Barton, John Pembroke

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John Pembroke Barton

Minister, evangelist

In order to foster a greater sense of community John Pembroke Barton organized church groups and other organizations to support ideas and promote positive change. As an active member of the Baptist church, he organized the first District Sunday School and the first State Sunday School Convention. After being ordained as a minister, he organized the first Woman's Missionary State Convention in Alabama. Barton's insight and planning laid the foundation for these key institutions in the African American community. Guided by his interest in therapeutic healing Barton amassed a comfortable fortune. He was able to provide care to as many as ten thousand persons.

Born on November 27, 1845 in Franklin County, Alabama, John Pembroke Barton spent his early years in slavery. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Barton ran off from his master and traveled the Union line. In 1863 he received instruction from Dr. R. F. Dyer, a surgeon in the 104th Illinois Infantry. After the Civil War came to a close in 1866, Barton purchased a home in Johnsonville, Tennessee, but later he returned to his birthplace in Alabama to farm. He was baptized in 1871 in the Little Zion Baptist Church by Reverend W. E. Northeross of Tuscombia, Alabama. Finally in 1872 he settled down and became a clerk for the Baptist Association. On February 9, 1875, Barton married Ruth Ann Jacobs.

As clerk for the Baptist Association, Barton became a key person in organizing and developing various groups. He organized the first African American District Sunday School in the United States. It was held in Tuscombia, Alabama in 1874. Barton also organized the first Woman's Missionary State Convention in Alabama. Recognizing the need of the community Barton bought land in Tuscombia and established the first African American city school. He taught at the school for four years and then entered Ministerial Institute in Montgomery, Alabama. As Barton's commitment to his work grew, so did his spiritual development. In 1877 Barton completed his studies at the Ministerial Institute and was ordained as a minister. From 1879 to 1886, he served as the minister for Mt. Canaan Baptist Church. He continued his studies at Talladega College and graduated from the theological department in 1892, receiving his divinity degree in 1900 from Guadalope College in Seguin, Texas.

Barton's style was easy and impressive, and his leadership abilities were further supported in his roles as chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Colored Deaf and Dumb Asylum of Alabama and as president of the Alabama State Convention. He was known as an energetic leader and was well liked. Although he resigned as pastor in 1900, his lectures and speeches inspired many people. His work led to the organization of eight churches and five houses of worship. Barton became a very well-known evangelist. He baptized more than 3,000 persons, and united over 2,500 couples in marriage. With the success of the District Sunday Schools, Barton organized in 1874 the first U.S. Sunday School Convention in Union Springs, Alabama. Barton was also involved in the National Baptist Southern Convention and was president of the Alabama Colored Baptist State Convention from 1893 to 1899.

Barton was known for his love of science and as a ready and generous helper. He was also interested in the process of physical and spiritual healing. He took courses in therapeutics at Weltner Institute in Nevada, Missouri, and completed his studies on March 20, 1900. Barton became a practitioner in suggestive therapeutics. He provided treatment to persons at home, in their offices, or by mail, and amassed a comfortable fortune in the process. Mailings and announcements regarding Barton's therapeutic treatments consisted of pamphlets such as Barton's Road to Health and Prosperity. His clientele numbered well over ten thousand.



Boothe, Charles Octavius. The Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama: Their Leaders and Their Work. Birmingham: Alabama Publishing Co., 1985, pp. 117-18.

Who's Who of the Colored Race. Vol. 1. Chicago: Who's Who in Colored America Publishing, 1915, p. 21.

                                    Lean'tin L. Bracks


Born in Franklin County, Alabama on November 27
Leaves slave home
Learns from R. F. Dyer, surgeon in 104th Il. Infantry
Clerks for Baptist Association
Organizes first colored District Sunday School in U.S. at Tuscumbia, Alabama
Marries Ruth Ann Jacobs
Ordained as a minister
Organizes first Woman's Missionary State Convention in Alabama
Graduates from Theological Department, Talladega College
Organizes first U.S. State Sunday School Convention at Union Springs, Alabama
Receives divinity degree from Guadalupe College, Seguin, Texas; completes course in therapeutics at Weltner Institute, Nevada, Missouri