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Monday-Thursday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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Rev. John D. Williams, Sr.
Sis. Deborah Williams

HISTORY

Ward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was the first AME church organized in Winter Park. Rev. T. M. D. Ward, who was the Presiding Bishop of the AME church of Florida, organized it in 1893. Not much has been recorded about the early days (1893-1900) of Ward Chapel. What is known is that the first sanctuary was a wooden structure that was erected on Pennsylvania Avenue on May 21, 1893. The Pastor was Rev. S. A. Williams and the founding fathers included Misters Washington Steven Slaughter, Charles Brookins, Ghent, Horton, Lampkin, Israel Richardson, Walter Simpson, Major Smith, and Wilson. Rev Williams served as pastor in 1900. Church Trustees included James Bacot, Charles Brookins, Meade Colston, Walter Simpson, Major Smith, and W. S. Straughter. Rev. Jacob Quarterman was the next pastor; he served until 1920.

Members of the Black community as well as those of the White Winter Park community respected Rev. Quarterman. He was the only Black minister to be mentioned, by name, in any of the early newspaper articles. Rev. Fair became pastor in 1920. During the next seven years, Ward Chapel was governed by a number of leaders including Reverends T. J. Williams, Potter, Grant, C. S. Long, Jones James C. Long, Walker, Haines, and R. A. Ranson; respectively.

In 1927, Rev. R. L. Newton became pastor and served for two years. During his leadership, Ward Chapel purchased property (January 1928) from Charles A. Spross that was used to erect a parsonage.

Rev. J. E. Fobb took over the leadership of Ward Chapel in 1929 and remained pastor until 1935. According to church records, during this time, the church purchased property located on the corner of Pennsylvania and Welbourne Avenues from Mrs. Emma Jones. The "new" Ward Chapel was constructed there and it remains to this day. The old church was demolished and material was salvaged to use in the new building. The church also received its first piano during this period. Mrs. Blanche Straughter Brookins donated it during the 1930s.

Three church members were instrumental in the construction of the new building: Richard Charlton, Sr., Dexter Ray, Earl McKinney, and Sam Bailey spent countless hours working on the edifice. Ward Chapel was a benefactor of the money left to the Black churches of Winter Park in 1935 by William A. Coursen, Esq. The money was used to improve the church structure and to purchase property.

The 1930s, 1940s and l950s were times of unremarkable events for Ward Chapel. It was served by a host of pastors: Rev. S. G. Baker (1932-1933), Rev. Sasser (1933-1934), Rev. James Murry (1934-1937), Rev. R. L. Murrell (1937-1939), Rev. Joseph Brown (1939-1941), and Rev. T. C. Kelly (1941). Rev. Kelly only served a few months, as he took the place of Rev. Brown who expired in the parsonage., Rev. K D. White (1941-1948), Rev. L. B. Washington (1948), Rev. A. A. Redfield (no date), Rev. A. W. Williams (no date), Rev. Simmons (no date), and Rev. C. D. Dixon (until 1961).

Rev. Allen. M. Scott became pastor in 1961. In his four years of leadership, he completed the work of building a church annex that was begun by Rev. Dixon. A "divine, serene, civic-minded man," Rev. Scott organized Stewardess Board Number one and the Junior Church. Additionally, the loft was remodeled and cushions were added to the chairs.

Auxiliaries within the church were also very active during this time. The Friendly 10 and Stewardess Boards One and Two contributed an organ to the church and Usher Board Number One installed a water fountain in the foyer and donated a window as a memorial to Richard Charlton, Sr.

Rev. Scott's leadership was followed by that of Rev. F. A. Sanchez (1965-1967), Rev. D. P. Mack (1967-1969), Rev. B. E. Green, Sr. (1969-1976), Rev. J. L. Denmark (1976-1983), Rev. Dr. W. D. Young (August-November, 1983), Rev. Henry L. Smith (1983-1987), Rev. Frank C. Griffin (1988-1991), Rev. Dennis L. Bell (1991-1994), Rev. R. G. Heastie (1994-1998), Rev. Charles E. Cloy (1999-2002), Rev. Harry L. Dawkins (2002-2003), Dr. E. J. Parker (2003-2004), Rev. David L. Connelly (2004 - 2007), Rev. James T. Blount (2007 - 2010). The current pastor is Rev. John D. Williams, Sr., who received his appointment in November 2010. Several of the former pastors of Ward Chapel went on to become Presiding Elders. They include Rev. A. W. Williams, Rev. K. D. White, Rev. A. M. Scott, Rev. B. E. Green, Rev. J. L. Denmark, and Rev. R. G. Heastie.

One of the ministers that had the greatest impact on the growth of Ward Chapel was Rev. J. L. Denmark. He was able to bring remarkable change and improvement to Ward Chapel. Under his leadership, the old parsonage was renovated. He organized the Youth Church and several auxiliaries: Pulpit aid Board, Progressive Women's Club, Laymen Organization, and the Denmark Booster Club. His largest undertaking was the renovation of the church. Renovations included the addition of a church office, updated restroom and lounge facilities, and a new church entryway. The front of the church was relocated to Pennsylvania Avenue, and double doors and staircase were added. In addition, the church trustees donated a steeple making Ward Chapel the first Black church in Winter Park to have one. The Church currently owns property on three corners of Pennsylvania and Welbourne Avenues.