Henderson Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Backstory and Context
The origins of the Rutledge area AME Zion African-American congregation dates back to 1833. At the time, Rutledge had two other Methodist churches for white members. Although free African Americans and slaves were permitted to worship, they faced discrimination and were not free to interpret the gospel for themselves--a condition common throughout the South that led to the gospel being interpreted in ways that defended both slavery and white supremacy.
Between 1833 and 1887, members of the congregation held worship services in each member's home. From 1887 to 1890, members were able to hold worship services at the former Grainger County Courthouse as the Presbyterian minister who had purchased the building granted use of the building.
Dr. Joseph Hoffmeister, a local physician and elder in the Presbyterian church, donated some of the land to the AME Zion members in 1890. It was at this location where the members constructed their church-a building which still stands today. The church was named in honor of Hoffmeister's daughter, Mary Henderson (Hoffmeister). Some of the lumber used in the building of the old county courthouse was used for the church building.
According to Kenny Daily, one of the last members of the Henderson Chapel Congregation, services were regularly held as late as the year 2001. In 2008, members of the AmeriCorps program participated in an effort to paint and make minor repairs to the historic chapel.1