African Methodist Episcopal Church
110 Aiken Street
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Joshua Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church
This text was organized during application to the Texas Historical Commission for a state historical marker. The specific author is unknown.
In 1866 an African Methodist Church was organized in a farmhouse about ten miles outside of Waxahachie. This was so soon after the Civil War that blacks were afraid to hold public meetings, and due to this and the impossibility of proper guidance and lack of money the church failed. It was ten years later, in 1876, that another A. M. E. Church was reorganized in Ovilla. There were fifteen families in this communion. The church moved into an old school building in Waxahachie across the street from the present A. M. E. Church on Aiken Street.1
In 1879, the present plot of land was purchased by three ministers, the Reverend Monroe Conner, the Reverend M. Lowe and the Reverend Joshua Goins for three hundred dollars from Cyrus Aiken.2 The building was moved from across the street, and the church was named Joshua Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of their first minister, Joshua Goins. He was known as the "father of African Methodism in Texas," having organized forty-one churches and built fourteen during his lifetime.3
In 1916 the Reverend W. O. Boyd became the pastor of Joshua Chapel. He realized the need for expansion. The present red brick, two story building was erected. It was built by W. S. Pittman, architect, and C. R. Powell, contractor, for the sum of four thousand eight hundred. Both men were from Alabama. Mr. Pittman was the son-in-law of Booker T. Washington. The church was referred to as the New Joshua Chapel. In 1917 the cornerstone was laid with this inscription: G. R. Powel, contractor; W. S. Pittman, contractor; the Reverend J. A. Jones, presiding elder; the Reverend W. O. Boyd, pastor. Trustees were William Richardson, J. H. Flowers, A. Duke, T. J. Frierson, Maury Munchus, T. J. Johnson, F. G. Drake, I. Oliphant, and Henry Ritchie.
The seating capacity of the sanctuary is approximately four hundred. Beautiful stained glass, arched windows were installed at center back of choir loft that raised upward with rope and weight. Two choir rooms were built one on each side of loft. Arched stained glass windows were installed in sanctuary, the top set in, and lower stained glass windows pushed out, also two long rectangular windows as are shown in picture. Two small dark oak doors were installed leading into each side of vestibule. Three isles lead from front doors to alter. The altar is of fir wood finished to look like oak. There are three levels (circles)--kneeling and sacrificial fast table carved in light oak, baptismal font, ministerial rostrum, and then the choir loft. Steps up each side are oak and posts are all of so1id oak. Walls have oak finished fir wainscoting; upper walls painted white. The pulpit stand is beautifully carved and is of oak as well as accompanying chairs.
In 1919 the church faced a financial crisis. The note on the church was being carried by the Dunaway Brothers of Waxahachie. They chose to dissolve their financial business and wanted the church to clear up the note. T J. Frierson and Maury Munchus, both trustees, made offers to take up the note. The trustees chose the Munches offer. The note was sold to him.4 The church paid him monthly. After his death his wife continued to carry the note until it was paid.
In 1937 the Reverend H. L. Boyd, son of W. O. Boyd, who built Joshua Chapel, was sent to pastor the church. In 1938 the note was paid in full.5
The Reverend R. N. Reed was sent to Joshua Chapel in 1944. The church needed to expand. Mr. Reed initiated plans to complete the first unit of the church, which up to that time vas simply an empty space under the sanctuary. The undercroft is large enough to seat two hundred and fifty people. Besides this large room, a kitchen, classrooms, rest rooms were built.
Another cornerstone was laid with this inscription: New Joshua Chapel. Completed October 14, 1945. The Reverend Randolph Reed, pastor; R. S. Jenkins, presiding elder; Right Reverend George B. Young, bishop; F. G. Drake, Lee Hawkins, L. Childs, M. Love, A. Nunn, R. Davis, J. H. Robertson, L. Driver, R. Borders, trustees: J. W. Scales, J. H. Robertson, E. F. Finley, C. S. Bass, F. Mormon, Joe Wedgeworth, N. Kindred, S. P. Payne, W. Jackson, E. Jones, R. Jackson, stewards.
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From time to time internal alterations have been made for the convenience and comfort of its members. Beginning in 1964 under the administration of the Reverend Mr. W. L. Davis and continuing 1975 under the Reverend Mr. Johnson a pastor’s study, an usher room was built. Heating and air conditioning systems were insta1led. Repairs were made to the foundation. Pews and pulpit furniture were moved to undercroft and new pews and furniture was installed (same wood and style), and carpet was added. Mr. Carrol Davis, builder, and Mr. Joe Wedgeworth, cabinetmaker, did the building and repairs to this church.6
Several changes have taken place in recent years. The original oak doors were replaced due to a request by a local funeral director because it was so difficult to get large caskets in and out the doors. Doors were replaced with glass doors to make more room as requested. Also, the lower stained glass windows behind the choir loft have been carefully boarded for protection until repair and replacement of some of the glass is made. A mural now covers this portion of the arched windows. Also the lower part of windows in the sanctuary have been replaced with clear glass, (shown in picture).
Joshua Chapel is the only African Methodist Episcopal Church in Waxahachie. It has been a great asset to the people it has served. It has been blessed with intelligent ministers who have encouraged education among the members. These members have become outstanding doctors: Will Haywood, V. O. Becks, James Hillman, J. E. Munchus, Katherine Haley and James Haley. Dedicated ministers produced by Joshua Chapel are O. A. Mitchell, Edward Gibson, W. T. Moore, Rafe Simon and Jack Harbert. Three of the principals of black public schools have been members: Robert Davis, E. B. Wedgeworth and E. D. Finley.
This church was used for many years for graduation exercises and baccalaureate services for the young people of the black community of Waxahachie. School plays and programs were presented here. Ministers and board members have reached out to help the citizens of the black community. During the ministry of the Reverend W. L. Davis a community clothing board was organized, also Penn Park Little League Baseball Club. Living conditions were bad in the community so plans were made to build apartments to accommodate lower income families. A board was selected: Carrol Davis, Joe Wedgeworth, Lebert Gibson, David L. Johnson and Henry Robinson. Name for this project was Joshua Gardens Apartments. This complex was partially financed by the Housing Authorities of Washington, D. C. The apartments were completed for a cost of eight hundred sixty two thousand six hundred one dollars and sixty-eight cents.
Joshua Chapel A. M. E. Church has served its people well for over a hundred years. It is recognized for its beauty and historical significance in Waxahachie. It has been opened to the public during the Gingerbread Trail. It has received a Waxahachie City Historical Marker. The Reverend I. B. Wells is being very careful to preserve the history and the program of worship has never varied from the discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.7
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1 "Descendents of Minister Lives Here”, Waxahachie Dally Light, Nov. 18, 1965, p. 7.
Interviews by researchers with many descendents of early members.
2 Index to Deeds, Ellis County Records. 1845-1875 A. E. Grantors. Vo1 127, page 204.
3 "Waxahachie Daily Light, 1890, page 2.
4 Church Minutes of Joshua Chapel A. M. E. Church.
5 Bulletins verifying celebration, 1938.
6 Church Records. Reports from officers of church.
7 The Book of Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, p. 112.