Fishermen's Hall (Galilean Temple)
With African Americans no longer enslaved in the turn of the century, many African Americans looked for organizations or places where they could prosper. Many of them joined churches and organizations where they could loudly express their thoughts and bond with their peers. The Galilean Temple was built in Charles Town on June 6, 1885. The Galilean Temple, now known as Fishermen's Hall, was built for African Americans; specifically the local tabernacle of the Grand United Order of the Galilean Fishermen. The Galilean Temple also encouraged Black enterprise in Jefferson County.
The restored Galilean Temple now known as Fishermen's Hall.
The restored Galilean Temple now known as Fishermen's Hall
Fishermen's Hall before and after restoration.
Backstory and Context
Fishermen's Hall contributed to the economic growth of African Americans during that time period. The building functioned as an African American community center. Organizations like The Star Lodge Masons, John Brown Elks, Knights of Pythias, American Legion Post #63, church services all met in Fishermen's Hall. Organizations like the Star Lodge Masons were composed of free African American men and functioned as a fraternal organization. Many showmen and comics like Silas Green who were widely popular at that time in the African American world came to Fishermen's Hall.
Many elders of the Charles Town community have stated that it was very hard to integrate in a region that had originally wanted to stay with the Jim Crow south of Virginia, but was included in West Virginia formed in in 1863. A lot of the organizations that were housed in the Galilean Temple met for the purpose of the advancement of colored people. During the twentieth century, many African Americans did not voice their opinions about segregation in public because of the fear of harm to their families or themselves. Jefferson County was not a place that was known for its segregationists ways like Birmingham, instead people just knew their social roles, and they knew not to cross racial boundaries. The Galilean Temple functioned as a safe haven for the African American community of Jefferson County.
Today, the building is known as Fishermen's Hall and it has been restored by the African American Community Association of Jefferson County. Senator Robert C. Byrd contributed to the restoration of Fishermen's Hall in 2009. The building was created in the center of the African American Community of Charles Town by Dogtown and Big-End. Many African Americans still live by Fishermen's Hall in the present day. Fishermen's Hall is centrally located in the Charles Town African American community.
Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. Jefferson County West Virginia African American Heritage Trail. Ranson, WV: Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society, n.d. Print. Jefferson Couty Black History Preservation Society Inc. African Americans of Jefferson County. Charleston: Arcadia, 2009. Print. Rissler, Jane F. Personal interview. 28 Nov. 2014. Jefferson County Museum Smock, Ray. "African American Heritage Trail in Charles Town,WV." Www.byrdcenter.org. N.p., 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.
West Virginia Tourism. African American Heritage Trail (A History of Strength- A Legacy of Achievement). South Charleston, WV: West Virginia Tourism, 2013. Print.