Church History

current church

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.
bush harbor

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.
early church wooden

The church had a wooden heater in the middle of the sanctuary to warm up parishioners on cold winter days.
wood heater

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.  Callaway

Rev.  Battle

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