Located on the corner of Craven and Charles Street, Tabernacle Baptist Church was an annex of the Beaufort Baptist Church in the years prior to the Civil War. The individual stories of its earliest leaders Renty Fields, James Snipes, June Harris and Cornelius Singleton combined with the church’s connection to Beaufort’s most famous inhabitant, Robert Smalls all point to a fantastic legacy hidden for years behind its modest exterior. Not only is Tabernacle the oldest African American church in Beaufort it was where Harriet Tubman and Colonel James Montgomery went to plan the Combahee Ferry Raid. It’s across the street from where Harriet Tubman was rumored to have had her wash house during the Civil War and a bust of Robert Smalls sits facing Craven Street flanked by the graves of other former church members and leaders. After the Union Army took Beaufort in 1861, Tabernacle would get its first pastor, the missionary, Solomon Peck. He was reportedly, “…the first missionary on the ground.” His efforts, as well as, the efforts of the missionaries that would follow him would be the model used for similar communities all across the country.
During Reconstruction, Tabernacle’s Deacons would become some of the most influential African Americans in the state and subsequently, the nation. Their work would shape the destinies, for good or bad, of African Americans for generations following the Civil War.
Source: Beaufort, South Carolina: A History by Alexia Jones Helsley (2005)