Historic church destroyed by fire

Published 9:02 am Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bethlehem Baptist Church, the oldest African American church in Bogalusa, burned to the ground early Sunday.

A passing witness, John Robertson, reportedly saw smoke coming out of the back end of the church, which included the kitchen, and knocked on the door of nearby resident William Foster Jr. to ask him to call the fire department.

Foster said that by the time he made the call and got back outside the church was engulfed in flames. It was approximately 4 a.m.

“It couldn’t be saved,” he said.

The fire department reportedly got to the scene within two or three minutes and managed to keep the fire from spreading to the church gymnasium, which is just next to the church building.

Pastor Christopher Matthews said the congregation numbers approximately 250 people. He said they would meet on the slab at the corner of the church property at 11 a.m.

The church moved from the old Mill Quarters to the now burned building on E. Seventh Street in 1958, Matthews said.