Free-Town Church history featured

(Editor’s note:  As part of Black History Month, we are featuring the history of the “Free-Town” Church,” located near Gamaliel.)
The Free-Town Church, which is located near Gamaliel, was built in the late 1840s by three former slaves —  George Pipkin, Albert Howard and Peter West, who had been freed by their owner, William Howard.
William Howard came to Monroe County from North Carolina in 1802, and purchased a large amount of farmland as many others had in that era, using slaves to work his fields.
Over time he and many other slave owners (some who had inherited their slaves) became disillusioned with the institution of slavery.
Growing tired of the effects on both them and their slaves, many emancipated their bonds-people. Some owners made provisions for their freed slaves to immigrate to a free state, some of the freed men colonized and moved to Africa, and others, like Howard allowed them to remain near their former slave homes.
After freeing his slaves in the 1840s, he provided each of them with a small parcel of land, with the church eventually built nearby these properties.
The establishment of these homes and church became the first African American settlement in Monroe County — Free-Town.
Understanding the importance of religion in building a strong community, Howard’s former slaves built the log church structure.
During the antebellum years, slaves and free Americans in the South often worshiped in segregated churches of white congregations.
When allowed, they more often chose to experience religious fellowship on their own terms, in their own style and in their own buildings.
This built close knit communities and promoted a sense of solidarity and security. In addition, church buildings in African American hamlets also served as school buildings. The Free-Town Church was on of those establishments.
The church, which still stands to this day, is now known as the Mount Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
A marker is placed there which reads: Free-Town Church, built in 1846 by freed slaves of William Howard, who gave them 400 acres on which to build homes, known since then as Free-Town.
Albert Martin gave them the land for the church.
No replacements of the original building materials, except for a metal roof that replaced the wooden one, have been made. The logs are held together by wooden pegs and chinked with clay.
This marker was dedicated in 1970.

1 Comment

  1. Johnny Hawkins on March 4, 2020 at 3:10 am

    I’m so glad that the land was given to them as it should have been

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