St. Paul United Methodist Church

ST. PAUL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

1865 – 2014 

In order to plan and work for our future, we must out of necessity pause and reflect upon our heritage. St. Paul has had a very long and very rich heritage. It is the oldest predominately Black church (Methodist, Baptist, etc.) in the city and the second oldest United Methodist Church, with First United Methodist being the oldest.  St. Paul United Methodist Church had its birth somewhere around April or May of 1865.  I say April or May because every document pertaining to our history from various sources all say the same thing, “immediately after the war between the states.”  

However, let us look back prior to 1865. In the year 1844 the Methodist church in the U.S.A. North and South split over twin issues of slavery and episcopacy.  Several Methodist churches in Louisiana had refused to recognize the split in 1844 and continued their affiliation with the Northern Methodist Episcopal Church.  Additionally, there were a number of white missionaries from the north and south in Louisiana, Mississippi to help establish churches and save the lost souls.

The vision of Rev Joseph Samuel (Par Sam) Armstead and some dedicated laymen with the aid of Bishop James M. Fitzgerald, D. D. in 1865, gave birth to what is now St. Paul United Methodist Church.  This history can be placed in three periods:

It appears that around April or May of 1865, Rev. Joseph Samuel (Par Sam) Armstead, Perry Hall, Mrs. Alice Moss,  Isom Hill, William Thomas and approximately ninety (90) other Black members along with approximately 20 plus white members of First United Methodist Church pulled away to set up St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.  They were invited and encouraged to remain members of First Methodist, but the decision was to follow Par Sam and his dream.

COPY OF PHOTO OF FIRST BUILDING USED BY ST. PAUL METHODIST AND
FIRST SCHOOL FOR BLACKS IN THE CITY OF SHREVEPORT

The first church was a one-room frame building (similar to the house next to our present location).  This one room frame building was located within the city limits in the bottoms and the area became known as St. Paul Bottoms, named after the church.  This building also served as the first Public/private School for Black people in Shreveport.  A special thank you is extended to the White Missionaries that taught the little black boys and girls in the school in the daytime.  At night these White Missionaries also rehearsed Black men desiring to become ministers (regardless to denomination) on the Bible in this school.

The Mississippi Mission Conference was organized December 25, 1865 at Wesley Church, 521 South Liberty Street, New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Texas and Louisiana Conference are outgrowth of this conference.  It appears that St. Paul became a member of this conference at its inception.

Someone might ask how did I come up with “approximately” ninety-five Black and approximately 20 plus white members in the first church.  According to the history of First United Methodist Church, and the minutes of our Louisiana Conference, “Black Methodists in Shreveport were members at First Church until several years after the Civil War, sometimes outnumbering whites.  In 1861 the Shreveport church reported to the Louisiana Conference a membership of 79 whites and 80 blacks, and the pastor reported that he had preached to over 300 slaves.”

Additionally, the minutes of our Louisiana Conference reflect that First Methodist Church reported the following memberships.  The year reported is for the previous year.

YEAR “WHITE MEMBERS” “COLORED MEMBERS”

1865   131   135

1866   102       37

1867   106       14

1868   112       17

1870   118       42

1871   120       42

1872   148       42

1873   150           0

1874   153           0

The figures above clearly show a drop of 29 white members and 98 “colored” members between 1864 and 1865.  Otherwise, the figures remain constant.  And these figures correspond with the census figures reported.  In 1840 Caddo Parish reported 2,416 whites, 2,837 slaves and 29 free Negroes.  In 1860 Caddo Parish reported 4,451 whites, 7,338 slaves and 69 free Negroes.  In 1870, it was reported as 5,904 whites and 15,799 colored. 

The second location for St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church was erected in the 600 block of Caddo Street (still within the city limits).  This location was built by Rev. Joseph Samuel (Par Sam) Armstead with the assistance of Brother Caesar Carpenter Antoine from 1869 until 1871.  The bell in the steeple tower became the herald at high noon for the City of Shreveport.  Mrs. Alice Moss continued to serve as the “Mother of the Church” until her death. 

PHOTO OF 2ND LOCATION ST. PAUL PHOTO OF VACANT LOT TAKEN APRIL 17, 2002

METHODIST CHURCH. RECEIVED LOCATION OF ST. PAUL FROM 1871–1926. NOTICE FROM LSU SHREVEPORT LIBRARY THE HOUSE TO THE LEFT IS STILL THERE.

When Reverend Joseph Samuel (PAR SAM) Armstead died October 7, 1908, all church bells in Shreveport tolled in his honor.

Oral history and written documentation confirm Par Sam reached out to a young new member of the church to serve as chairman of the relocating or building committee.  That young man was Brother Caesar Carpenter Antoine. It is interesting to note that while working on this 2nd location of St. Paul, the citizens of Caddo Parish selected him to be our representative as Senator from Caddo Parish.  He did not run for this office.

In 1903 the city legalized the “Red Light District” in the area where the church was located and most of the members lived.  The church continued to minister to the faithful members.

Mr. Lafayette Thomas and Rev. Alfred L. Moore, the father of Miss Willie Mae Moore and Rev. Caria Lea Moore Sneed were class leaders. They told of the things that were done during the year of the yellow fever.  Members were quarantined. To pay their class dues they would hand the money out of the window to these leaders.

Saint Paul United Methodist Church was erected on its present site at the corner of Pierre Avenue and Looney Street during the depression years of 1924 to 1926.  A special recognition must be made to Mr. Benjamin Stephens.  He was a very loyal member and faithful Trustee of Saint Paul Methodist Church.  He made it possible for the membership to build and own the present church through his generous loan to our church.

The Rev. J. A. Williams was pastor.  Rev. J. D. David was District Superintendent; Bishop R. E. Jones was resident Bishop.  The Dedication – Consecration Service was held on Sunday, September 26, 1926, 11:00 a.m.  Mr. Charles L. Thomas, Jr. is the son of one of the first trustees in our present location, Mr. Charles Leon Thomas, Sr.

The “new or present” location underwent a complete renovation for approximately $100,000.00 in 1967.  The church was dedicated on Sunday, December 31, 1967; The District Superintendent was Rev. Jeffery C. Bibbons presiding and Rev. Abraham E. Davis was the pastor.  Thanks to the LSU Library we now have a complete set of those plans.

The most recent restoration including the roof, tower, air conditions, ladies rest room, and work done in the basement is very close to $100,000.00.  There is still more to be done and it will be done over a period of time.  We have come this far by faith, and trusting in the Lord. 

The Rev. Kenneth M. Fisher was pastor.  Dr. William Peoples, District Superintendent; Mr. Robert “Moe” Middleton, District Chairperson Church Extension.  Rev. David McCormick and his son of McCormick Construction Company renovated the roof, tower, and air conditioners, ladies rest room, which cost very close to $100,000.

St. Paul has always been “A NEIGHBORLY CHURCH WITH A FRIENDLY HEART.”  Saint Paul Methodist has always been Saint Paul Methodist and has always been located within the city limits of Shreveport since its inception in 1865.  We are the oldest predominantly black membership church to be established in the city limits of Shreveport.

Reverend Joseph Samuel Armstead was born in 1804 and lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he died October 7, 1908.  He served as pastor of Saint Paul Methodist Episcopal Church from 1865 – 1871.  He served the Louisiana Conference with Distinction; in doing so, he stamped his image of character on many pioneers of the church with whom he worked.

Following in the footsteps of Par Sam include the following:

Rev. Samuel Osburn 1871 – 1874 Rev. Wesley Wells 1926 – 1928

Rev. Joseph Dutch 1874 – 1877 Rev. W. G. Alston 1928 – 1929

Rev. S.E.H. Marsch 1877 – 1880           Rev. H.S.O. Abbott 1880 – 1881

Rev. Calvin Stanley 1929 – 1931 Rev. J. C. Calvin 1931 – 1932

Rev. J. E. Marshall 1881 – 1882 Rev. J. W. E. Bowen, Jr. 1932 – 1936        Rev. Reese Thompson 1882 – 1885 Rev. S.  E. Blacknell 1936 – 1941

Rev. Samuel Davage 1885 – 1886 Rev. Leroy Fields 1941 – 1942

Rev. A.E.P. Albert 1886 – 1887 Rev. A. E. Liles 1942 – 1945

Rev. Price Landry, P.E. 1887 Rev. N. P. Perry 1946

Rev. Valcour Chatman 1887 – 1889 Rev. E. A. Mays 1946

Rev. Price Landry 1889 – 1891 Rev. T. J. McElroy 1947

Rev. T. J. Johnson 1891 – 1892 Rev. J. D. David 1947 – 1952

Rev. Thomas McCary 1893 – 1895 Rev. W.S.P. Norris 1953 – 1960

Rev. Hampton James 1895 – 1896 Rev. Wm. R. London Jr. 1960 – 1963

Rev. J. A. Tircuit 1896 – 1901 Rev. A. E. Davis 1963 – 1974

Rev. H. J. Wright 1901 – 1903 Rev. Richard Harry 1974 – 1977

Rev. W. R. Butler 1903 – 1906 Rev. Nat. Daniels, Jr. 1978 – 1990

Rev. B. M. Hubbard 1906 – 1910 Rev. G. L. Thomas 1990 – 1998

Rev. J. H. Hubbard 1910 – 1915 Rev. Christopher Jones 1999

Rev. J. L. Wilson 1915 – 1919 Rev. Beverly Connelly 2009 – 5/2012

Rev. R. A. Warmsley 1919 – 1923 Rev. James A. Graham 5/2012- 6/2012

Rev. Hubbard Daniels 1923 –  1924 Rev. Bertrand Griffin II 2012 —  2014

Rev. J. Williams 1924 –  1926 Rev. Elenora Cushenberry 2014  —

HISTORICAL FACTS

SIGNERS OF THE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION OF ST. PAUL METHODIST CHURCH

1872 and 1880

Pierre Landry, P. E. (Chairman)

Abraham Mitchell William Longstreet Alfred Johnson

Penny Hall Joseph Cleveland Hernando Daniels

Irvin Walter James Thomas Hartwell Swanson

George Black Levi Brent Samuel Chambers

William Harper John Clark

A Brief Biography of More Recent Pastors

REVEREND J. D. DAVID, 1947 – 1952: Purchased parsonage, paid off note on church; Organized the Young Adults Choir.  Mrs. Ramona David Harbor Gibson is the daughter of Rev. David. (He is also the first minister that I, Alvin Kirk remember at our church.)

REV. WILLIAM SIMPSON PERSHING NORRIS, 1953 – 1960: Paid off parsonage note and initiated the “ANNUAL TEA”; Started Building Fund with Trustees as Supervisors; Completed negotiations and purchased of Lots 40, 41, and 42, Flanagan Subdivision, Shreveport, Caddo Parish; Observance of 88th Anniversary Week May 5, 1957, Special Guest: Rev. T. R. Albert, Rev. N. H. Baker, Bishop J. W. E. Bowen (pastor 1932 – 1936) and Dr. J. S. Scott, President of Wiley College. Dedication of Piano; Mrs. Ruby Carter in memory of Mother, Mrs. Mattie Carter; Organized the Cherubim Choir.  Lead the members in an “EVERY MEMBER CANVAS” within a four-block radius of the church.

REV. ABRAHAM E. DAVIS, 1963 – 1974: Largest Gulfside delegation in the history of the church. Increased church budget and giving of the church. Organized the Male Choral group. Initiated and developed Annual Church Wide Fellowship Program in recognition and appreciation of the contributions of Saint Paul members and officers to the ongoing program of the church and retiring teachers. Church remodeling, including interior and new church furnishings, begun and completed October 1967, at a cost of $100,000.00. Dedicatory service held December 31, 1967.

REV. NATHAN DANIELS, JR., 1978 – 1990:  Reinstated the Annual Harvest Tea in 1978.  A Baldwin Organ console was installed in 1985. An outdoor church sign was donated in memory of Mrs. Mable Lewis Walker and was dedicated December 14, 1986. The church nursery was renovated in memory of Mavis Kay Blake, August 1986. United Methodist Youth donated new flags to the church, March 29, 1987. Saint Paul has scholarship CTE DIXON FUND in memory of the son of Mr. And Mrs. Tom Dixon.

REV. G. L. THOMAS, 1990 – 1998: A gothic window in the front of the church, the two praying hands were donated by Dr. Selcy S. Collins in memory of her late husband, Mr. Leonard Fredrick Collins, who at his death had been a member for seventy- three (73) years. Two Crucifix of Jesus Windows have been donated by Mr. & Mrs. Tom Dixon in memory of Mr. Dixon’s parents, Mr. And Mrs. Willie Dixon and son Cleon and Mrs. Sarah H. Dixon’s Father, Mr. Selma Hunter and by Mrs. Mandura Brown in memory of her husband, Mr. Raleigh Brown.

REV. KENNETH McLAURIN FISHER, 2000 – 2009: Was born September 2, 1941 in the City of Shreveport. St. Paul was truly blessed to have Rev. Fisher assigned and to lead our church over the nine (9) years he was assigned. The first Black to graduate from Centenary College in Shreveport and served on the Board of Trustees for a number of years. He is a graduate of Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta Georgia. When he was assigned to us, we had just experienced a flood with over four (4) feet of water in the basement in 2000. Along with Pat Thomas, Joyce Butler, Alvin Kirk and a few others, restored the basement to a useable condition. In 2008 when we had another flood with six (6) feet of water in the basement, he worked with Alvin Kirk as the bottom level was totally stripped and all new supports and walls were installed. This was when the wall next to the kitchen was removed and the kitchen was enlarged.   He has personally raised the choir stands with the help of Tom Dixon and restored the Altar and front of the church to its proper presentation.  Additionally, he personally built the new speakers and re-designed our sound system.  He continued to serve as pastor and leader after he had retired to help St. Paul financially. Recognized as Pastor Emeritus upon retirement from St. Paul.

REV. BEVERLY H. CONNELLY, 2009 – May 2012 : Pastor Beverly is an Ordained Elder assigned to St. Paul in June 2009. She earned her Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina.  She came to us from Wesley and Bonchest United Methodist Churches in Mansfield, LA. Additionally she served in the Pool of Siloam Medical Ministries as a pastoral care counselor. Prior to that she served as a hospital chaplain for three years earning an APC Certified Chaplain. St. Paul continued to grow under her leadership as she brought in several new members as our Shepherd and Leader. New carpet as well as new doors have been added to the offices. Whenever she served as a guest speaker at other churches, not only do our members follow, members from Wesley and Bonchest United Methodist Church were present in large numbers.

REV. JAMES A. GRAHAM, MAY 2012 – JUNE 2012:   Rev. Graham started his ministry in the basement of St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church in the year 1970 as the Director of Shreveport Metropolitan Ministries of the Methodist Church. He received his B.A. degree from Clark College; M.A. from Atlanta University and went on to receive his B.D. AND S.T.M. from Interdenominational Theological Center (Gammon Theological Seminary) in Atlanta Georgia. He reminds several of the members that St. Paul never had any problems with flooding as long as he worked in the basement. He was the last person ordained in the Louisiana Conference “B” and it happened to take place at St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church. He was also in the first class of the United Methodist (merged conference of Louisiana Conference “A” and “B” in 1971) Church ordained an Elder. After serving as pastor of several churches, he retired in 2011 from Asbury and Emmanuel United Methodist Churches in Natchitoches. He also served as the conference Chairman of the Board of Church and Society from 1976 – 1980 and 2008 until 2012. He came out of retirement to assist and give St. Paul leadership until a new pastor could be assigned. 

REV. BERTRAND GRIFFIN, II, 2012- 2014;  A native of Louisiana where his Father served as a member of the Louisiana Conference. He is a graduate of The ITC Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta Georgia. It makes sense that the title of his first sermon at his first assignment, Red Oak Griffin United Methodist Church (UMC) – a 40-member congregation in Griffin, Georgia would be “Where Do We Go from Here?” He has been asking that question of himself ever since he decided to give up a lucrative career as a scientist to pursue his calling to the ministry.

He was bitten by the preaching bug back in 1998 while working as an analytical chemist. Asked to speak as a layperson at his church, the “preacher’s kid” decided that “a 20–minute sermon wasn’t enough time for me to say everything I wanted to say to God’s people.” Ever since, he hasn’t been able to say no when asked to speak at churches.

After being assigned to Red Oak UMC, Griffin, GA in January, he was later in July 2009 assigned to Free Liberty UMC in Williamson, GA. He served both churches until being called back to Louisiana.

 He transferred to us from the Georgia Conference in 2012 where he still pastored Red Oak Griffin United Methodist Church in Griffin and Free Liberty United Methodist Church in Stockbridge, Georgia

Reverend Doctor Elenora Mackey Cushenberry, 2014 – : Dr. Cushenberry was born in Happy Jack, LA as the 2nd oldest of 4 siblings. In January 1981, she became active in her local church, The Historic Trinity United Methodist Church (now The Historic Haven Trinity) and in the community working with various local churches and organizations’ outreach programs. After attending Spencer Business College, Southern and Loyola Universities in New Orleans, she received her Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Science in Counseling degrees from the latter. Answering her call to ministry in 1994, she began the certification process towards becoming a Local Pastor. 

In the Fall of 2000, she matriculated at Gammon Theological Seminary, a constituent seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. At the June 2008 Louisiana Annual Conference, Dr. Cushenberry was ordained as an Elder in Full Connection. In May of 2009, she was awarded the Doctor of Theology in Pastoral Counseling from Gammon Theological Seminary/The ITC.

During her residency in New Orleans, Dr. Cushenberry was an employee of the State of Louisiana and later Loyola University New Orleans. She believes that God will fulfill God’s purpose for us; that God’s steadfast love endures forever; and that God will not forsake the work of God’s hands.

The majority of the information above was gathered and recorded by Miss Willie Mae Moore and Reverend Caria Lea Moore Sneed, both daughters of Rev. Alfred L. Moore. Thank you Mr. Charles L. Thomas, Jr. and Mrs. Estella Thomas Allen for the wealth of knowledge you have shared. I thank you for the times we sit and talked with Mr. Thomas. A special thank you is extended to Mrs. Marjorie Wright in the Archives of Centenary Library; Mrs. Domenica Carrier in the Archives of LSU’s Noel Memorial Library; Shreve Memorial Library System, to include Mrs. Patricia Serguson and Mrs. Virginia Walker, both in the downtown research department; The Broadmoor Branch research section, Miss. Kahalia Barley. 

A portion of this history was also secured from the “Becoming One People by Walter N. Vernon; The Black Side of Shreveport by Historian Willie Burton; The History of St. James United Methodist Church 1863 – 1984 by Mr. James C. Teague, Church Historian; Minutes of the Louisiana Conference.

Current members of our founding fathers and mothers still worship at St. Paul, testifying to the vision of Rev. Joseph Samuel (Par Sam) Armstead that God’s given hand remains on St. Paul UMC.

AR Kirk

Alvin R. Kirk, Member since 1944

Updated July, 2014 

“This one room frame building was located within the city limits in the bottoms and the area became known as St. Paul Bottoms, named after the church.  This building also served as the first Public/private School for Black people in Shreveport.”

Can we count on you?