Clarksonville Baptist Church
185 Years of Hope, Community development, Education and Spiritual Service by Missionaries founded Clarksonville Baptist Church, Jamaica

Winston Donald
Secretary Jamaica Fellowship of Independent Baptist Churches

© Copyright 2023 by Winston Donald

Photo courrtesy of the author.
Photo courrtesy of the author.

On Sunday August 6, 2023 Clarksonville Baptist Church celebrates a momentous occasion, 185 years of dedicated service to the people of Clarksonville, St. Ann and its environs and by far to Jamaica . A church service for the celebration will begin at 10: 00 a.m.

A member of Jamaica Fellowship of Independent Baptist Churches, this St. Ann Baptist Church was established simultaneously as slavery was abolished in Jamaica. It was established to serve Clarksonville, one of Jamaica’s first Free Villages – a haven for ex-slaves from the sugar and coffee plantaions and freedom from European oppression.

When slavery was abolished on August 1, 1838 many ex slaves from various plantations had no where to go but to assemble on the property of the Brown’s Town Baptist Church in St. Ann. This became a dilemma for the Baptist Missionaries who had ministered to the slaves on the plantations from before emancipation. But the Baptist Missionary Pastors were undaunted because they were men of God and men of vision. They moved quickly, in particular Rev. John Clarke to seek financial assistance to settle the ex-slaves on property of their own. What happened rapidly at the advent of emancipation was the establishment of a free village in Sturge Town and at Clarksonville from the proceeds of a loan procured from the British Abolitionist and philanthrophist Joseph Sturge . The Free Villages and missionaries immediately established Baptist Churches to serve the spiritual and other needs of the ex-slaves. Rev. John Clarke from Brown’s Town Baptist Church secured the loan which purchased an ex coffee plantation at Castleton and its adjoining property which was renamed Clarksonville. The property was sub-divided and sold to the ex-slaves and several acres were reserved for church land and to build one of Jamaica’s earliest Baptist Church, Clarksonville Baptist Church.

From emancipation in 1838 until the end of 1976, Clarksonville Baptist Church had the distinction of being led and managed by missionary pastors. Rev. John Clarke was the first pastor to serve and he would certainly have supervised the construction of what was a wooden structure that served the recently freed slaves in the district. Other missionary pastors followed and in 1885 a building of solid cut stones (limestone) and mortar was built which has lasted to the date because of its superior construction. In 1977 the first native pastor of African heritage Rev. Hubert Hall took control as then Canadian Missionary Baptist Pastor Rev. Dr. John W. Knight retired and returned to Ontario, Canada.

Throughout the 185 year of its existence , Clarksonville Baptist Church has played a pivotal role in the spiritual , economic and social life of the people of South West St. Ann. As a Baptist church many persons answer the call of salvation and became members of the church. It boasted hundreds of members from Clarksonville and as far as Aboukir and Cave Valley. For years it was the most popular church for citizens in South West St. Ann as it boasts a number of programmes up to the 1970’s that no other church, established or non established provided. It was the only church that had Christmas and Easter cantatas in SW St. Ann; Missionary Sundays with Missionaries from Canada, the USA and even Cuban Baptist emigrees participating in the calendar event in January each year. Clarksonville Baptist Church had the only Vocational Bible School up to the early 1980’s led by white Canadian Missionaries from Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto.

Throughout its 185 anniversary and under the leadership of the missionary pastors Clarksonville Baptist Church housed the Elementary School that served thousands of students. The school with the church’s influence provided primary education for Jamaicans of African heritage but also the sons and daughters of latter day immmigrants whose parents had business at the famed agriculturally rich district of Cave Valley. The sons and daughters of the Early Lebanese families such as the Habers and Azans came to Clarksonville School as well as those of the Lindos (planters) and those children of the Chinese Merchants – the Lyn Cooks, the Chungs and Youngs as the church run school was the only one of status worthy to attend by the immigrant children.

Almost all pastors of Clarksonville Baptist Church served on multiple Primary School Boards especially during the 1960’s and 1970’s. External Examination activities were also invigilated and managed by the pastors of this baptist church as the ministry of education could rely on their integrity and reliability. Pastors such as Dr. John W. Knight provided strong support for agriculture at Clarksonville and even served on agricultural boards. The church therefore was and is today committed to agrarian activity of the communities it serves. The church unselfishly allowed small farmers to utilize church property for agriculture. The history also showed that most over the years pastors indulged in farming activities in addition to their spiritual duties.

Today, Clarksonville Baptist Church continues to shine as a beacon on a hill, some 2000 feet above sea level. It continues its spiritual mantra to save souls for Christ but it also recognizes that being a part of society it has to extend itself to help mankind in every way possible. Under Rev. Hubert Hall it continues its educational programme by housing an Early Childhood School. The Sunday School programme has been able to lift mankind’s literacy as engagement in Sunday School reading programme produced confidence in reading for attendees.

Rev. Hubert Hall has provided sterling leadership and service to Clarksonville Baptist Church since 1977 and this has benefitted many youths especially the males of the district and the environs. Some are now serving as Christian leaders and many have migrated to Canada and the United States where they are engaged in profitable economic activities benefitting their immediate families and those who are in Jamaica.

The church cemetery continues to provide final resting place for members and non- members of the church in an era when few Church cemeteries exist. Charitable programs exist at the church to assist the not so fortunate members of the church who find themselves economically depraved and short on material resources. Citizens can call upon the pastor for recommendations without rejection as the church serves one and all. Modern activities such as Health Fairs are usually on the church’s annual calendar of activities.

Clarksonvillle Baptist Church can proudly attest to have served the people of St. Ann. Its service to the thousands over the year is to acknowledged. From creating a free village for those who never knew what would be their future that August morning of 1838 to spiritual leadership, agrarian support, social welfare and education this devoted Baptist Church should be commended and revered not only by those from the Garden Parish but from the wider Jamaica. Our nation is blessed that such institution as Clarksonville Baptist Church was established and nurtured by men who had a Christian heart and compassion and belief that a race of people enslaved by the British could and would survive once they got a chance to build a community and religious institution of their own.

Contact Winston
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Winston's story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher