Black History Month 2021
St. James AME Zion Church
St. James African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church has existed since Osceola County’s earliest days.
The exact year of the church’s founding varies according to available records. In the mid to late 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) paid people to compile reports of church histories. The WPA report states St. James AME Zion was constituted in 1884, with the earliest known pastor being Rev. W.A. Bain. Osceola became a county in 1887.
Additional information located in the Osceola History archives gives the year as 1891 with a frame church located on Mabbette Street. In 1911, a fire destroyed the church building and contents. Land was purchased on Bermuda Avenue and a wooden structure erected. Prior to 1944, lightning struck the church twice. The wooden church had to be demolished after it was damaged during a storm in October 1944.
Brother Jesse E. Jackson and others built a new stone church in 1946 under the pastorate of Rev. T.G. Watts. This structure still stands at 710 N. John Young Parkway (formerly Bermuda Avenue) with an active congregation, proud of their rich Black history and involvement in the community since its beginning.
The WPA church report can be found on the Florida State Archives website.
Written by Anza Bast
Sources: “Osceola County Centennial Book”; WPA church report, Florida Memory; Osceola History archives