The founding of Calvary Baptist Church is rooted in the Civil War era of American History. Sunday, October 8, 1865, Citadel Square Baptist Church organized the first African American Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C. with a written charter. On Tuesday, October 10, 1865 Calvary was founded under the pastorate of Rev. Charles Smalls. The original name of the church was The Baptist Church in Charleston, however, to distinguish it from other Baptist churches, it was also called the Colored Baptist Church.
The original administration of Calvary Baptist Church was:
Reverend Charles Smalls – Pastor
Trustee and Chairman of Deacons – D.D. McAlpine
Deacon R.A. Cuttino
Deacon J.R. Prioleau
Deacon, Trustee and Secretary- B.H.R. Reeder
Trustee and Treasurer – J.D. Freelain
Trustee – A. Washington
Calvary originally shared the same place of worship with Morris Street Baptist Church, which was organized during the same year.
In 1867, some of the members of Calvary left and formed Salem Baptist Church. Calvary’s remaining members moved out of Morris Street Baptist Church in 1868, under the leadership of Pastor Gibson, to 172 Smith Street and worshiped with Shiloh AME Church for several years. During this time Calvary saved enough money to purchase property for its own sanctuary. Monday, June 15, 1868, Calvary purchased two lots in the Rickersville area, from Citadel Square Baptist Church, to use as a place of burial. The lots are located on Mechanic Street, in the modern day Memorial Baptist Church Cemetery.