The Historic St. Peter A.M.E. Church

The History of St. Peter A.M.E. Church

Bishop Richard Allen and His Wife Sarah

In 1850, a group of Christian freedmen of color, bonded men and women who believed that all men should be privileged to worship God according to the dictates of their spirit and conscience, began worshipping in a little house under some oak trees. It was located at Prytania and Walnut Streets, Jefferson City, Jefferson Parish — now New Orleans, Louisiana. Believing in the principles as laid down by Richard Allen, who founded the A.M.E. Church, they worshipped there for quite a while and grew large in numbers.

In 1858 at a nearby location, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Jefferson City (white), Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, permitted the African Methodists to worship in the church basement. However, the white congregation held their services upstairs in the sanctuary. During that year the church was damaged by a storm and the black people helped to repair the building. The same arrangement for worship remained. As time went on leading up to the Civil War, strifes surfaced and the blacks were not permitted to worship in the church basement anymore. In the 1860's the African Methodist group assembled in a house at Plaquemine and Bordeaux Streets which was a few blocks from the (white) Methodist Episcopal Church.

After the war, the African Methodist group was incorporated in Jefferson City under a Louisiana State Status of Corporation, enacted in 1849.

The first church site was purchased on March 25, 1867, when Mr. Theodore Henry, freeman of color, sold two lots of ground together with the buildings and improvements thereon and all the rights, ways, privileges and advantages, situated in the Parish of Jefferson, City of Jefferson and State of Louisiana — designated by the numbers 13 and 14 in square number 40, which is comprised within Coliseum (formerly Plaquemine Street), Chestnut, Bordeaux and Valence Streets. Said lots adjoined each other and measured 25 feet front on Coliseum (formerly Plaquemine) Street by 100 feet in depth between parallel lines. The purchase price was $400 cash. The trustees of the A. M. E. Church of Jefferson City were Messrs. Silas Walton, Wilson Johnson, George Washington, Hubbard Haynes, and Nelson Buckner. The pastor was the Rev. H. Parks. As time went on the membership grew and a larger church was needed.

In the latter part of 1876 the membership of the (white) Methodist Episcopal Church of Jefferson City had grown larger and they moved into a new church (Rayne Memorial United Methodist) which is presently located at 3900 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, formerly Jefferson City.

On March 31, 1877, the (white) Methodist Episcopal Church of Jefferson City sold the church to the African Methodist Episcopals of Jefferson; the church is located at 1201 Cadiz Street, corner of Coliseum Street (the present church site). The trustees of the (white) Methodist Episcopal Church of Jefferson City were Messrs. James D. Parker, President; John G. Parbam, Secretary; William H. Foster, John A. Randolph, Frank A. Parker, Charles S. Desque, and Edward P. Merrick, the vendors. Rev. Lazarus Gardner, pastor of the African Methodist Church of Jefferson City, with the approval of the trustee board signed the act of sale as the vendee. The purchase price was $4,000 with a $500 down payment at 8% interest rate. The act of sale included three certain lots of ground together with all improvements thereon, rights and privileges, situated in the City of Jefferson, Parish of Jefferson in the State of Louisiana, located in the square bounded by Coliseum (formerly Plaquemine Street), Perrier, Cadiz and Jena Streets and designated by the number one, two, and three. Said lots adjoin each other and measure each, thirty feet front on Coliseum Street by 100 feet in depth. The church still stands and bears the name of St. Peter African Methodist Episcopal Church (1201 Cadiz Street).

The church is a major structure in the community, as it is the oldest surviving church in the community formerly known as Jefferson City. Its doors are open to all who come.