Black History Month 2021
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Founded by Rev. Sam Hadley, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church was formed on January 14, 1885, two years prior to Osceola becoming a county. Sources differ on where the first church building was erected. One source states the corner of Brack and Walnut Streets while another places it on Palmway and Walnut. A news article from 1916 reports a new church building was being built and adjoined the old one at the corner of Walnut and Brack Streets. Made of gray cement blocks, which members of the congregation made on the premises, the building was 42 feet wide and 60 feet long with 31 windows and nine doors. It took two years to make the quantity of cement blocks needed.
A “hot-air furnace” was housed in the basement. Other features were a choir loft, vestry room and pastor’s study. Cost for the new church was estimated to be $5,600 with much of the work implemented by the parishioners. Both subcontractors were Black, one from Leesburg and a Kissimmee man, N.A. Johnson, being the other. Destroyed in the September 16, 1928, hurricane, a lack of funds delayed the rebuilding until 1935, and it was rebuilt on that same corner.
A testament to the Black history of Osceola County, Bethel A.M.E. Church at 105 East Walnut remains an active congregation and motivating force in the Kissimmee community.
Written by Anza Bast
Sources: “Osceola County Centennial Book”; “Kissimmee Valley Gazette” October 27 1916; “St. Cloud Tribune” August 20, 1928; Orlando Sentinel” July 23, 1993; WPA report.