The History of Warren AME Church, 1847-1976

Notes and Footnotes

The Early Days of the Congregation

The first reference to an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) congregation in Toledo is in the 1847 Annual Ohio AME Conference minutes. Reverend C. H. Gillespie was the pastor of the congregation in 1847 and Reverend Jeremiah Thomas from 1849-50.

The Miami-Erie Canal route of the Underground Railroad that began in Cincinnati Ohio brought many Blacks to Toledo. Initially, these Blacks worked to establish a schoolhouse and a building for worship. In February 1850, a small gathering organized into the Toledo Colored School Association (TCSA). According to Clark Waggoner’s book, History of Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio:

“The first definite step taken in Toledo toward organization with reference to religious privileges for colored residents, consisted of a meeting of colored people held February 5, 1850, the immediate object being to raise funds for erecting; a schoolhouse and a place of worship, they then having no place for either purpose. They organized as the Toledo Colored School Association, with James E. Franklin as Chairman and A. Richmond as Secretary.” 1

The TCSA appointed B. A. Price, A. Richmond and D. Nichols as trustees and J. E. Franklin, Henry Rice and B. A. Price as collectors. Congressman Richard Mott helped by furnishing a lot for the proposed schoolhouse.2

Reverend S. T. Wills was over the Sandusky Circuit in 1851. At this time, the Toledo congregation had eight (8) members and was a part of the Sandusky Circuit. The church rapidly increased in membership and the 1852 Annual AME Conference held in Cincinnati resolved that, “Toledo be made a Mission.” The resolution carried and the Ohio AME Conference appointed Reverend J. McLarren pastor for the year. The congregation had between 22-27 members and a Sunday school consisting of 1 superintendent, 3 teachers and 21 scholars.

Unfortunately, the church was not strong enough to support a minister and his family. Consequently, the 1853 AME Conference placed Toledo back on the Sandusky Circuit, where it remained until 1862. A small group continued to work towards creating a stable AME church. According to the March 11, 1858, issue of the Toledo Blade:

“The people of color who reside in this city and are connected with the African Methodist Episcopal Church are exceedingly desirous to erect a building in which to worship. We understand that an effort is soon to be made; and they ask the favorable attention of the public to the undertaking.” 3

The First Church Home, 1861-1864

In 1861, Henry J. Young, an African-American minister who came to Toledo from Kentucky via the Underground Railroad, along with a group of 23 Blacks, some of them fugitives from slavery, wanted to start a church. Although these people met from year to year to make plans to build a church for worshiping, it was not until 1862, that constructive developments were noticeable. The church still did not have a name, or a place to worship. Through the friendship of Congressmen, James M. Ashley and Richard Mott, the congregation rented a frame building at the corner of Summit and Adams Streets. This building served as one of the first Black churches in Toledo.

In 1862, the first Black schoolhouse opened in an old frame building on the Miami-Erie Canal. Funds for this new institution probably came from the TCSA.

“In 1862, a Sabbath School for colored scholars was organized in Toledo. It occupied the old frame building on Erie Street between Monroe and Washington, which is further distinguished as the first Courthouse of Lucas County.” 4

By this time, the church increased its membership to the extent that the 1862 Ohio AME Annual Conference held in Zanesville moved that “The Sandusky Circuit be called the ‘Toledo Circuit’.” Reverend Young received the appointment as pastor of the Toledo Circuit. The membership increased from 49 members in 1862 to 118 by 1866.5

Though they moved into their own church, the small congregation did not remain stagnant; they soon planned for a new and more adequate facility. They erected a church building adjoining the old courthouse in 1864.6 Once again the TCSA contributed funds for this venture. The congregation brought this property for $800. The record of the transaction that made the land on Erie Street the legal holding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is on file in County Recorder’s Office in Toledo, Ohio.7

The Second Church Home, 1864-1871

On Monday, August 1, 1864, Bishop J. I. Campbell, assisted by several church elders, laid the cornerstone for the new church on the Erie Street between Washington and Monroe Streets. The Benevolent Sons of Freedom directed the ceremony, arranging for it to take place on the anniversary of the emancipation of the slaves in British West Indies. In addition to the groundbreaking at the new church, Frederick Douglas delivered a lecture on August 2 in aid of the church. Douglas spoke of his desire to see President Lincoln reelected and the continuation of the war. Douglas felt that if the war ended slavery would continue in those areas where it still existed.8

In 1865, the National AME Church named Reverend Charles W. Warren of Pennsylvania, pastor of the Toledo Church. By September, the members laid the foundation for the church, and a year later in October 1866 the walls rose. On December 29, 1866, the church announced the completion of the roof and the congregation began worshipping in the basement under Reverend J. W. Eades. Reverend Howard Lee and Reverend G. J. Johnson followed Reverend Eades as pastors of the church. However, records do not show the exact periods of their tenures. Reverend B. W. Arnett followed Reverend Johnson and was the pastor of Warren from 1870 until contributions from members and supporters finally made possible the completion of the Church located at 17 North Erie Street. On January 9, 1871, Bishop Payne formally dedicated the Warren Chapel named in honor of Reverend Charles W. Warren.9

The reasons for Henry Young leaving the church after working so hard to place it on a secure foundation are unknown. However, Charles Spence Smith’s book, History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Vol. 2, states that Henry J. Young of the Kentucky Annual Conference attended the North Carolina Annual Conference that met at Newbern, North Carolina on December 15, 1870. In 1871, at the Georgia Annual Conference in Atlanta, Henry Young was there from Philadelphia. In March 1872, two annual conferences were in session at the same time in Baltimore and Washington. The Baltimore conference was for white M. E. Church ministers and the Washington conference was for colored ministers. Henry Young represented Wilberforce University at the Washington conference. Young eventually served as pastor of the Sullivan Street Church in New York City, where he distinguished himself as an excellent steward and acceptable preacher. He died in 1874.

When the congregation changed its residence from the corner of Summit and Adams to 17 North Erie, the minister, Reverend B. W. Arnett, and the congregation marched in a parade to the new church. Two young girls led the procession carrying American flags. One of these young girls was Alice Shoecraft, the grandmother of church historian, Charles Butcher’s wife. Alice died in 1939 at the age of 83. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Grey were officeholders and organizers in the original church. The other young girl was later “Aunt Lizzie Moore”. Before she died, Mrs. Shoecraft related to her daughter-in-law something of the festivity of that great processional. She recounted how proud she was of her new starched petticoat that stood straight out like an opened umbrella. She also spoke of the big baskets filled with hams, fried chicken and potato salad that the congregation brought to the church for the celebration.

The Church Progresses

Bishop BarnettFrom the close of the Civil War until 1900, the Church had its difficulties but Bishop Arnett served during this period by some of its ablest ministers, including B. W. Arnett, B. F. Lee, Thomas H. Jackson, W. T. Anderson and I. N. Ross. Three of the ministers, B. W. Arnett, B. F. Lee and I. N. Ross received elevation to the Episcopacy. In 1895, the City of Toledo filled in the Miami-Erie Canal and soon after the congregation purchased the frontage area of the church property.

In 1901, the North Ohio AME Conference met in Toledo and Elder D. W. Johnson presided over the meeting. Four years later, Pastor Ira A. Collins remodeled the church and changed the entrance to the Erie Street side.

Reverend W. B. Lee pastored Warren AME from 1910-1915. During his tenure, the church paid off a mortgage valued at $65,000 and held a mortgage-burning ceremony.

Reverend W. T. Anderson pastored Warren AME church from 1917-1918. His wife, Sadie J. Anderson organized the Young Women’s Auxiliary of Warren Church, the Allen Stars and the Mother Pearls. Hazel and Mildred McCown, Maud and Mable Ford, Drusilla and Edna Tandy, Venetta and Rebecca Smith, Ruth Castle, Roy Rhodes, Beatrice Howard, Julia Maxwell and Ida Price were members of the Auxiliary.

The following year, Reverend F. W. Woodson served as pastor. Under his leadership, the church organized the Ever Ready Club. Mrs. Jessie Jones was the first President. The members included Ollie Sypret, Nannie Daniels, Elizabeth Saunders, Mattie Gilliam, Edna Ballard, Mary Castle and Anna Brown.

The Church Structure Solidifies

Reverend J. S. Jackson served Warren Church during 1920-1921. During his service, the congregation redecorated church and paved the front walk. Reverend P. A. Nichols followed Jackson as pastor, and under his guidance, the Church organized Stewardess Board #2. Frances Johnson, Ella Woodson, Ethel Saunders, Elizabeth Dunbar, Sarah Watts, Artie Mae Giles, Pearl Legree, Alice Gause and Eliza Johnson were board members.

Reverend Nichols also established the Never Give Up Club. Members of the group included Jennie Hayden, Catherine Barnett, Leola Goings, Beatrice Sims, Rosetta Yancy, Addie More, Anna Henderson, Ada Jones, and Vera Stout. The church later renamed this group the Warren Workers Club.

In 1925, Phil Henderson, an Usher for Warren AME Church called a meeting at his home. Several church members joined him and together they developed the Usher Aid. Phil Henderson served as president, R. C. Jones acted as secretary and Cortez Ford was the treasurer. The other members of Usher Aid were Major and Carrie Holland, Emanuel and Anna Clark, Cortez and Helen Ford, James and Nettie Scroggins, Robert and Mary Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Otho Staunton, Williams Evans, Mr. and Mrs. Jess Lewis, and Anna Henderson, Phil’s wife.

Church history is sketchy, at best, between 1926 and 1940. A number of pastors led the church during this period. They were Reverend T. D. Scott (1926-30), Reverend John Irvin (1930-32), Reverend G. Horace Jenkins (1932-37), and Reverend R. C. Hutcheson (1937-39).

In 1933, Warren celebrated its 86th anniversary and held weeklong festivities during the week of May 14-22, 1933. Mary Harter, Anna Hansford, Marjorie Johnson, Etta Jackson, Laura Gregory, Anna Brown, Martha Snipes, Maude B. Ford, Major Holland, Frank Williams, Russell McCown, and W. W. Ballard formed a committee to put together the celebration. One of the highlights was the Heaven Bound Pageant directed by Marjorie Johnson. Over 75 persons participated in the highly praised performance.

That same year, Warren AME created Stewardess Board #3 and the Nurses Guild. Julia Canaan Haynes was the instructor, Lucille Gabriel, President, and the Charter Members were Anna Hansford, Anna Hance Williams, Effie Murdock, Ellen Stewart, Viola Gant and Beulah Camp. The Church also developed the Blue Ribbon Club on September 23rd. Bessie James was President, Daisy Henderson, Secretary; Ruth Longstreet, Mayme Branche, Frank Williams, Jennie Jennings, Mary Gibbs, Ella Woodson, James Legree, Alice Gauze and Pearl Legree were members.

In 1939, under the leadership of Reverend E. L. Liggins, his wife, Irene founded the Gospel Choir. Vivian Hawkins was the organist and director. In 1940, Reverend J. H. Mack became pastor of Warren AME Church. Reverend Harrison Payne from Columbus, Ohio followed Mack in 1941 and remained pastor for two years. One of the highlights of his pastorate was a rally to raise funds to decorate and carpet the church. Minnie Easley chaired the committee to accomplish the task. The Church held a celebration to commemorate the event on June 27, 1942.

Reverend Payne preached at the morning service, the Senior and Gospel Choirs sang and after the service, the Stewardess Board #1 served dinner. That afternoon, Reverend M. V. Allen of Phillips Temple C. M. E. oversaw the service and his choirs sang. During the evening service, Walter White, Secretary of the NAACP was the principal speaker. While D. Ormand Walker, President of Wilberforce University, and Charles Spivey, Dean of Payne Seminary, were among guests of the day.

The Church Makes Another Move

In 1943, Reverend J. Otis Haithcox became pastor of Warren AME Church.10 Before coming to Toledo, Haithcox served as pastor to many churches, including Saint John’s AME in Cleveland, Ohio. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and Wilberforce University Theological School, Haithcox served 20 years on the national AME Financial Board in Washington, DC and 24 years on the board of Wilberforce University. During his two-year tenure as pastor of Warren AME Church, Haithcox and other members of the church decided to purchase a larger building. They voted to purchase the Church of Christ located at 757 Norwood Avenue for $20,000. Church member, Minnie Easely made the first contribution toward the purchase. Unfortunately, shortly after the Church made the decision to purchase new facilities, Reverend Haithcox became ill and died three months later. Minnie Easely also died before the move to the new church.

Northwood Church

Reverend George T. Sims, presiding elder of the Cleveland District completed Haithcox term and Reverend Augustus C. Sumpter received appointment in 1945. Meanwhile, the congregation continued to worship at the Erie Street church because the Church of Christ congregation for various reasons could not move immediately. After some delay, Warren’s Trustee Board, led by Chairman Maude B. Ford agreed to permit the Church of Christ to continue to occupy the building for a period of five years with the rental for its use subtracted from the total cost of the purchase.Norwood Church

On November 4 or 5, 1950, Warren AME Church held a memorial service at the Erie Street Church for Dr. Haithcox and Mrs. Easely.11 After which, about 100 members singing hymns marched from there to Norwood Avenue Church. A caravan of 25 automobiles participated. Reverend Augustus P. Sumpter, the new pastor of Warren led the group. Alongside him, six-year-old, Ernest Gross, Jr. led the procession. He was the great grandson of Alice Shoecraft who participated in the march when the congregation moved from its first home. Drusilla E. Clement, mother of Bettie Lanier, also shared the spotlight at the initial services. At that time, she was 82 years of age, and the only person still on the church role from when she joined in 1889. Reverend Sumpter served Warren for eight years. He successfully established such organizations as the Laymen’s League and the Brotherhood.

The Laymen’s League

Reverend C. M. Reid followed Reverend Sumpter and served for two years. During his pastorate, the Church established the Willing Workers Club. The members were Sarah Watts, Carrie Smith, Georgia Patrick, Thana Brooks and Mack Danner, William Palmer, and Mrs. Thomas.

The Laymen's LeagueIn 1955, Reverend M. C. Pollock, Presiding Elder at the time, received appointment to pastor Warren. Reverend Pollock worked hard to improve the Church. Bernice Wellington presented a baby grand piano to the Church. The Brotherhood Club, led by its president, James Chambers, assisted with a new sidewalk, new cement and tile floors in the basement, a lighting system in front of the Church, and a tile floor in reception room.

Warren Church purchased an eight room brick and stucco home for the pastor and his family at 1130 Prospect Avenue. The Church remodeled the third floor, adding three bedrooms and a bath, as well as a full basement with hot water boiler. The Church also renovated the barn to accommodate garage facilities and landscaped the yard.

Rev PollockDuring Reverend Pollock’s tenure, Warren AME Church celebrated 108 years of service to the congregation. The organizing committee for the event included Clara Taylor, General Chairman and her assistant James Day. Other members of the committee included:

  • Marjorie Johnson (Program Chairman)
  • Viola Williamson (Publicity Chairman)
  • Bernice Henderson and John Easley (Banquet Chairmen)
  • Ladonia Perry and Anna Hansford (Patron Chairmen)
  • Mable Ford and Mamie Lewis (Advertisement Chairmen)
  • Viola and Hugh Williamson (Finance Chairmen)

Germaine Fisher, Cordia Chandler, Juanita Sypret, James and Joseph Carnes, Harry Hughes, and Herman King also worked on the committee.

Reverend Andrew Hughey followed Reverend Pollock, and in 1968, Warren AME Church was fortunate in having the Reverend Lyman W. Liggins assigned as leader. Under his leadership, the Church made several accomplishments:

  • Implemented a new financial system for the Church
  • Established one collection of offerings
  • Renovated the church lower level
  • Built two parking lots
  • Established the Warren Senior Citizens Program that serves approximately 150 per day at the Center and delivers about 60 meals to the homes of the elderly
  • Provided transportation for the elderly to medical appointments
  • Developed the Mental Health Clinic housed at the church with three full time psychologists, two social workers, and one child development specialist that treats over 165 children per month
  • Established the Methadone Clinic on Dorr Street that subsequently became independent and moved to Woodruff; during his three years of affiliation with the clinic, it treated over 700 addicts
  • Established the Christian Volunteer Tutorial Program during 1976 when Toledo Public Schools closed for 13 days (December 6-22) due to a school levy failure 12