The Dartmouth Lake Church was organized in 1844. Like many of the churches of the African United Baptist Association, it was established by Rev. Richard Preston, a liberated slave from Virginia. It was also referred to as the African (or Coloured) Meeting House.
After the death of Rev. Preston in 1861, the church was one of the many pastorates of Rev. James Thomas. It suffered from dwindling membership during the latter part of the nineteenth century, due to its distance from the centre of town and to an increasing exodus of Black people from the area. The church was pastorless between 1893 and 1895, when Rev. James Borden began his years of service. Rev. Borden was a son of the church, and his ministry in Dartmouth was a very successful one. It appears his congregation was quite large. In 1905 some 90 persons were baptized on two separate occasions.
In the early years of the twentieth century the Dartmouth Lake Church was destroyed by fire. In 1906 Christ Church (Anglican) offered to its congregation their old Sunday School building, which was gratefully received, and removed to its present site on Victoria Road in downtown Dartmouth. Henceforward, the church was known as the Victoria Road United Baptist Church.
For several years after the death of Rev. Borden the church was once again without a minister. In 1916 Rev. S. B. Kempton, the retired former pastor of First Baptist Church, Dartmouth, assumed the task of leadership, and carried on faithfully until his death in 1918. Rev. Kempton was blind, and was assisted by many faithful during his tenure at First Baptist and Victoria Road. During this period two members of Victoria Road were “Women at the Well,” the group which established the AUBA provincial Ladies’ Auxiliaries.
In the early years of the century, children from Victoria Road attended Sunday school at St. James (Presbyterian) and Christ Churches because none was organized there. These years also witnessed the last burial in the old graveyard near the former church site on Crichton Avenue. This was apparently that of Mr. Isaac Smith who was interred there sometime between 1917 and 1920. (In the late 1970s construction of and around the MicMac Mall unearthed remains from the old burial ground. These were gathered, and, at a special service of commemoration, were re-interred across the street from Victoria Road Church in Christ Church cemetery.)
In 1919 Victoria Road called Rev. Wellington States, who ministered faithfully until his untimely death in 1927. Rev. States was beloved and respected by his flock, and during his years there greatly extended the church’s participation in the African United Baptist Association. He revived the Sunday School and renovated the building and turned it around. He was an accomplished carpenter and did much of the work himself. After his death, a son of the church, Lic. K. M. P. Tynes, ministered at Victoria Road until his ordination and call to Zion Baptist Church in Truro. In 1932 Rev. A. N. Morgan took on part-time ministerial duties at Victoria Road, and served for three years.
Victoria Road was unfortunate in having no full-time, permanent pastor for nearly twenty years following the death of Rev. States in 1927. However, the congregation was pleased to have many godly men conduct services and bring God’s Word through the years. The doors of the church have always remained open. The services of the following during this period are acknowledged with gratitude:
Lic. W. B. Thomas;
Lic. A. B. Smith of First Baptist Church, Dartmouth, who rendered faithful service;
Rev. W. A. White of Cornwallis St. Baptist Church;
Rev. A. A. Wyse of the Preston area churches;
Rev. W. H. Elgee of First Baptist Church;
and various students from Pine Hill Divinity College.
We should acknowledge the deacons and members of Victoria Road who kept the faith, and carried on during these years of tribulation, for, without their witness and commitment, the church doors may not have remained open. And don’t forget the women, who, under the leader of the former pastor’s wife, Mrs. Muriel States, gave great (although unacknowledged) leadership, and, in fact, were the backbone of the church.
In 1942 the church called Rev. H. Donald Thomas as its minister. Under his leadership it conducted a week of one hundredth anniversary celebrations in June of 1944, shortly before he enlisted in the army, leaving the church once again pastorless. The first hundred years of Victoria Road United Baptist Church were eventful, and the congregation continues today by God’s grace.