History

This history is taken largely from a history of Siloam Presbyterian Church compiled by Stanley M. Douglas for the congregation's sesquicentennial celebration in 1949.

The Siloam Presbyterian Church was founded in 1849 under the leadership of the Reverend Mister James A. Gloucester, a former slave. In 1849, Rev. Gloucester obtained permission from presbytery to organize his religious society into a church, thenceforth to be known as the Siloam Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn. For at least two years prior to that, the group led by Rev. Gloucester had been holding religious services as a mission under the supervision of the New School branch of presbytery. In the beginning, these were held in the Hall Buildings at the corner of Fulton and Cranberry Streets, but in 1849 the work was removed to Myrtle Avenue. During the following year the Society moved to a site at 106 Prince Street, between Myrtle and Willoughby Avenues, where it was to remain for the following 60 years.

During the slavery era Siloam participated vigorously in the Underground Railroad and escaped slaves were provided food, clothing, and refuge. It is a matter of record that John Brown stopped by Siloam enroute to Harper's Ferry and an offering of approximately $25 was raised for him to continue his work.

In the late nineteenth century, the church's Literary Union played a major role in improving civil rights for African Americans. Although it was organized at Siloam and held its meetings there, its ranks included many outside the church membership. The Literary Union successfully waged a campaign against segregation in the public school system, fought for the appointment of qualified black school teachers, and labored to create sentiment for the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

By 1891, Siloam's building on Prince Street had become so dilapidated that it was demolished. After being forced to move from place to place, including a room above a saloon on Myrtle Avenue, Siloam finally secured funds to rebuild on the Prince Street location. Siloam's plans for expanding its new building stopped with the city's announcement of plans for the new Manhattan Bridge approach, which claimed the church site for condemnation. In 1907, Siloam moved out of the Prince Street building and held services in the A.M.E. Zion Memorial Church building for three years. In 1910, Siloam purchased a property at 404-8 Lafayette Avenue, which was left vacant by its Christian Science congregation.

Siloam Presbyterian Church embarked on an era of material and spiritual progress under the long leadership of the Rev. George Shippen Stark, who was formerly at the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church of Princeton, New Jersey. Rev. Stark began his ministry at Siloam in February 1920 and served for 27 years until his sudden death in November 1947. Rev. Stark became vice moderator of presbytery and was twice chosen as presbytery's commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

During Rev. Stark's tenure, Siloam moved from its Lafayette Avenue location to its current building at the corner of Jefferson and Marcy Avenues in 1944. The building, formerly the home of the Central Presbyterian Church, became vacant when Central Presbyterian merged with the Bedford Presbyterian Church. The Central Presbyterian building was relatively new, having been rebuilt in 1936 after an older building had been destroyed by fire on the same site. By buying the Central Presbyterian building, Siloam also moved closer to the growing African American population in Brooklyn that had been spreading eastward toward upper Broadway and southward toward Eastern Parkway.

The militant contest for educational equality and human dignity in the late 1960s assumed national dimension and Siloam Presbyterian Church played a large role.

Siloam's recent pastors have emphasized intergenerational worship as well as evangelism and outreach. Each week Siloam welcomes children into its facilities for scouting programs, head-start programs, Saturday School and Sunday worship experiences. Five days per week Siloam provides help to the least likely through our Deacons Food Pantry and Emergency Shelter.