Meet Our Founder, Richard Allen
The History of Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church
In 1873, Reverend Richard James saw the need of leading a small flock into organizing and building the first St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church on Maria Sanchez Creek where the Willie Galimore Recreational Community Center is now located. His son, Lawrence, being a follower, assisted his father in the realization of this dream. Thus they erected a small 10x12 foot building as a place of worship. The first Church in which the members could worship, was then opened.
The membership soon outgrew the capacity of this structure and Reverend James, with the cooperation and assistance of members constructed an addition to the building. The congregation worshiped there until 1888.
During the year 1888, a Building and Loan Association of this city made an attractive offer to the congregation. It was to erect a suitable building for the church that would reflect credit upon the rapidly growing membership. The members felt equal to the task and under the pastorate of the Reverend J. H. Hill, the officers and loyal members contracted with this Building and Loan Association for a lot on School Street and a commodious stone church. Payments were to be made regularly in quarterly installments, but God had not promised the sunshine without rain. It began to rain on the congregation for a short period of three years and in 1903, while the Sunday School was in rehearsal, agents of the company that built the church ordered the participants to vacate the building. The doors and windows were sealed. This was evidence that the officers and members had not kept their part of the agreement and the owners repossessed the building.
This was indeed a sad time for the members. Many of them became discouraged and drifted here and there, but a few undaunted ones congregated on the lower level of the Benevolent Hall on St. Francis Street. The rain began to cease and a new day dawned for their beloved church.
During the month of January 1904, the lot where the present structure stands was purchased from William and Frances Van Dyke for a sum of $1000.00. This included a two-story frame building fronting St. Benedict Street. New hope was awakened in the hearts of all as a result of this wonderful accomplishment. The Reverend E.F. Williams had been assigned to pastor the church and it was under his leadership that the present Church was built. He is remembered as the architect and builder of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. At the ground breaking, a morning prayer was uttered: "Upon this spot God's Church is built and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." New hope was awakened in the hearts of all as a result of this wonderful accomplishment. Every member and well-wisher gave freely and willingly of their time and money to erect the church that they would own upon completion.
Reverend Williams served the congregation for four years and six months, leaving them to worship in a beautiful, brick-veneered church, free of all indebtedness. The church has continued to grow and remain relevant through the years.