Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church
Founder Jeremiah Fitzgerald, a native of Danville, Virginia, arrived in the city of Pittsburgh in 1880. A devout Baptist, Fitzgerald was surprised to find only three people of his religious belief within the confines of the East Liberty section of the city. Those three people were Wilmore Johnson, Alexander Barbour and William Dangerfield.
For approximately three months, Mr. Fitzgerald attended the St. James A.M.E. Church, never losing his desire to reunite with his beloved faith. He began to attend Antioch Baptist Church, becoming acquainted and beginning a strong friendship with Mrs. Melvina Dent. From this amicable relationship, a small group, holding spirit-filled prayer services, began to gather at the home of this beloved Christian woman. Located at the corner of Sheridan and Bethel Place, these prayer services began the growth and unfolding of stirring historical events within East Liberty’s Baptist community.
During one of the Spirit-filled meetings, police arrived, breaking up the meeting and arresting Jeremiah Fitzgerald. Charged with disturbing the peace of the neighborhood, the humiliation forced the group to move their meetings to the home of Mrs. Thomas Ransome. Determined, the small Baptist group began the bold, courageous process of organizing a church in which they could freely practice the faith burning in their hearts. The staunch assembly, meeting on a Friday night in May 1885, consisted of members Jeremiah Fitzgerald, Thomas and Annie Ransome, Wilmore Johnson, Alexander Barbour, William Dangerfield, Samuel Loveless and Amanda Holmes.
On the first Sunday in May, 1885, the Salome Baptist Church opened its doors in the 6400 block of Penn Avenue. Rev. Willis Duvall of the North Side of Pittsburgh was called to pastor the newly-formed church, serving approximately 3 ½ years. During his service to the church, a split occurred, causing a reorganization.
Serving approximately 3 ½ years of dedicated service through 1892, Rev. Duvall’s vacancy paved the way for Rev. R. S. Gibson of Charlottesville, Virginia. Rev. Gibson’s service was also short, serving only three years before accepting a call to Plainfield, New Jersey. For the next three months, the pulpit of Salome Baptist Church was vacant.
Later that same year, Rev. O. S. Simms arrived from Halifax, Virginia, to serve the Salome Baptist Church. Within one year of accepting the leadership, the aggressive visionary moved the congregation from an old leased hall to a newly erected frame building that is located on the site of the present church site. A name change occurred, and the 900 seating capacity church was now known as Rodman Street Baptist Church.
But it was not long before the congregation outgrew the capacity of the church, making it necessary for the erection of a larger church. The present building was erected with a seating capacity of 2,200. Since the completion of the worship facility, more than 3,000 persons were added to the church rolls…with nearly 2,000 members claiming baptism by Rev. Simms.
Some thirty years later in the 1922, ill health forced the retirement of Rev. Simms; however, the progressive minister, who led a phenomenal movement to the Kingdom of God, also left the church in favorable financial condition.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16