St. Paul United Methodist Church (Paris, KY)
The St. Paul United Methodist Church, located at 1117 High Street in Paris, KY, is thought to be the oldest African American Methodist church in Kentucky. The original building was constructed in 1858 when the church was named Cottontown Methodist Church. On the attached 1861 map, the church is noted as Af M E Church [African Methodist Episcopal Church] and Colored Methodist Church in "Cotton Town." Cottontown was located in Bourbon County on Maysville Road 68 (today East Main Street). The cottage homes there were originally built for factory workers. African Americans lived in Cottontown just beyond the railroad overpass heading toward Millersburg, KY.
In June of 1876, a tornado destroyed the [Cottontown] Colored Methodist Church. The tornado, which struck around 6:30 p.m. also destroyed 10-12 homes. The news of the tornado was reported in the National Republican newspaper in Washington, D.C., 6/24/1876, p. 1. [Available full-text online at the Library of Congress]
The church was rebuilt at 1117 High Street. The rebuilding effort was led by Rev. George Downing, who, around 1859, also served as pastor of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church located on the east end of Water Street in Lexington, KY, according to Williams' Lexington [Kentucky] Directory, 1859-60.
The Cottontown Methodist Church in Paris was rebuilt and renamed St. Paul Methodist Church. At some point in the 1870s, there was a new pastor, Rev. George W. Hatton from Maryland, and during his tenure, the church was renamed St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church.
Rev. Hatton (1842-1914) was a veteran and civil rights activist. In 1880, he led a group of men who were standing up for William Giles when they claimed the Civil Rights Act of 1871 had been violated because there were no African Americans on the grand jury that indicted Giles. The group of African American men formed the Bourbon County Protective Union of Color with Rev. Hatton as the first president.
Rev. Hatton later left Paris. "In 1885, he was pastor at St James AME Church here in Danville, and it was under his pastorship that the church building was completed and opened. George Hatton died in Oxon Hill, MD 16 May 1904, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery." This quotation comes from Mike Dennis, Head of Publicity at the Danville Boyle County African American Historical Society, Inc. In 1890, Rev. Hatton was in Louisville, KY, where he was co-editor of The Champion newspaper with Horace Morris. For more see Ta-Nehisi Coates, "George W. Hatton's Long Road," The Atlantic (online), 1/20/2011.
The St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church belonged to the Lexington Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (established in 1869). Andrew Bryant (d. 1870), from Paris, was one of the founding members of the conference. Several years before the conference was formed, Rev. Bryant and Rev. George Downing were credited with 60 conversions, 60 additions to the church, and 32 baptisms at the close of the 5-week Methodist revival in the African Church in Lexington. Source: Annals of Southern Methodism for 1855, edited by Rev. C. F. Deems, 1856, Chapter IV - Reports of Revivals, pp. 108-109. In 1884, more than 6,000 people attended the Colored Methodist celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Methodist Church that was held at the fairgrounds in Paris.
In the mid-1880s, the St. Paul Methodist Church in Paris was referred to by different names in the media. In 1886 the official name was St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church property is noted on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky. A copy of the map page is attached to this entry. The church is on lot 38. Sources: "Religious," Semi-weekly Interior Journal, 7/18/1884, p. 3; and Source: "Religious," Semi-weekly Interior Journal, 11/26/1886, p. 3.
The Colored Methodist Conference was held in Paris in 1889, with 200 ministers in attendance, according to reports. During the conference, Ben Kellis was killed when he and John Page had a disagreement about a pew seat. Source: "The Colored Methodist Conference...," The Climax, 4/03/1889, p. 2. A decade later, the Colored Methodist Conference was again held in Paris. Bishop John. H. Vincent from Topeka, KS, opened the conference. Source: "Bishop Vincent coming," Bourbon News, 3/03/1899, p. 5.
In 1890, the cornerstone was laid for the second African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). [This may have been Shorter Chapel AME.] Bishop Wayman officiated at the ceremony. This gave Paris two colored Methodist churches. The first church (on High Street) was said to have a membership of 1,500.
The following year, Rev. L. M. Hagood was named pastor of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. Hagood, who was also a medical doctor, had come to Paris from Cincinnati, OH, where he had been pastor of Union Methodist Episcopal Chapel at 171 John Street. There is a photograph of Rev. L. M. Hagood in the New York Public Library Digital Collections. The image was taken from his book The Colored Man in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. Hagood had left Paris by 1908 and when he was in Indianapolis, IN. Sources: The Evening Bulletin, column one, last paragraph, 4/30/1890, p. 3; and Rev. L. M. Hagood listed on p. 508 in Williams' Cincinnati Directory, June 1888 (Ancestry).
There were 91 Colored Methodist Episcopal organizations in Kentucky in 1890. The two churches in Bourbon County seated 500; the churches had 420 regular members. The two church properties were valued at $4,400.
Within Bourbon County, there were five Methodist Episcopal organizations with four churches and three Methodist Episcopal Church, South organizations with three churches. Sources: 11th Census - Volume 9. Report on Statistics of Churches in the United States. Denominations. Mennonites, Methodists. Statistics of Churches, Table 2, Methodist Episcopal, By counties, p. 510; and 11th Census - Volume 9. Report on Statistics of Churches in the United States. Denominations. Methodists. Statistics of Churches, Table 9, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, By counties, p. 585.; Table 13, Colored Methodist Episcopal, p. 604 & 606.
In 1911, there was a fire at St Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church (Box 31). A small blaze was caused by the engine of the steam heater in the church. Rev. J. B. Redmond was the pastor. Source: "Small fire at Colored Church," The Bourbon News, 12/29/1911, p. 5. In 1920, Rev. Redmond, who had been the Lexington District Superintendent of the Colored Methodist Church, was reassigned to a church in Cleveland, OH. Rev H. M. Carroll of Lexington replaced Rev. Redmond as the District Superintendent. According to the 1920 U.S. Census, Rev. Redmond and his family lived at 436 Williams Street in Paris.
Also in 1920, Rev. T. L. Ferguson left St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church to take charge of Mt. Zion Church in Cincinnati. Rev. Wood of Louisville replaced Rev. Ferguson, who had been pastor of the Paris church since at least 1917 when the cantata "King Alcohol" was presented at the church. The group that organized the cantata was encouraged to repeat their performance at the local opera house. The actors who took part in the cantata were Ms. Daisy Hitch, Mrs. Louise Ayers, William Barton, Homer Nutter, Lula Seals, and Artie Thomas. Dr. J. W. Mebane was the chorister and conductor; Christine Mebane, pianist; Maceo Bishop, pipe organist; Dr. J. H. Sebree and Mrs. C. D. C. Mebane, violinists; and George Becket, a saxophonist. Sources: "Changes in ministry," The Bourbon News, 4/16/1920, p. 8; and "King Alcohol," The Bourbon News, 8/17/1917, p. 4.
Rev. Richard Hughes was the pastor of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1943. Sources: Paris Daily Enterprise, 1/10/1943. See other references to Rev. Richard Hughes at Kentucky African American Griots: 1943 "Colored Notes" Paris Daily Enterprise. Contributed by Mary Hatton, Transcribed by Lora Washington.
In 1968, the Methodist Churches were no longer segregated. The United Methodist Church was created from the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical Brethren Church, ending the segregation of the African American congregations. The merger took place at the General Conference in Dallas, TX.
For more information and a fuller history contact St. Paul United Methodist Church in Paris, Kentucky.
*See Shorter Chapel AME Church on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky, 1907, attached to this entry.