Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, first known as "Uncle Toby's Church Under the Hill", was located on Vine and Shea Street on the edge of Buffalo Bayou. Uncle Toby, a black minister was given permission in 1865 by his slave master, Darius Gregg, to build a church and a house on one acre of his property, on the northeast corner, for the purpose of worshipping only. Uncle Toby and a few of his followers gathered brush and built the first church which was called the "Brush Arbor Church Under the Hill" where all races and creeds worshipped together. Darius Gregg sold the same land to Uncle Toby for the sum of $5 in 1867. This acre was known as the "Toby Acre" on the Scott and Kose's map of the City of Houston.
Between the years of 1865 and 1867 the name of the church changed from "Toby's Church" to "Union Church". On January 3, 1867, the Texas Annual Mission Conference was organized by the Board of Bishops of Pennsylvania, marking the beginning of Methodism in the state of Texas. At this first conference, "Union Church" became a mission church of the Texas Annual Mission Conference and the late Rev. Charles Bryant, a West Indian, was received on trial, elected to Deacon's Orders and assigned as pastor of Union Church, which was part of a Circuit. The church property was valued at $400, and the congregation consisted of 50 members and 25 probationers
Reverend Elias Dibble, transferred from the Mississippi Conference in 1867, was received into the full membership, elected to Elder's Orders and appointed pastor of Union Church in 1868. During his pastorate the membership increased to 116 members and the first Sunday School was organized with one teacher and 48 pupils.
Rev. William Brown was appointed to this charge in 1869 and immediately established a Mission Church in another section of the community, thereby reducing the membership of Union Church to 37 members, 73 probationers, 1 local preacher, 2 Sunday Schools, 3 teachers, and 80 pupils. When Rev. Brown was reassigned in 1870 the membership had increased to 91 members, 74 probationers, 4 local preachers, 3 Sunday Schools, 3 teachers and 102 pupils. Because of this phenomenal growth, Rev. Brown established a second mission church.
Emmanuel Toby Gregg and wife, Eva, sold the "Toby Acre" for five hundred and fifty dollars ($550) in gold coins to the Trustees of Union Church one year after Darius Gregg died in 1870. Trustees involved in this transaction were Peter Noble, James Todd, Harry Clinton, Emmanuel Vanhook and Charles Wright.
In 1871 these Trustees and members built the original frame that was located on Vine Street. Rev. V.M. Cole was the pastor from 1871 to 1874. Under leadership the church was rebuilt with a value $3,500, the membership increased to 306 and was financially substantial. As a result of this growth, Union Church was taken out of the Circuit and made a Station Charge. It supported one of the mission churches and became known as Second Church of Houston.
Reverend Paul Douglas was appointed pastor of Second Church from 1874 to 1875 followed by Reverend John S. Whitaker from 1875 to 1876, Reverend William B. Pullam from 1876 to 1878 and the Reverend Jesse Shackleford from 1878 to 1880. Under Reverend Shackleford's administration the name of the church was changed to Mount Vernon Methodist Episcopal Church, and in 1880 Reverend Spencer Hardwell was appointed pastor. Reverend C.C. Minnegan was assigned in 1881 to 1882 followed by Reverend R.R. Roberts from 1882 to 1883. Reverend Isom Snell followed in 1883 to 1884 and Reverend C.C. Minnegan was appointed for the second time in 1884 to 1886.
Reverend Freeman Parker was assigned in 1886 to 1889. The church was destroyed by a storm on October 10, 1888. Reverend Parker rebuilt the church and laid the cornerstone in 1889 on Vine Street.
Reverend Edward Lee, a great financier, was sent to pay the debt on the new church in 1889 and was reappointed for two consecutive years through 1893.
Reverend H.S. McMillian, a jamaican, was appointed in 1893, followed by the Reverend Freeman Parker from 1894 to 1896; Reverend William Wesley in 1896 to 1897; Reverend P. H. Jenkins in 1897 to 1899 and Reverend C.C. Minnegan was appointed for the third time in 1899 to 1903.
The church was again destroyed by the 1900 storm. Members salvaged pieces of lumber from the Vine Street property to be used in the new structure. Shortly after the storm, the Trustees purchased a lot on Jensen Drive at Burnett Street for the sum of four hundred and fifty dollars ($450) with fifty dollars "at hand" and ten percent (10%) interest every six months until the balance was paid. Trustees involved were Charles Peacock, H.J. Beasley, Thomas Foster, B.J. Turner R.E. Hubbard, James Starks and Emmanuel Vanhook, acting Trustees of People's Methodist Episcopal Church. Reverend Minnegan rebuilt the church with his own hands with the help of some members.
Rev. Joshua O. Williams was assigned from 1903 to 1905 and during his administration the church debt was paid in full and the mortgage burned. He was followed by Reverend Frank Cary from 1905 to 1907, Reverend W. A. Fortson in 1907 to 1908 and Reverend K.W. McMillian from 1908 to 1910.
Somewhere during the period between 1908 and 1914, the name of the church was changed from Mt. Vernon to "The People's Church", but due to a financial relationship between this church and the Board of Missions and Church Extension, the name was officially changed again to Mt. Vernon.
Reverend James I. Gilmore was assigned for 1910 to 1914, Reverend T. M. Jackson from 1914 to 1918, and Reverend Edward H. Holden from 1918 to 1922. He started a building fund. Reverend G. E. D. Belcher followed from 1922 to 1924, Reverend A. Wade Carr from 1924 to 1929 during which the parsonage burned. Two lots on which the present parsonage is located were bought. Money was added to the building fund and the membership increased. During the pastorate of Reverend W. D. Lewis from 1929 to 1932, the present parsonage was built. Again there was an increase in the building fund and membership.
Reverend A. J. Newton served from 1932 to 1936 when the present church building was erected and the old church building was transformed into the educational building. Reverend W. H. Hightower, who was assigned from 1936 to 1940, was able to keep the note on the new church paid up to date despite the depression. The church improved physically and spiritually with a rapidly increasing membership, and Reverend L. A. Greenwood served the church from 1940 to 1945 and the debt of approximately $7,000 was paid in full. The mortgage was burned, improvements were made and the building was refurbished.
Reverend L. V. Winfield was appointed in 1945 and served until 1950. During his administration a recreational center with a full time paid religious social worker who conducted a seven-
Rev. Alonzo W. Harley, Sr. assigned from 1950 to 1958, built the present educational building and purchased from the Wesley family several lots, one of which is now used as a parking lot. This family also provided financial assistance for the building of the educational unit. To improve the music department a Wurlitzer Organ was purchased. During his pastorate, there were three choirs: The first Choir, under the direction of Hazel Anderson, the Chancel Choir, under the direction of Addie Mae Sharp and the youth Choir under the direction of Geraldine Foster Willis. The popularity of the music department was enhanced by the services of Dr. P.D. Foster, Mrs. Lucille Huey, Mrs. A.N. McKinney, Mrs. John L (Ada) Canada, Mrs. Maryella Price, Mrs. Bertha Cambrice and Miss Janice Tarver. Reverend Harley served the church until his death in 1958.
From 1958 to 1963, Reverend Curtis Shedwell Weaver was pastor of the church. During his tenure additional property to the rear of the church was purchased. Other improvements included enlarging the parking lot and adding air conditioning to the building.
Reverend Dr. Cosum M. Luster's pastorate from 1963 to 1964 was shortened by terminal illness. His spirit of friendliness radiated not only in the church but the entire community. He will always be remembered fondly. Reverend Richard H. Robinson, assigned from 1964 to 1968, brought to the church much beauty in the service and spiritual uplift. His ministry began our century with celebration of the 100th anniversary. Some programs initiated under his leadership are still in place at Mount Vernon today.
Reverend Felix W. Logan gave leadership from 1968 to 1970 and Reverend Phylemon Titus successfully led the congregation from 1970 to 1972. During Reverend W. L. Brownlow?s pastorate from 1972 to 1974, the present Allen organ was purchased. It continues to be a source of enjoyment. Reverend Simon Snell served the church from 1975 to 1978 following nearly 91 years after his father, the Reverend Isom Snell.
Rev. Andrew Brown, Sr., served from 1978 to 1982 and initiated plans to remodel the church as it stands today. Reverend Cornelius Columbus Jammer, Sr. was assigned from 1982 to 1988. Remodeling of the church was completed at a cost of approximately $190,000. During this period the Carillon Bells were donated by Geraldine Foster Willis as a memorial gift to her father and mother, Thomas and Ellene Foster and brother, Dr. Percy D. Foster, who was the first Minister of Music at Mt. Vernon. During the Jammer administration, Mount Vernon purchased all of the property directly in front of the church.
Reverend Rodney Jeremiah Booker served the church from 1988 to 1997. He was the 46th pastor of the church and the seventh pastor appointed in the second century. Reverend Dr. Francis E. W. Guidry was appointed in 1997 and served until 2003. Reverend Dr. Lewis L. Jackson, Sr., was appointed June 4, 2003 to 2011. Under his leadership, the church was remodeled.
Reverend Kenneth B. Green was appointed in June 1, 2011. Our current pastor, is looking forward with expectations of a renewed spirit and the continuation of the unbroken chain of excellence that has been the hallmark for Mount Vernon throughout the Conference and the City of Houston.
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