Queen Street Baptist Church in Belize City, long ago
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February 21, 2021

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Belize History Association
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Queen Street Baptist Church in Belize City, long ago

First local "chosen vessel unto the Lord" to lead the church was a Mr. Braddict and the 2nd was a "Carib laborer" William "Billy," Michael. In the early 1840s Billy helped translate the Gospel of Matthew into the Carib language. Around the same time Benito Beni son's Santiago Beni was also heading a church in Mullins River where he preached in Garifuna.

According to the "The Centenary Number of the Methodist Record", the Wesleyan Methodist Church was "first proclaimed in Stann Creek by Captain Beni father of Mr. Santiago Beni and Grand Uncle of Mr. Simon Ventura in a humble but built of salt water Pimento in the year 1828." Other Wesleyan preachers and teachers of the time mentioned are B.C.O Blanco, Theodor Martin, Simon Ventura, G.A. Nunez, Alexander Castro, Marcus Ramirez and Florencio Thomas. All preachers and leaders mentioned so far are Garinagu.

This church was the location of celebration and worship for many slaves in the settlement (of British Honduras) on the Eve of Emancipation 1838.

To have worked for two score years and ten is a record of which not many of us can boast, but when that service has been rendered outside one's own country and in a tropical country, it is all the more impressive. My friend, the Rev. Robert Cleghorn, O.B.E., was born in Scotland in 1869 and arrived in Belize, British Honduras, on 1st of April 1889. It was surly an unfortunate day to choose, but I fancy it “just happened,” as his record is full proof! Accompanied by an uncle, the Rev. Charles Brown, who was in charged of the Baptist Mission in Belize at the time, Mr. Cleghorn immediately “got busy.” He took charge of the school in Belize, conducted by the Mission, and later, was sent to superintend country schools, with headquarters at “Crooked Tree” on the Belize River.

In 1892 Mr., Cleghorn was sent to Ruatan, Spanish Honduras, to take charge of the Mission there, and after nearly ten years of very successful service he returned to Belize in 1901, when the Rev. Charles Brown left the country. From then until now Mr. Cleghorn has labored unremittingly for the cause of the Baptist Mission. Humble, almost to a fault, sincere to the core, and always ready to help in every worthy cause, Mr. Cleghorn has played a prominent and influential part in the life of his adopted country. I say, “adopted,” because he now regards British Honduras his home and not Scotland, as his home. Public service too has received his valued attention. For several years he was Chairman of the Belize Town Board (the counterpart of “Mayor” in other cities) and for twelve years he was an unofficial of the Legislative Council. These services were graciously recognized by His Majesty the King, who in 1935 appointed him an Officer of he most distinguished Order of the British Empire.

It is my belief, however, that the reward, which Mr. Cleghorn most values, is the love so warmly felt towards him by the members of his congregation. This was abundantly proved a fortnight ago, when a service of congratulatory meetings was held in Belize, at which speakers in every walk of life expressed their admiration for his noble life, his unselfish character, and the spiritual guidance so long and so faithfully offered to several generations of devoted Baptists. Married in Belize in 1891 to Miss Henrietta McCulloch, he lost his devoted wife in 1930. Three sons and three daughters were born of this happy union. One son and one daughter died in infancy; his eldest daughter died in Scotland in 1916; one son is in Detroit, Mich.., and the other in New Orleans. La. The third daughter, now Mrs. Rita Jones, lives with her father in Belize, and is thus the only member of the family whose companionship he can still enjoy.

The Baptist Church has been established in Belize for 117 years (1822-1939), and the present pastor has just celebrated fifty years of active service – truly a wonderful record. While a wonderful retirement is mare than earned, it is the hope of a large circle of friends that he may continue, for some years yet, the labor of love in which his whole interest is centered. May God grant this true Christian gentleman the blessings of good health, peace, and happiness. C. R. Beathie. Belize, British Honduras, 22nd April 1939.

Erection of Queen Street Chapel

Shortly after the formation of the Independent Baptist Mission in Belize, a lot of land, with two small houses thereon, was presented to the Mission by Mr., George Tillett, staunch friend of Mr. Henderson and a constant supporter of the Church. This lot was situated at the corner of Queen Street and Gabourel Lane, with the front entrance on Eve Street. On this lot was built the Queen Street Church, which became and continued to be, until destroyed by hurricane in 1931, the principal Baptist place of worship in the Colony. The building was a fairly large two-storied one, the upper flat being the Chapel, and the under flat the School hall and Vestry. The estimated cost of this wooden structure, which was built by Mr. George Braddick and begun in May, 1850, was $3,500.00.

Half the amount was already been raised by the united contributions of Christian Churches and friends in England, as the result of appeals made by Pastor Fredrick Crowe, who had that year visited England, whilst the remainder was obtained through the voluntary gifts of friends in Belize who were well disposed towards the object. Her Majesty's Superintendent, Colonel Fancourt, was pleased to present the Church with ten guineas for the building, and Chief Justice Temple added five guineas more, whilst several leading merchants and persons of note contributed liberally. The local press also came forward spontaneously to advocate the cause of the Church, so that from a leading article which appeared in the Honduras Watchman of April 6th, 1850, the following brief extracts: “For some time members of the Baptist Society have been meeting in a house in Eve Street – too small for the purpose, inconvenient and incapable of accommodating, not only parties desirous of attending Devine worship there, but even members themselves. Under these circumstances, and feeling the real necessity of erecting a new building on the lot given by Mr. George Tillett for the purpose, they have decided that the work be now begun. We really believe that this undertaking will prove a great benefit to the Settlement; so this alone, we think, will be a sufficient inducement to procure the assistance necessary to enable them to complete the work – the members of that society, though generally poor, have struggled on and maintained their Church independence; and from their general peaceful and quite behavior, they deserve some encouragement.”

Many years later a new steeple with bell, a baptismal font, and an inside gallery for the use of the choir were added to this church, and as late as 1928 a fine pipe organ was installed; thus from 1850 to 1931 (a period of eighty-one years) Queen Street Baptist Church was open for the worship of God and for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ.

For more information click here for "Baptist History in British Honduras."

Emancipation Day Reflection - Queen Street Baptist Church

Information Courtesy Ms. Lisa Rocke The Second oldest church in Belize, Queen Street Baptist Church established 1822. It was recorded by Rev. Henderson that August 1, 1838 Emancipation Day "the Liberated Christians desired to recognize the hand of God in their deliverance. At the quiet hour of midnight the wide folding doors of Queen Street Baptist Church, our place of worship sent forth their blaze of illumination, and as the last particles were dropping from slavery's glass the victims of injustice sought the house of God, to render praise and to spend the first hour of freedom in His worship. Oh, it was a solemn season! A little before twelve, I went down and found the place filled with people and the greater proportion slaves. I laid my watch on the table, sitting down quietly till twelve, when I rose, telling them that slavery was no more with them. Then we all fell on our knees and afterwards rose to sing. Oh, what hearty singing! A member, lately a slave, prayed. Again we sang. Another prayed, and again we sang, and continued till after one. Gladness dwelt on every countenance.”

One of the pastors, Reverend Cleghorn worked and served on many boards in Belize; a few were the Baron Bliss Fund and the Volunteer Guard. Rev. Cleghorn was a member of the Legislative Council in 1924; served as Pastor in charge of the Baptist Mission as of 1901; he served as Mayor of Belize and had the honor of presenting the keys to the City of Belize to Charles Lindbergh, when he landed in Belize in the “Spirit of St. Louis” in 1927. Rev. Cleghorn was also one of the original founders of the Cross Country Bicycle Races, which continues until today. He assisted many other pastors and ministers in taking over for them when they needed to go on “leave”. In his honor a street, Cleghorn Street, was named after him.

Photograph courtesy Belize Abroad

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