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St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church

A Brief History

The first facility to be referred to as St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated on February 1-2, 1895. 

In the early 1800’s, Mr. Charles Macon, Sr. came to Bartow from Attapulgus, GA with a white farmer with whom his family lived until they built their own home.  There was not an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bartow at that time.  Then, Mr. Macon, along with the help of C.C. Johnson, F. Hall, H. Burkett, L. Sims, R. Smith, J.C. Longworth, W.M. Wiley, and J.M. Perry, sparked the founding of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church.  In the beginning years, the Macon home was where prayer and other types of services were held.  In 1889, they erected a small frame building as their first sanctuary.

The cornerstone for the first church building was laid in 1894 with the appropriate ceremonies under the pastorship of Rev. M.R. Mitchell.  At that time, the name of the church was St. James A.M.E. Chapel.  The church’s membership increased rapidly.

As the membership increased, it was not long before the old building deteriorated.  The recreational plot that the membership had enjoyed had to be used as the site for the new building.  The membership started making pledges toward a new building under the pastorship of Rev. C. J. Oates, Sr.  As other Pastors were sent to St. James, the work of building the new church moved slowly, but surely.  In 1954, Rev. T. S. Johnson was sent to pastor St. James.  With God’s guidance and the help of dedicated members, the church – St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church – stands as a monument for the glory of God and the spiritual service of the community.

In October 2008, St. James received its first female Pastor, the Reverend Shirley A. Williams (now Williams-Hayes).  Other Pastors who have served at St. James are:  Rev. Stephen Peck, Rev. M.C. Ross, Rev. J. Edward Connelly, Rev. James Hannans, Rev. Jimmy J. Thompson, Rev. Harry Dawkins, Rev. Raymond J. Heastie, Rev. Nolan T. Pitts, Rev. Bennie Johnson, Rev. Lucius Dorsey, Jr., and Rev. Shirley A. Williams-Hayes.

Today, we can proudly say that St. James is “remembering the past, possessing an inheritance, and leaving a legacy of spiritual, social, and economic empowerment for the next generations.”


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