Sawyer and The AME’s Christian Recorder

This blog is a continuation of my previous post on Joseph Sawyer and his articles within The Christian Recorder.  I will continue to share bulletins which referenced Sawyer’s work in Florida. This is my first time reading these pieces; therefore, I highlighted information that caught my attention.

Also I am in Panama this week and will be traveling the weeks after. I will try to post a few things here and there:)


Collection: African American Newspapers 
Publication: The Christian Recorder
Date: April 29, 1897
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I ask space to reply to a continued clamor all over the country ane [sic] especially in the North, that there is a great rebellion in Florida, and that all the annual conferences are against the present administration. To the above, I reply by saying there has never been a grosser falsehood than the above statement. There are today three annual conferences in the State, and they were, and are now, all a unit. I have no better witness for the above statement than Drs. T.W. Henderson, H.B. Parks, R.M. Cheeks and M.M. Moore as they visited them all at their last sessions. There has never been a more harmonious business-like conference held in the State than the three conferences just closed, but there are in the Lake City District a few disgruntled preachers who are under grave charges for crimes against the law of God and their church. Some of these cases, for the want of evidence on that particular time, were sent back for an investigation, that justice may be done to all parties concerned, but before these faction leaders would go back to the place appointed for an investigation.

They met in Jacksonville, March 2nd, 1897, in the shoe shop of one Rev. J.J. Sawyer and organized what they called an Independent A.M.E. Church, taking the old gentleman off his shoe bench and electing him bishop. B.D. Robinson, R.D. Phillip, P. Johnson, were appointed presiding elders, with C.L. Claril and Sanders Wilson as the preachers; this team composed the General Conference, on Bridge street in the city of Jacksonville and they claim a membership of fifty members. An interview with the Rev. D.W. Gillislee, P.E., said it was not true from here they move westward to Lake City, where they were told that a hundred members were awaiting their arrival. On reaching Lake City, they received fourteen members, eight of whom were already expelled. The other six were pursuaded to leave by the ex-pastor. Rev. William Jenkins, the son in law of the Rev. W.A. Byrd is now the pastor of these thirteen members in a rented hall. Therefore, if these fourteen members including the preachers, in the Lake City District are the great rebellion of the State, then the State is in rebellion so far as African Methodism is concerned, for I have been all over the district and I cannot find any but these fourteen. As to Rev. J.J. Sawyer , he did not have any work and did not go to conference. It may be news to Bishop Embry, to be informed to Bishop Embry, to be informed by this writing, that Elder J.J. Sawyer , refused in times past to go to his appointment, because he wanted something better than the bishop had for him. Had he been expelled then for insubordination it would have been better for the Church. Some parts in the Lake City District know nothing whatever of this so-called rebellion; there never was a fairer or more impartial officer than Bishop Embry; he did not leave one preacher, without work who was on the roll in good standing.

It is a fact the conferences are overloaded with a lot of these disgruntled and mischievous preachers, hanging on to the conference with nothing for them to do and hence as we have no employment for them, the devil employs them. Let me say to you my dear brethren in the North and South, the work in Florida is in as good a condition as it ever has been and in some degree it is better, for the annual conferences in the State have made improvement over that of last year both spiritually and financially. When he came to this State Edward Waters’ College was deeply in debt and whenever he would go in or come out of the door, he would meet some one with a claim. At the close of this term of our school in Jacksonville, Bishop Embry will not be indebted to any of the teachers.

What will be the result of Bishop Embry’s term if he goes on as he has for only one year. He will bring the educational work out of debt and place it on a business basis, so that the teachers in the future will feel glad to enter its domain. I voice the sentiment of all when I tell you that every loyal preacher, and presiding elder will stand by Bishop Embry’s administration and will be on deck when wanted. The Lake City District, with Prof. J.L.H. Watkins in the east, Rev. R.W. Butler in the north, Revs. M.S. Hill and W.L. Livingston in the west, and Revs. M.S. Gibbs, A.E. Hubbard, S.F. Smith, Augustus Dixon, in the South and Rev. C.C. Hicks in the center, the Lake City District will be carefully guarded and will answer to her name in 1898 when the roll is called. Give yourselves no uneasiness dear brethren in the North and South.


(Side note: I will have to do more research on the organization and operations of the Florida AME Church as they were slightly different than the Northern AME churches during Reconstruction.)

Collection: African American Newspapers 
Date: September 17, 1891
Title: Notes from the Ancient City.
Author: REV. G.B. HILL.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Notes from the Ancient City.


I was appointed to St. Augustine station last February 1891, to succeed the Rev. J.J. Sawyer , that polished christian gentleman and scholarly preacher. On arriving I had a kind reception. In our first official meeting I organized the members into peculiar clubs to raise two hundred dollars to meet our first payment on the church and take up all outstanding debts. Mrs. A.E. Duncan and Mrs. Amanda Randolph were the lucky ones and led in the contest, but all labored hard. The rally closed at 9 p.m., giving us the handsome little sum of $215.15.

Our first quarterly meeting was a grand success. Easter day resulted in a collection of $18; Children’s day $4.90 and Endowment day is looked forward to for great achievements for education. From June 9th we conducted a series of meetings. Twelve converted and added to the church. My good people gave me two weeks vacation to visit my home in Hernando county. The first anniversary of the new St. Paul A.M.E. church was held Sunday, August 2nd, beginning in the Sunday school at 9 a.m. At 10 30 I preached on the subject of the necessity of christian churches and the utility of industry. After preaching, a procession of the members, led by the pastor, was formed at the chapel, followed by the Sunday school, led by the superintendent, J. McClain. The pastor and superintendent each cried banners bearing the following: “The first anniversary of the new St. Paul A.M.E. church,” and on the reverse side, “I will guide thee with mine eye.” The procession marched around Central avenue park and back to the church, singing, “Hosanna to Jesus,” and the chorus was joined in by over five hundred voices.

At 11 a.m., the historical questions began, which with the answers brought in some cases tears and in other laughter.

At 3 p.m., the communion of the Lord’s Supper was administered to 101 communicants, 6 infants, were baptize and 4 adults were admitted into church. Collection $25. At 8 o’clock a special sermon was preached on the occasion of the day. Text 20 Psalms, 6v. We will rejoice in thy salvation and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. A party of ladies presented the pastor with a purse of $10.55, for which he returned them many thanks. A subscription list was opened I pledging myself for $15 and at the close of the subscription the amount subscribed was six hundred and fifty dollars.

The members of this church and friends of St. Augustine, deserve much praise for their general manager of life. Long may such people live in grace communities and help needy preachers. Our church is now in a fine condition, and our city is having many new improvements.


Until the next post,


Blog at

%d bloggers like this: