From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
Woods Chapel C.M.E. Church History

Woods Chapel C.M.E. Church, Millersburg, KY

(start date: 1870  -  end date: 2019) The beginning date for Woods Chapel C.M.E. Church in Millersburg, KY is 1887, according to the written history  attached to this entry, though there is an earlier history.

The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) Movement was started in 1870 by Rev. William Henry Miles, a Kentucky native. Rev. Miles had been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, a white church. The white Methodist Church, including the church in Millersburg, had had African American members who were enslaved as well as those who were free. According to the written history, it was after the U.S. Civil War that the freemen established their own Methodist Church in Millersburg, but the name of that church has been lost to time. The structure was said to be a log cabin, and the church was organized by Rev. Horace Woods, also a Kentucky native. The year that the log cabin church was established is not known.

Millersburg was a thriving farming community in 1870  with a population of more than 600 African Americans, according to the U.S. Census. The population would continue to grow to almost 1,000 African Americans in Millersburg by the beginning of the 1900s. There would have been the population to support more than one colored church in the community. The churches were directly connected to the African American church leaders; the congregations were quick to respond when there was change.

One of the early changes occurred around 1869. A disagreement of sorts occurred, and Rev. William Henry Miles left the white Methodist Church. Miles had gained a following and held sway over many of the African American churches. He became a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ). Rev. Miles was a founding member of the AMEZ Kentucky Conference. There was an AMEZ Church in Millersburg.

Not all went as planned for Rev. Miles in the AMEZ Church, so he resigned. He returned to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and in 1870 developed the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) as a denomination separate from the white church. This move split the African American Methodist denominations.

The AMEZ Church movement had started in the year 1800 in New York, predating the CME Church Movement by 70 years. The AMEZ Church in Millersburg was one of 12 in Kentucky that left to follow Rev. Miles, thus becoming CME churches. The new CME churches were located in the Kentucky communities  Millersburg, Falmouth, Carrollton, Flemingsburg, Owensville, Glasgow, Sharpsburg, Elton, Frankfort, Burkesville, Greenburg, and Louisville (the Center Street Church) [source: pp. 329-330 in One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, by J. W. Hood].

Within Bourbon County, where Millersburg is located, there had been five Methodist churches, according to the 1870 U.S. Census: Volume 1. The Statistics of the Population of the United States. Table XVIII. Churches, 1870, (Selected Statistics) in Each State and Territory, by Counties. pp. 539-540. The entries do not indicate  which church congregations were white and which were African American.

Rev. Horace Woods was living in Millersburg during this time, listed in both the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census. His last name is spelled as "Wood" in the 1870 Census. Rev. Woods was a 37-year-old farmhand who lived with his wife Sarah and an 18-year-old named Ellen. In 1880, Rev. Woods was a carpenter and said to be about 48 years old, living with his wife and grandson. There is no mention of him being a minister in either of the census records, but it is highly likely that his most profitable occupations were the ones listed in the census records.

The first official church document for the Millersburg church is an 1887 land deed. A white frame building was built on the land at the corner of Fifth and Miller Streets with William McElroy as pastor. The church was destroyed by fire in 1910, so church services were held at the O.B.F. Lodge Hall until the new church was completed in 1913 or 1914. See the attached history for more about the church, pastors, stewards and stewardesses, and trustees.

Church membership books from the early 1900s are within the Nannie Parker Johnson Baker Collection at the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center. Mrs. Baker served as the church secretary and as a stewardess.

Woods Chapel C.M.E. Church officially closed on July 27, 2019. Rev. Arthur Williams, Sr. was the last pastor of the church.

*Data and supplemental materials for this entry were provided by Mrs. Leenora Gray, daughter-in-law of  Nannie Parker Johnson Baker.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Millersburg, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Mt. Sterling Station (Church) [Colored Members]
NKAA Entry: Miles, William Henry

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Woods Chapel C.M.E. Church, Millersburg, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed March 20, 2023,

Last modified: 2022-09-16 17:56:10