St. Paul CME Church
Organized 1857
Property Deeded 1870-1877
147 Years of Christian Service
by Harrell Lawson

Most churches trace their founding to several key events occurring over a period of time. The St. Paul CME church we know today traces it founding back to at least three events in the 1800’s.

The first key event occurred in 1857 when a group of slaves on the Dickson Plantation, a short distance from the present location of St. Paul, expressed a desire to fulfill their Christian yearning and worship God in an organized manner. Since they were the property of David Dickson and his mother it was necessary for them to receive permission before worshipping. The Dicksons granted permission and a group of slaves began worshipping under a brush arbor on the Dickson Plantation sometime in 1857. The story relating this sequence of events has been passed down thru the years as part of the oral history of the church.

This event was also documented in the Church Register/Family Bible of John Edd Dickson at a time when some of the original founders and members were still alive to corroborate the founding date. In this document John Edd Dickson, who is buried in the church cemetery along with his family and a long line of descendants, also records that he joined St. Paul in 1881 and notes the pastor was Rev. Martin.

The next key event occurred in 1870 when the church founders purchased land for a sanctuary to enable the congregation of former slaves who had been free since 1865 to move their worship from the brush arbor to a more suitable location and also provide for the burial of their dead. The first of two deeds was recorded in the Hancock County courthouse in 1870 conveying property from the former slave owner David Dickson to a group of his former slaves. The price on the first deed was one-tenth of the price on the second deed dated 1877. There is no explanation of why two deeds exist and why there is a price difference. The property conveyed in those deeds is the present day location of St. Paul CME Church and cemetery. This property also contains a building previously used as a school for the secular education of the youth of the community and as a meeting place for Masons and a burial society founded by St. Paul members in the early 1900’s. The original trustees named on the deeds included Julia Francis Lewis Dickson, Gilbert Castleberry, John C. Lewis, and others. Descendants of all three are still active members and officers of St. Paul today. John C. Lewis’ descendants are currently Chairman Of the Steward Board, Chairman of the Trustee Board, Treasurer, Secretary and Assistant Treasurer and represented on each board in the church. A descendant of Gilbert Castleberry is Chairman of the Trustee Board. Julia Dickson’s descendants are in the choir, Usher Board, Steward Board, Stewardess Board and Trustee Board.


Julia Francis Lewis Dickson
Original Trustee

Also in 1870 the CME church was founded in Jackson, Tennessee as the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church with Lucius Holsey who had connections to the Sparta area as one of the founders. The CME denomination was founded some thirteen years after the St. Paul congregation had been organized and about the time property was purchased to build a permanent sanctuary. The name of the denomination was changed in 1955 from Colored Methodist Episcopal to its present day name of Christian Methodist Episcopal church.

Unfortunately history does not tell us when the congregation took the name of St. Paul or when it affiliated with the CME church. The 1870 and 1877 deeds both refer to the Methodist Episcopal Church (South) and not the Colored Methodist Episcopal church.

At its founding and up until the mid to late 1950’s many of the members lived a short distance from the church in the “Big Woods” and adjacent areas and many members walked or rode horses and buggies to church before automobiles became plentiful. Stories from older members abound of the roads leading to St. Paul being full of people either walking or riding on their way to Sunday worship, Sunday school or revival.

Leaders at St. Paul have been numerous over these 147 years. The Sunday school has had few superintendents because they have normally held their positions for very long periods of time. Mr. Jesse Tucker was Superintendent through the 1930’s and 1940’s and was followed by Mr. Julius Pinkston who served from the 1950’s, until his passing in the early 1990’s. His brother Mr. Charlie Pinkston replaced him and still serves as Sunday School Superintendent. Sunday School teachers have included Mr. Johnny Youngblood and his wife Mrs. Beather Youngblood and his sister Mrs. Effie Chatman, Mr. Miller Clayton, Mrs. Annie Barksdale, Mrs. Roxie A. Lawson, Mrs. Fannie Clayton, Mrs. Marilyn Hood, Mrs. Robbie Barnes, Mr. Larry Pinkston and Mrs. Patricia Nealey.

Rev. Gilbert Castleberry
Original Trustee

The current pastor, Rev. Gene R. Dean has the distinction of serving St. Paul for many years as both pastor and Presiding Elder. Many illustrious pastors preceded Rev. Dean including St. Paul’s first female pastor Rev. Gwendolyn Smith. In line with its acceptance of diversity, Rev. Gwendolyn Reeves has been active for years at St. Paul. Other pastors included Rev. Jones, Rev. Hill, Rev. McKeever, Rev. Crumbley, Rev. Martin and many others back to the time of one of St. Paul’s founding pastors Rev. Gilbert Castleberry. According to the inscription on his tombstone Rev Castleberry was a member of St. Paul for some 60 years.

St. Paul has nurtured many young ministers who went on to shepherd other flocks. Rev. Thomas A. Clayton grew up in St. Paul and pastored for many years in South Georgia including many years as CME Presiding Elder in the Thomasville and Moultrie area. Rev. Johnny Clyde Reynolds (GGG Grandson of Julia F. Lewis Dickson) also grew up in St. Paul and became a pastor in the Atlanta area. Rev. Joseph Lewis a son of St. Paul has pastored for many years in the Greenville, SC area. Each of these pastors are descended from founding members of St. Paul and still have relatives active at St. Paul. The Tucker family from St. Paul yielded Rev. Johnny Tucker who founded New Hope Baptist Church in Washington County and Rev. Durrell Tucker who pastored in the Atlanta area.

St. Paul is also filled with tradition. For many years on Monday after the first Sunday in August, members would come to St. Paul and clean off the cemetery as a way of honoring and respecting their ancestors. Homecoming or “the third Sunday in August” has always been, and continues to be an important event at St. Paul with former members coming back home to reminisce and fellowship with family and friends. This very important day is followed by a week of revival services. A fairly recently established tradition is “Family and Friends Day” in November when members invite family and friends to worship at St. Paul with them.

Just as St. Paul started as a spiritual anchor for the slaves on the Dickson Plantation, it continues today as a spiritual anchor for the descendants of those slaves.

Rev. Tom Clayton from St. Paul became CME Pastor and Presiding Elder in Moultrie and Thomasville


Rev. Crumbley, a St. Paul pastor during the 1940’s visiting with a family “who took the preacher”
after Homecoming services in August 1948.


Rev. Gilbert Castleberry ? - ?
Rev. George White1894-1904
Rev. Penderfraff 1904-1906
Rev. C. Green 1906-1909
Rev. Marchman 1909-1910
Rev. Martin 1911-1912
Rev. Rivers 1912-1913
Rev. E.S. Gray 1914-1915
Rev. Wise 1916-1918
Rev. Pratt 1918-1918
Rev. Durden 1919-1920
Rev. Holloway 1920-1922
Rev. Belgium 1922-1924
Rev. Pitts 1924-1925
Rev. E.S. Green 1925-1926
Rev. Counter 1926-1927
Rev. Sims 1928-1929
Rev. Wilson Ingram 1929-1930
Rev. Cooper 1931-1932
Rev. Pounds 1932-1933
Rev. Johnson 1933
Rev. E. S. Green 1933-1934
Rev. Bradshaw 1934-1940
Rev. B. S. Ingram 1940-1941
Rev. Holloway 1941-1943
Rev. Fluellen 1943-1946
Rev. A.C. Crumbley 946-1950
Rev. Woods 1950-1952
Rev. Wheeler 1952-1956
Rev. W.D. McKeever 1956-1963
Rev. Horne 1963-1964
Rev. Hill 1964-1966
Rev. Walter Jones 1966-1984
Rev. Gene R. Dean 1984-1999
Rev. Gwen Smith 1999-2001
Rev. Gene R. Dean 2001-

Associate Pastor
Rev. Gwen Reeves 2004-

Rev Pounds died in office in 1933
Rev Gene R. Dean served as Pastor and Presiding Elder from 1984 to 1999

Moses Archer
Ernest Chatman
John Edd Dickson
John Howard
John Jackson
Elliot Lewis
Nervie Lewis
Freeman Long
Edman Reese

Charlie B. Armstrong
David Barksdale
Willie Barksdale
William Cato
Binion Chatman
Ed Chatman
Holsey Chatman
Johnnie Chatman
Macon Chatman
Marsh Chatman
Scott Chatman
Willie Chatman
Charles Clayton
James Clayton
Leroy Clayton
Albert Dixon
Charlie Dixon
Welborn Dixon
Charlie Howard
Phil Ivery
Joseph Jackson
Jasper Lewis
Judge Lymas
Mark Mills
S. M. Mills
Dr. C. H. Pinkston
John Pinkston
Monk Pinkston
Moses Pinkston
Jerry Steele
Lee Steele
Boysie Tucker
Jessie Tucker
Robert Tucker
Ferdinand Youngblood

Haggie Armstrong
Charlotte Castleberry
Caroline Chatman
Susie Chatman
Amanda Dickson
Annie Dixon
Americas Howard
Sarah Howard
Betty Reese

After 1900
Elizabeth Armstrong
Annie Belle Barksdale
Susie Barksdale
Eva Brinkley
Ella J. Brookins
Henrietta Cato
Effie Chatman
Miranda Chatman
Susie Chatman
Veda Chatman
Amanda Clayton
Irmine Clayton
Marie Clayton
Katie Dickson
Emma Howard
Millie Howard
Sarah Howard
Katie Hunt
Katie A. Hunt
Mariah Hunt
Betty Ivery
Julia Pinkston
Mamie Reynolds
Mary Steele
Kinnie Wilcher
Frances Youngblood

Eugene Armstrong
Johnnie Chatman
Julius Chatman
William Chatman, Sr
William Cheely
Napoleon Howard
Freeman Hunt
Walter Mathis
Charlie Pinkston
Edward Pinkston I
Julius Pinkston
James Reynolds
Robert Reynolds
Johnny Youngblood
Charles A. Clayton
Edward Pinkston II
Harrell Lawson
Larry Chapman
Robert Pinkston
 James Clayton, Jr
.Robert Clayton, Sr
J.M. Dickson

Sunday School Superintendents
Jesse Tucker
Albert Dixon
Boysie Tucker
Julius Pinkston
Charlie Pinkston

Church Secretaries
Phil Ivery
Albert Dixon
Johnny Youngblood
Marie Clayton
Miller Clayton
Pauline Pinkston Haynes

Josie Clayton Armstrong
Shirley Armstrong
Annie Mae Baker
Melvina Barksdale
Mary J. Barnes
Lillie Belle Blount
Agatha Y. Chappell
Annie Mae Clayton Chatman
Tweetie Chatman
Tena Hunt Cheely
Amanda Dixon Clayton
Frances Dickson
Pauline Pinkston Haynes
Madie Chatman Jackson
Roxie Armstrong Lawson
Bessie Lee Pinkston
Lenora Pinkston
Lucille Reeves
Ida Reynolds
Ruth Clayton Ruff
Viola Pinkston Spencer
Carrie Macklin Washington
Udell Armstrong Williams
Beather Youngblood
Johnnie M. Clayton
Maggie Chapman
Lanette Pinkston
 Laverne Jack
 Brenda M. Williams

Miller Clayton
Larry Pinkston
Edward Pinkston I
Edward Pinkston II
Viola Pinkston Spencer
Pauline Pinkston Haynes
Charlie Pinkston
Robert Pinkston
Madie Jackson
Robert Jackson
Ida Reynolds
Roxie Lawson
Agatha Chappell
Robert Clayton
Amanda Clayton
James Clayton
Fannie Clayton
Bessie Pinkston
Lenora Pinkston

Fannie Clayton
Madie Jackson
Tweetie Chatman
Roxie Lawson
Agatha Chappell
Larry Pinkston
Tyrone Clayton
Larry Chapman
Robbie Haynes Barnes
Brian Clayton
Larry L Chapman, Jr
James Wilson
Kamu Chatman
Demetria Pinkston
Tracona Clayton
Jacinda Jack
Quintera Barnes
Jemelaine Rowland
Gettis McGhee, Jr
Djuan Clayton
Kelvin M. Lawson
Arthur L. Lawson
Viola Pinkston SpencerHarrell Lawson
David Armstrong

Submitted and copyright  Harrell Lawson 2005
All rights reserved

This website copyright Eileen Babb McAdams 2005