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St. John Baptist Church

The church is significant because it represents the earliest period of the African-American community of Dorseyville.

St. John Baptist Church
Photo: Capital Resource and
Conservation Development Council

St. John Baptist Church is a large frame building located in the small rural African-American community of Dorseyville. Built between 1871 and 1875, the church is significant because it represents the earliest period of the African-American community of Dorseyville.

The town of Dorseyville takes its name from Reverend Bazile Dorsey, the first pastor of St. John Church and the recognized founder of the community. Surrounded by sugarcane plantations, the village developed in the years immediately following the Civil War as a place for black agricultural workers to live.

According to a cornerstone in the church, St. John was organized in 1868 and incorporated on September 19, 1869. The community was sufficiently established to appear on Mississippi River Commission maps of 1879-80. By 1893, local children had a school, thanks to the efforts of St. John Baptist Church under the leadership of Reverend Dorsey.

Although there is no written record of the founding of Dorseyville, it seems likely that it grew up around St. John's, given the early founding of the congregation and construction of the church building. Expressing the high aspirations of newly freed African-Americans, St. John's stands as a reminder of the pivotal role of the church in the African-American communities. St. John Baptist Church is a basilican plan building five bays deep with a second story gallery on three sides of the interior.

The basic form and appearance of St. John Baptist Church is related to rural Greek Revival churches of the mid-19th century, possessing a clapboarded structure with tall windows, a partial entablature and a forward facing gable. However, unlike this prototype, St. John has a three-stage entrance tower at its center, which is largely Italianate in detailing.

Although the church has experienced some change over the years, almost all modifications have been on the interior or to the rear. The exterior looks much as it did when the building was completed.

St. John Baptist Church is located at 31925 LaCroix Rd. at State Hwy. 1 in Dorseyville, eight miles south of Plaquemine. The church is open for church services, and by appointment. Contact Harriet Tillman at 225-687-4029. .