 and baptized a good number of souls. In 1940, Brother R.N. Hogan of Los Angeles, Ca came to Bakersfield for a meeting and baptized 86 souls. He returned the following year and baptized many more. 

 

The congregation at this time was over 140 in number. The church moved from their old place of worship and began worshiping in a Mexican hall located at 815 E. 18th St. Later, the Church moved to 811 E. 18th St. which was a large house that still stands today. The land where the previous building is located, 200 Baker St, was purchased in 1940. 

  

In 1942, Brother Robert Lee of Los Angeles became the first Preacher of the congregation. It was then that they began to build the previous building and completed it in 1945. It was called the Baker & Butte Church of Christ. Later, Butte St. was dropped leaving it the Baker St. Church of Christ as it is called today. After Brother Lee's tenure, Brother Russell H. Moore became the preacher for the congregation. He did a good work, but for some unknown reason, his tenure was short. 

  

In 1947, Brother George Robin was chosen as the next minister of the church. During his tenure, the church was organized. Brother Velma E. Ellis and Johnny D. Smith were appointed Elders; Gus Jacobs and Willie Magsby were appointed as Deacons and Mannie Powell was the Song Leader. The house behind the church building was built in 1948 and it was the residence for the preacher and his family. Some of the prominent families, as I recall, that came to Bakersfield who were either members of the church or were baptized included: The Ellis family, the Keyes, the Bradleys, the Smiths, the Jacobs, the Magsbys, the McGehees, the Lintons, the Fambroughs, the Stells, the Divers, the Heaths, the Tindles, the Ollisons, the Buptons, the Sloans, the Wells, the Powells, the Edwards, the Peevys, the Stinsons, the Collins, the Morgans, the Williams, the Hollis', the Thompsons, the Flemings, the Carters, the Joneses, the Boones, the Lavows, the Robersons, the Taplins, the Tomins, and many more. Eventually the church reached a Membership high of 265. There remains only nine or 10 of the old guard. Other Ministers that served the Baker Street Church of Christ are: Leroy Durley, James Smith, M.H. Robertson, Tu