Pleasant Hill A.M.E. Church started in 1846 like so many other churches… as a bush arbor.
A bush arbor is a place where slaves would gather in secret to practice religious traditions. Slaves were forced to worship in secret because slave owner were fearful of slaves gathering together and possibly plotting ways to escape or hurt their masters. After a back breaking day of field chores and working from sun up to sun down slaves would gather under a tree and praise the lord. The trees became known as bush arbors and they served as a location where slaves could combine their African traditions with Christianity. The songs created by slaves often contained double meaning…revealing the ideas of religious salvation and freedom from slavery. Our bush arbor looked a lot like a home-made gazebo. It had a makeshift roof between trees with ‘bushes’ on top to provide as a cover or roof.
Our ancestors knew how to praise god- whether it was singing and clapping, quietly whispering a prayer at your seat, shouting at the top of our lungs or dancing up and down the aisles.
They took their African traditions and merged them with the Christian ideas they learned on the plantation. That’s how the A.M.E. Church was born. More specifically Pleasant Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the 18-hundreds a group of people from the Salem community gathered at the bush harbor which was located on what used to be a dirt road just outside the doors to our present location.
Some years later in 1878 a church was built using logs. In the early 1900’s a plank church or church of wood was built just across the road on land donated by the Harrison family.
The church had a wooden heater in the middle of the sanctuary to warm up parishioners on cold winter days.
There was also a Masonic Hall that was part of the church and on the third Sunday in June every year the men would dress in their regalia and march around the grounds of the church in a grand celebration that many people looked forward to each year. Many members of the masonic lodge were also members of this church.
In 1969 our current church building was constructed. Some of the men sitting in these pews today helped to pour the foundation and physically build this church. Planks from the old church were used to build the floors of this church. In the early 70’s the Head Start program built the fellowship hall we have now and they held classes at this church to help get young kids ready for first grade.
Here’s a list of some of the many pastors who have served as leaders of Pleasant Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Rev. Elijah Williams (1920’s)
Rev Hayward Phillips (1930’) Rev Martin Fortson
Rev. E Phillips
Rev. Sam Jackson
Rev. John H. Brotson
Rev. S Williams
Rev. Claude Miller
Rev. J.l. Parker
Rev. G.W. Williams
Rev. Tom Jones
Rev. Isiah Alexander
Rev. Lonzo King
Rev. Eddie Robinson
Rev. Ricky Neal
Rev. Levonn Jakes
Rev. Johnny Walton
Rev. Samuel Thomas
Rev. Antonio Thomas
Rev. Thomas Fortson