Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs, Religion

Church home, no. 7: Center Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Statesville NC.

My grandmother:  She was a great Methodist. And she would come down occasionally to go to church, you know.  Have on all them taffeta skirts, and they were shirtwaisted skirts, you know.  And she was pretty, honey.  Have you ever seen any of her pictures?

And another time:

Where did they have that funeral?  They must have brought her down and had her in, at the Methodist Church in Statesville.  She belonged there.  She would come Saturday, get up Sunday morning, honey, and put on those taffeta skirts with those pretty blouses and lace all down the front and ‘round there. 


I had not planned to go to Sunday School. I was on my way home for Christmas and stopped in Statesville just to look for Harriet Nicholson Hart‘s church. I suspected that Center Street AME Zion Church was the same as Mount Pleasant AMEZ, which still meets, but my internet search was inconclusive.

The morning was dreary and chilly when I pulled into a space across from the church. I had snapped a couple of shots with my phone when I saw a woman step from an SUV in the parking lot. “Excuse me,” I called. “I’m looking for Center Street AMEZ.” She tilted her head toward the church behind me. “This is it,” she said. “It’s called Mount Pleasant now.” I explained that my family had been members of the church a hundred years before and my great-great-grandmother had been funeralized there in 1924. We chatted for a couple of minutes, and after asking if I might peek inside, I followed her through a side door — straight into Sunday School.

A junior pastor was addressing a small gathering of adults, and I — acutely conscious of my jeans and hoodie — took a seat just inside the door. As he spoke on the necessity to reach out to youth, I discreetly glanced around. In the nave, dully gleaming brass organ pipes stretched nearly wall-to-wall. At the back of the sanctuary, a large arched tripartite stained glass window brightened the pews. At an opportune time, I introduced myself and expressed my joy at joining in a service at a church that had been so important to my family at one time. “What were their names?” “Nicholson and Colvert and Hart,” I said, “and other family lived in the neighborhood. My great-aunt was Louise Colvert Renwick.” There were nods of familiarity and expressions of welcome.

I slipped out before too long and paused again as I reached my car to gaze back at the building. A woman hurried around the side of the church, calling out for me to wait. She was the pastor’s wife and she had a small gift — a card and a CD of hymns. “Thank you for visiting,” she said. “We’re so glad you found us.”


IMG_4579Mount Pleasant AMEZ Church today, corner of South Center and Garfield Streets.


Center Street AMEZ Church, Sanborn map of Statesville, 1918.


Interviews of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.


10 thoughts on “Church home, no. 7: Center Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Statesville NC.

  1. Pingback: A bird’s eye view. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

  2. Sando S. Ware says:

    I’m very happy to see a great church like this under the AME Zion denomination. I’m a member the Bicentennial AME Zion church in Liberia.

  3. Patty Arteaga says:


    I’m posting on behalf of the Smithsonian Museum on Main street ( and we would love to use a photo of yours on this posting of the outside of the facade of the church. It’s for our new exhibit titled Crossroads: change in rural America, that is set to travel across the US starting in September. Please get back in touch with me to further speak about the particular information.

    You can reach me at or through my work phone at 202 633 5343. Thank you!

  4. An ancestor of mine has a connection to this church. Reverend Martin VanBuren MARABLE. Any information relating to his work for (now) Mt. Pleasant AMEZ Church would be appreciated. MANY THANKS for the content posted!

  5. George E Frink says:

    I grew up attending this church, 1952-1961.
    It is wonderful and fulfilling to see it is recognized as historical and protected.

    Does information exist concerning designers, builders, and donors; moreover, the future of the church?

  6. Vivian Brawley Williams says:

    Thank you for stopping by my church Lisa. Mount Pleasant A.M..E. Zion church was established on March 3, 1868. Sidney Smith Murdock and Alfred Bailey along with their wives Eugenia and Marie purchased a half -acre of land from a Mrs. Bell for $5. Two framed church buildings were built on this spot before the current brick structure which was built in 1903. The church will be celebrating 154 in May, 2022. If you are in the area, please stop by again.

    • Thank you for the invitation! Such a beautiful historic space. Do the church’s membership records survive? I’d love to know more about my great-great-grandmother’s church life and whether other family were also members.

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