Historic Markers Across Alabama

Methodist Church

Marker ID:  
Location: in the Cahawba Archaeological Park (nominal fee required), 9518 Cahaba Rd, Orrville, AL
County: Dallas
Coordinates: N 32° 18.995    W 087° 5.978
  32.31658333    -87.09963333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Methodist Church

These ruins were once a place of worship for members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Built in 1849, it was the first single denomination church in Cahawba. An earlier church for the common use of all denominations was erected about 1840. Previous to that date, public worship was held in Alabama's Statehouse or in the Dallas County Courthouse.

Although not a member of the church at the time, William Curtis, one of Cahawba's oldest citizens, donated this land so a Methodist Church could be built. The first minister assigned to the church, Rev. James L. Cotten, fell in love with Curtis' youngest daughter Lucy.

Mr. Curtis opposed their marriage because of Cotten's “want of education, indolence, excessive levity, transient life, and manners" - also because he had 'paid attentions to Miss Brown!" Despite her father's opinion, Lucy eventually accepted Rev. Cotten's proposal. They were married on March 7, 1853.

St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church
During his first year in Cahawba, Rev. James L. Cotten's congregation was composed of eighty-three whites and one hundred and fifty African Americans. At first, he held services for the enslaved people under the floor of a cotton warehouse. Later he was able to obtain a lot nearby so the African Americans could build their own log church. Always, worship was overseen by the white minister.

So when emancipation came, Cahawba's African American residents wanted a church that was truly their own. They formed an African Methodist Episcopal congregation. Cahawba's white Methodists had moved away, so the Black congregation was able to use this vacated church. From then on, this building was known as St. Paul's A.M.E. Church.

In 1954, sparks from a fire in the nearby woods ignited the wooden steeple. The brick walls toppled before the fire squad could respond. In the end, the number of worshipers had dwindled to seven.

2015 by the Alabama Historical Commission.

Photographs of the marker can be found on HMDB.org

End of Methodist Church