The dusty town of Spokane Falls, Washington Territory, was booming with railroads, timber and mining in the late 19th century as black settlers came looking for opportunities and a place to call their own. One settler, the Rev. Peter Barrow, who was born a slave in 1840, helped found Calvary Baptist Church in 1890. It was Spokane’s first black church. The congregation met in a series of buildings before settling into a wooden church at 213 E. Third Ave. In 1919, the tiny congregation called the Rev. Emmett B. Reed, who advocated building a new brick church on the corner of Cowley Street and Third. Construction was under way as the Great Depression hit, but the congregation persevered, finishing the church and paying it off by 1939. The sturdy building became a hub in the African-American community, including as a meeting spot for the local NAACP chapter. In 1944, the church built a small parsonage between the old and new churches for Reed. As for Reed, he became known, according to historian Janet Hauck, for visiting Spokane stores and restaurants that posted “No Colored Patronage Solicited” signs and demanding their removal. He led the congregation until his death in 1961.
– Jesse Tinsley
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