Third Baptist Church was founded in San Francisco in the milieu of the Gold Rush days and its attendant instability. In an attempt to impact the cultural and spiritual life in the growing city of San Francisco, in August 1852, The First Colored Baptist Church of San Francisco was established. The church was founded in the home of William and Eliza Davis, on Kearny Street. With the Davis’s, there were seven other Black persons-and a band of devout Christian founders: Abraham Brown, Thomas Bundy, Thomas Davenport, Willie Denton, Harry Fields, George Lewis, and Fielding Spots.
For seven years, the church, under the leadership of Rev. J. H. Kelly, enjoyed the rare experience of community pride and worship.
Between 1852-1856, there was no pastor. Supply ministers, mostly white, conducted services in the homes of members. This arrangement changed in 1856 with the arrival of the first African-American Pastor, Rev. Charles Satchell of Cincinnati: a graduate of Oberlin College and a leader of the Abolitionist Movement (A total of 17 African-Americans have pastored Third Baptist). Although Rev. Satchell pastored the church for only several years, he brought to San Francisco a history of social-political activism and the church began a period of decided growth. To enhance its visibility and viability as a church, Satchell conducted a public baptism at the foot of Stockton Street in the Bay for a few new members. He was able to strike a balance between social activism and personal piety.
Following Rev. Satchell’s pastorate, there was a period of frequent changes in leadership and also years when there was no pastor. Based upon sporadically kept records, there was a succession of ministers serving the Third Baptist congregation for the first eighty. Nonetheless, amidst the frequent changes of leadership, Third Baptist maintained the singular Black Baptist presence in San Francisco until the early 1940’s.