Mt. Zion AME Church
In 1940, Thomas Waldrup interviewed Pastor G.A. Anderson and former member Henry Tyus of the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church. These men reported the church was organized in 1882 by some of the town’s prominent black families. The first services were said to be held in an orange-grove barn near the present church site. A house of worship was built on an adjacent lot south of the current location in 1884. This building was used until 1910 when the building was declared unsafe for worship. The present white rectangular frame building was erected on a lot north of the old church and dedicated in 1910. The WPA recorded the location of the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in 1940 as “Oakland Avenue, four blocks southeast of the post office in Orange City”. City Directories of the early 1920s list the church on Holly Avenue. [We believe the WPA listed the street name as Oakland Avenue in error, and that the church was located at 450 South Holly Avenue, where the church is still located in 2019.]
Backstory and Context
The local Church was associated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference, Philadelphia; 11th Episcopal District Jacksonville, Florida; and the Sanford District, Orange City and Lake Helen circuit. The WPA described the church architecture as a frame, white, rectangular structure with no special features. Today the AME Church is a Mission Church under the Negro Bishop at Jacksonville, who has charge of all such Methodist churches in the state.
For years, it was the largest African-American church in Orange City, with a congregation of 70 people. The Pastor was paid $50 a month. Any sum over that amount went to the trustees for upkeep of the building. Gradually, the numbers decreased as members of the older families moved away or died. Few new residents took their places. Sarah McBurney's effort in maintaining the church was always appreciated. Her portrait hung in the church building for many years. In 1965 the regular Pastor was Rev. Grant Anderson, In 1970, the Pastor was the Rev J. Owens. In 1975, the pastor was Rev. Fenkley of Sanford, and the secretary was Mrs. Willie Bell Frazier. At that time, officers and members were raising money to renovate the church.
The current congregation has compiled a complementary history to the records collected by the WPA Historic Resource Survey. Some of the first meetings were held in a blacksmith’s shop next to the original colored school on South Volusia Avenue. It is said the present Church structure was a citrus packing house that was sold to the former stewards and trustees of the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church. The property where the church now stand was sold to the former stewards, Mrs. Shelly Wiggins and Mrs. Sarah McBurney, for the price of one dollar. The packing house was moved to the current location at 450 South Holly. Early church families include the McBurney, Wiggins, Jones, and Morgan families were instrumental in the rehabilitation of the former packing house. Mrs. Shelly Wiggins was the pianist and Mrs. Sarah McBurney is remembered for her time maintaining the appearance of the church.
The spiritual leaders of Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church included Reverend Anderson, Reverend Holiday, Reverend Jackson, Reverend Missick, Reverend Black, Reverend D. P. Mack. Reverend R. Robinson, Reverend E. Robinson, Reverend W. Hayes, Reverend Mitchell, Reverend Meeks, Reverend Griffin, Reverend Berry, Reverend Rozier, Reverend Williams, Reverend Paula Jackson, Reverend Willie M. Simmons-Joma, Reverend Marvin Andrews and the current spiritual leader is Dr. Reverend Cornelius S. Golden.
Our Story of Orange City first edition: Dr. Adelaide Sharp, Mrs. Minnie Mosley, Lawrence Desaussure; third edition: Viola Gilbert; fourth edition: conversations with Juanita Gibson.
WPA Historical Records Survey Church inventory form 1930-1940, recording July 11, 1940 by Thomas E. Waldrop, www.Floridamemory.com; Sharon Stafford.