Round Oak (ssblackcommunities)

Around 1868, a small group of Black residents in the Spencerville area met in the home of Robert Taylor, a local tenant farmer, with the intention of establishing a new church to serve the spiritual needs of the families settling in the area shortly after Emancipation.  Together they constructed a small house of worship along current-day Good Hope Road, near its intersection with the Spencerville road, on property formally conveyed to the congregation in 1872.

The pioneering parishioners named their church Round Oak Baptist Church, reportedly for the large, round oak trees that stood on the small church lot.  Robert Taylor became the first pastor, and he and a few other founding members cut down one of the oak trees for lumber to erect the first church building.

As more Black families established homesteads on small plots of land surrounding the church, a number of new community-minded features appeared.  A graveyard was established circa 1885.  Around the same time, the Rising Sun Lodge was organized to provide for the community’s social and charitable activities.  Additionally, the members of Round Oak helped establish the first Black school in the Spencerville area, with classes held in a separate structure.  Students from Black neighborhoods, including Good Hope, Holly Grove, and Smithville, traveled miles to attend classes in the Round Oak school.

In the 1920s, Black families in the area donated money and land to erect a new schoolhouse, funded in part by a grant from the Rosenwald Fund, created by wealthy merchant Julius Rosenwald to aid in the education of Black students throughout the South.  Located south of the church on the east side of Good Hope Road, the Rosenwald School served the community until 1951.  Later it was converted into a recreational center operated by Montgomery County, then torn down to make way for a parking lot.

As the community continued to grow in the years after World War II, the church required a larger building to house its expanding congregation.  In 1947 dedication services were held in a new house of worship, constructed near the old building.  The second church continued in use until 1982 when the current brick church was dedicated.

The earliest buildings associated with the church and the community have disappeared.  The graveyard remains as a reminder of the area’s 19th-century beginnings.