Pineville, a historic refuge
Prior to the Civil War, slaves and free blacks belonged to established Episcopal and Methodist churches. After the war, they sought to establish their own churches. In 1870, the Methodist Church created a new affiliate specifically for blacks in the South, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.
A small group of spiritually dedicated black people in Pineville, soon thereafter founded the Jehovah Methodist Episcopal Church, a small wooden frame church, in the Prince Hill area. The early leaders were brothers Rev. Middleton L. Gourdin (1865- 1949) and Baxter M. Gourdin II (1869- 1939) who held prayer meetings and camp meetings for church members and the community.
Realizing the importance of educating their children, the Jehovah Church opened its sanctuary for classes. These classes grew so large the church was called on to build the first community school for black children, the Prince Hill School. The first teacher, Ella Artope Gourdine, taught students from primary through eighth grade.
The demand for more teachers grew as the enrollment grew. Soon the church employed additional teachers: Daisy Fulmore, Roosevelt Waring, Rosena Middleton, Marjorie Jenkins, and Beatrice Jefferson Dingle. Prince Hill School served the community until the opening of J. K. Gourdin School in the early 1920's.
The church was rebuilt in 1925 when C.J. Mack was pastor. The trustees were L. Gourdine, J.S. Jefferson, and W.H. Carr. A bell for the church was purchased in 1930 and installed by E.B. Gourdine, chairman of the board.
From 1946- 1951, Rev. I. Smalls was pastor and Rev. Moses Shirah served as teaching father. Between 1951- 1953, Rev. S.B. Hamilton was minister, Luther Gourdine was Sunday School superintendent, Willie Breach was sexton, John Moultrie was assistant class leader, Arnold Cleveland was treasurer, and Chatman Gourdine was secretary to the Board of Trustees.
Rev. C. H. Richardson served as pastor, 1953- 1955; Rev. D. L. McClam, 1955- 1957; Rev. J. B. Bowens, 1957- 1958; and Rev. W. P. Jenerette, 1958- 1963.
On September 23, 1961, groundbreaking for a new church was held. The foundation was laid by James Martin, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board members Chatman Gourdine, Moses Shirah, Isaac Paulin, John Moultrie, Clarence Cleveland, Joseph E. Lefft, and S.C. Gourdine. Later that year, George Casey was elected to the board.
Members of the church began immediately to work on construction of the new building. Rev. J. V. Livingston became pastor in June 1963 and the work continued.
On May 30, 1966, James Martin, treasurer, and George Casey were deciding on materials needed for completion when Martin suddenly died. On June 2, 1966, the doors of the new church were opened for the first time for his funeral services. Members elected his wife, Naomi Gourdine Martin, to replace him as treasurer.
The same day, the new church building was dedicated in the memory of Rev. Middleton L. Gourdin. The trustees were Robert Jenkins, Isiah Starks, Herman Cole, Clayton Rogers, Archie Cleveland, and Marshal Moultrie.
In 1967, Rev. D. A. Purvis was appointed pastor. The next year, the Methodist Church and its affiliate branches merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church. Rev. Purvis guided his church through the merger and it was renamed the Jehovah United Methodist Church. Rev. Purvis served until 1974. Pastors since then have been
Eugene McCants 1974 - 1976
Jack C. Washington 1976 - 1977
W. T. Rosemond 1977 - 1981
Harold R. Johnson 1981 - 1984
Julius L. McDowell 1984 - 1987
Samuel Grimes 1987 - 1990
Willie J. Key 1990 - 1999
Ronald Lucas 1999 - 2000
Eddie C. Thomas Jr. 2000 - 2002
Nathan McClennon June- September, 2000
Wally Brown Jr. 2002 - 2006
Sam Lucas Jr. 2006- present
(Keith Gourdin contributed to this story.)
(Next week: Redeemer Reformed Episcopal Church)