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  • Description is exactly "This is volume I of a collection of items related to Church Springs ME/ St. Paul AME Church. Florence historian Lee Freeman notes: "Church Springs Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church/St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Florence’s oldest black congregation, was founded ca. 1839 on lot no. 311 on Court and Bluff Streets by slave and free members of the Methodist Church (now First Methodist) with assistance from several white trustees of that congregation. The first building was a brick cow barn built by the Hon. John McKinley purchased in 1857 from free mulatto barber John H. Rapier, Sr. (1808-1869). It was referred to as the "African Church" or the Zion African Church" but apparently chose Church Springs as its official name as the public spring ran through a corner of its property. Its first pastor was a slave of the Lightfoot and Childress families named Robert "Robin" Lightfoot (ca. 1791-1864) who was martyred in 1864 by men in Col. William A. Johnson’s 4th AL Cav., CSA, apparently for reckless behavior and/or agitating against slavery. At some unknown point Church Springs ME Church officially affiliated with the AME Church (founded in 1816 by blacks who had formerly been members of the predominantly white ME Church) to become Church Springs AME Church.

    The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1870 when several African-American congregations still affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church, left to found their own communion of churches. This new communion attempted to appropriate existing AME Church properties, as evidenced in June of 1871 when William H. Miles, a bishop of the CME Church, attempted to claim as belonging to his church the existing Church Springs church and property in Florence. This caused apprehension on the part of the trustees at Church Springs who worried if they opened their doors to ministers of the North Alabama Conference which was convened in Florence their church and property would be taken from them. To that end Church Springs trustee Sydney De Priest, grandfather of future Republican Illinois Congressman Oscar S. De Priest, published a letter in the Florence Journal explaining the church's position.

    In July of 1880 Church Springs moved to 103 W Alabama Street, on the corner of Court and Alabama into the old Fant Wool Factory (ca. 1820-1895) and changed its name to St. Paul AME Church. In August of 1895, during the pastorate of Rev. NL Edmondson, after sleepers under the floor collapsed at WC Handy’s mother Elizabeth’s (1854-1895) funeral, a new sanctuary, which was designed by local mulatto barber and musician Constantine "Constant" Perkins, Jr. (1870-1942), was built on the site. This building was torn down in 1967 and St. Paul moved to Cherokee Street; it is now known as Greater St. Paul AME Church. WC Handy’s family were affiliated with St. Paul, as was Handy’s eccentric teacher Prof. Young A. Wallace (1848-1937). "

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