HISTORY OF ST. PAUL A.M.E. CHURCH
Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1869, in the home of Samuel and Violet Williams, parents of Ada Braddock Bracy. The Williams’ residence was located on the southeast corner of Forsyth and Stuart Streets. Their home served as the worship center for one year. Included among the founding members were: Samuel and Violet Williams, Ada Braddock Bracy, Milus and Lydia Franklin, Alvin Franklin, and Julia Macon. This small congregation raised funds to acquire land for the construction of the first physical structure. In 1870, land was purchased in the center of Jacksonville (near the St. Johns River) at Johnson and Ward (later renamed Houston) Streets. Here, the first church building was erected. This structure was built of natural materials, consisting of grass, palmetto leaves and bushes. The pews were made of wooden planks with no backs and kerosene lamps illuminated the many night services held during the early years. This edifice was called the “Bush Arbor.”
“On March 15, 1870, under the leadership of Saint Paul’s first pastor, Reverend John R. Scott, Sr., construction of the first frame structure began.”
In 1883, Reverend P. B. Braddock built the first masonry structure. This sanctuary was the first masonry church owned by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the State of Florida. Additionally, Reverend Braddock became a Presiding Elder in the, Jacksonville District and materially assisted the Reverend W.C. Ross in establishing the Divinity High School, which later became Edward Waters College. Saint Paul was remodeled in 1906, under the pastorate of Reverend James Bennett.
Saint Paul experienced rapid growth in membership between 1912 and 1937. Ministers who served during this period were: The Reverends Robert Alexander Grant, who was elevated to the position of Presiding Elder and later, elected and consecrated the 50th Bishop of the AME Church, Solomon G. Baker, T. W. Carter, C. H. Boger, Henry M. Collins, James D. Jennings, and James Murray. Under the pastorate of Reverend W.B. Loving Clark, which began in 1932, a housing complex for senior citizens was erected.
The rich legacy of Saint Paul includes the following pastors, who served between 1937 and 1956: The Reverends Carey A. Gibbs, who in 1948, was elected and consecrated the 70th Bishop of the AME Church, T.W. Bullard, Raymond A. King, who was positioned as a Presiding Elder, and David A. Russell.
Under the pastorate of Reverend David A. Russell, Saint Paul was moved from its original site at Johnson and Ward Streets, to 2225 North Myrtle Avenue. The new church was a towering two-story brick structure. The sanctuary was housed in the upper level. The lower level provided facilities for educational and social activities. The new sanctuary had a seating capacity of 852 and solid oak pews graced the area. Magnificent stained, glass windows of diverse religious figures and symbols adorned the upper walls.