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Wood River Baptist Association Conference Attendees, Peoria, Illinois, c. 1943-44.

Second Baptist Church choir.

Second Baptist Church Junior Ushers Board, C. 1963.

The New Second Missionary Baptist Church on Old State Road in Mattoon, Illinois. The church was built in 1997 under the leadership of pastor Cyprus Hughes.

The Old Second Missionary Baptist Church, 2520 Shelby Avenue, Mattoon, Illinois. The church was founded in 1868. The original church was destroyed by a tornado in 1917. This structure was rebuilt in 1921 and remodeled in 1966.

Rev. and Mrs. T.J. Jackson of Second Missionary Baptist Church, Mattoon, Illinois, 1963.

Another area in which African Americans secured employment in Coles County from the nineteenth century onward was the railroad system. The railroad system attracted new residents to the area. Of significance is the fact that the emergence of Mattoon in the 1850's was attributed to the crossing of two railroads, the Illinois Central and the Terre Haute and Alton railroads. Commenting on the impact of the railroads on the growth of Mattoon, Russell T. Willingham observed that,

In 1852 not a single dwelling existed where Mattoon now stands. Because of the construction of the Illinois Central and the Terre Haute and Alton railroads, Mattoon came into existence. Both railroads established yard facilities, shops, and terminals for road crews. The crossing of these railroads gave service east, west, north and south, for mail, passenger and freight... The railroads furnished transportation to Coles County for the people, mail, raw products from the farms, raw products to the manufacturing plants in Mattoon. In addition a labor market was established which benefited Mattoon by furnishing a large payroll by establishing employing large numbers of people in the industry. The large numbers of people in the industry. The employment continued until the 1950's when diesel locomotives replaced steam power. (43)

Between 1851 and 1883 five railroads were constructed throughout Coles County. These were the Terre Haute and Alton, the Illinois Central, the Grayville and Mattoon, the Paris and Decatur, and the Charleston, Neoga and St. Louis lines. (44) African Americans worked as porters and laborers on these railroads. Whitmal asserts that "between 1890 and 1914 there was a large increase in the number of black men working in trade and transportation industries. A large portion of these jobs were with the railroads. Throughout this time black men did the rough outdoor labor or worked as porters." (45) The existence of the railroads attracted a significant number of blacks to Mattoon. Hence, African American population has remained higher in Mattoon than anywhere else in the county. It is without doubt that African Americans were an integral part of the Coles County railroad system.

In conjunction with economic survival, African Americans in Coles County strove to maintain social cohesion by relying on each other and their institutions. One of those institutions was the church. As John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., have concluded, "Perhaps the most powerful institution in the black world was the church. Barred as they were from areas of social and political life, African Americans turned more and more to the church for self-expression, recognition, and leadership... It stimulated their pride and preserved the self-respect of many who had been humiliated in their efforts to adjust to American life." (46) The notable black churches in Coles County are the Log Church established in Brushy Fork, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Second Missionary Baptist Church both in Mattoon. As of today, very little information exists on the Log Church. All that is known is that the church provided the black residents of Brushy Fork a space where they interacted with one another, discussed common issues, found solutions to problems, and celebrated their triumphs. The church was a sanctuary far removed from the influences of the neighboring white community.

Black residents in Mattoon were also not left out of the need to create a separate space for their church congregation. Before the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church was established, a group of blacks were first given religious instruction on Sundays by a group of Presbyterians in 1864. But because they preferred Methodism, on October 1, 18656 they elected trustees and chose the corporate name of African Methodists Episcopal Church. Under the direction of Rev. William J. Davis of the Indiana Conference, the church was established in Mattoon. To honor Rev. Davis' contribution to the church, it was named Davis Chapel. At the onset, the church did not have a permanent site. As a result, the congregation met in different locations in Mattoon. But "through the friendship with Mr. Ebenezer Noyes [one of the first white landowners in Mattoon], John Powell Sr. [an African American] succeeded in getting Mr. Noyes to deed a lot for the first building in 1877. The lot was located at 2321 Dewitt Avenue." (47)

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