Following the close of the slave era, it was left up to the newly freed people to do many things for themselves that were once provided for them. Such was the case of those in the lower part of Robeson County, south of Ashpole Swamp. In this group were some devout people with many concerns. They were interested in a place of worship as well as a school for their children. Two of the couples who worked hard to bring this into reality were Moses and Susan Ford, and Joseph and Harriett Gaddy.
The number "8" stands for new beginnings according to Biblical history. So it is appropriate that in January of 1888, trustee Joseph Gaddy was able to secure this site for a church. By November of 1889, the Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was completed. Today, 131 years later, the descendants of those pioneers of faith still maintain this light in the valley. From this humble, spiritual beginning, we have been bonded together in the spirit of God under the leadership of some very noble disciples for Christ. Many changes and progressive movements developed under several ministers who shared their spiritual leadership for this sincere, God-fearing congregation.
Under the pastoral leadership of the Reverends Luke Gaddy, T.J. DeBerry, C.C. Miller, and G.A. Gore, a more modern structure was built in the late 1920's to early '30's. For this cause, homesteaders such as Richard and Chessie Ford, Arthur Ford, Vink and Betty Gaddy, Robert and Francis Nichols, Arthur and Ellen Page, Willis and Betty Ford with their families and others contributed their time and resources to make their "dream church" become a reality.
According to historical records, St. Paul has been served by very spirited Presiding Elders, such as Reverends W.H. Capehart, J.D. Carnes, D.L. Grady, C.L. Stephens, R.H. Green, H. L. Ingram and L. E. Humphrey, and Rev. Evelyn Dunn who is our current Presiding Elder. The pastors include Reverends Barum, Brown, Walker, Williams, and T.D. Morris.
Recent pastors who served during the 20th and 21st centuries are:
1927-29 Rev. Luke Grady
1929-32 Rev. T.J. DeBerry
1932-34 Rev. C.C. Miller
1934-36 Rev. G.A. Gore
1936-40 Rev. William Fairley
1940-44 Rev. A.A. Thompson
1944-45 Rev. T.D. Morris
1945-47 Rev. Chase
1947-55 Rev. Fred Foy
1955-56 Rev. Young
1956-57 Rev. J.E. Holmes
1957-59 Rev. D. Fields
1959-61 Rev. J.C. Grady
1961-66 Rev. James Mack
1966-1975 *Rev. Arthur L. Byrd
1975-1982 *Rev. Artie Odom
1982-85 Rev. W.T. Ennett
1985-88 *Rev. Arthur Jenkins
1988-90 Rev. Richard Davis
1990-93 *Rev. Charles Davis
1993-1994 *Rev. Teresa Lawrence
1994-1995 *Rev. J.A. Richburg
1995-2004 *Rev. Johnny Richards
2004-2006 Rev. Alexander Davis
2006-2007 *Rev. Atty. Carolyn Sims
2007-2015 *Rev. Jesse Peacock, Sr.
2015-2018 *Rev. Erica Price-Pollock
2018-Present *Rev. Freda Humphrey
|* Still Living|
Being a circuit church, Fairmont Circuit, worship services were held only once per month each second Sunday. Sister churches that composed the circuit at that time were St. John, and Mt. Pleasant. During the period 1956-1960 when Rev. J.E. Holmes was pastor, we became the St. Paul Circuit (Mt. Pleasant, St. Paul, and Macks Chapel). During the pastoral leadership of Rev. James Mack (1961-1966), we became a two-church circuit (Mt. Pleasant and St. Paul). We were able to have worship services bimonthly. With steady growth, the church became station in May 1988 with the appointment of Rev. Richard Davis, pastor.
St. Paul Public School, which was located on a plot adjacent to the church, worked hand-in-hand with the church for future growth and development. This being a one-room school with one teacher, the church served the school for its special events. One of the teachers, Miss Maggie Hollingsworth, in 1938 formed a choral group within the school that later became the first choir of the church. Sister Francis Nichols loaned them a piano. Miss Hollingsworth also served as the church pianist. Since its beginning, the choir has undergone many changes. Under the leadership of Brother John A. Gaddy, the first piano was purchased. Community resource persons were used as pianists until one of our own, Bernice Page Evans, was able to fill the position.
Under goal-directed and good leadership the church has made additions and improvements for the safety and comfort of the members and public. During the pastoral leadership of Rev. A.L. Byrd (1966-1975), under supervision of the Board of Trustees (Brothers Robert Page, Henry Gaddy, Sr., Clyde Gaddy, Elmer Nichols, Sisters Ellen Page, Dorothy Nichols, and Evelyn Gaddy), and members, the church was renovated. Through this project, the church was bricked, a dining area added, making it a more modern edifice for the glory of God. A very productive and spiritual Junior Choir, under the leadership of Sisters Cecil Gaddy and Dorothy Nichols, came into existence during Rev. Byrd's tenure. Also the A. L. Byrd Club was formed and it has become the St. Paul Alumni Scholarship Foundation.
A modern fellowship building was erected in 1992. This structure was dedicated June 21, 1992 while Rev. Charles Davis was pastor. Rev. J.A. Richburg appointed the first official Minister of Music in September of 1994, in the person of Sister Karen Williams Clark. In 1995 the section of the church that formerly served as the dining area, was changed to form classrooms, an office, and a lounge area for the women.
The 21st Century
The church continues to be one "on the move." During his tenure, Rev. Johnny Richards established the Report Card Club. The office was wired with telecommunications and desktop publishing necessities. A website was established by Sis. Judy Nichols-Wilson in July of 2002, thus making the church accessible worldwide! A van was purchased for the church’s use in May of 2003.
In 2007, Rev. Jesse Peacock unveiled the memorial stone. This cornerstone serves as a monument of remembrance for church founders. The church also upgraded the pastor’s facilities by relocating the office to its original location and installing private accommodations. Office equipment was updated to include multi-media equipment. These resources now enable a concurrent video broadcast of the services, for viewing in the fellowship hall.
In 2011, the renovation of the sanctuary was completed to include additional restroom facilities, and a remodeled and extended sanctuary. On December 17, 2011 the new work was dedicated by Presiding Elder Evelyn Dunn.
In 2019, guided by a vision of future expansion, the trustees purchased the Ricky Lee Irby property on behalf of the church. Sis. Karen W Clark revived the church website and we continue to connect with the world!
The Church Sunday School has furnished a variety of activities that provided spiritual guidance for countless numbers of young minds. Some of the superintendents who served were: Brothers Richard Ford, J.P. Arnette, John A. Gaddy, Sister Magnolia Gaddy, Brother Daniel Paisley, Henry Gaddy, Jr., and the present Superintendent Brother Julius Gaddy.
We are thankful to God that we are able to acknowledge our great heritage. Let us continue to build up this Zion through God's Amazing Grace. Time and space will not permit mentioning names of all contributors but may we all be blessed and recorded in God's Historical Record.