Denton County Churches
African American churches in Denton County
began organizing congregations in the areas surrounding Denton, Pilot Point
, and Lewisville during the late nineteenth century. According to oral histories, the first known African American church in Denton County was County Line Baptist Church
, formally the Colored Missionary Church. Valerie Scott, the author of County Line’s Texas Historical Marker draft states that the organization of County Line began in 1863, and constructed their first church building in 1874. The following year, in 1875, St. James AME Church
organized on the perimeter of the Denton white community, making it the oldest African American church in Denton. Lane CME Chapel
, formally the Lewisville CME Church, in Lewisville organized in 1882, making it the oldest African American church in the Lewisville area.
There are several African American churches in Denton County that were organized either in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, but that are speculated to have disbanded at least decades after the organization of the church. There a few rural churches in Pilot Point that are known to have disbanded sometime in the early twentieth century, including, St. John’s Baptist Church
, St. Marks AME Church
, and a CME Church
in Pilot Point (name unknown). There are several possible reasons for the disbandment of African American Denton County churches during early twentieth century, but concrete conclusions have not been reached regarding these specific churches. However, black migrations clustered around World War I and World War II from the rural South to the urban North and West was probably a contributing factor to rural African American church disbandment. Lynching and violence of a rigid Jim Crow system segregation, the long-term decline of sharecropping and individual farm ownership, and the need for cheap labor in northern factories and industries contributed to black migrations from the rural South, and possibly Denton County. This study involving churches outside the St. John’s community provides a window to African American church life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The churches selected for this study were chosen if they were African American churches that organized during the late nineteenth and/or twentieth centuries. All the possible African American churches from Pilot Point that operated during this time period were selected to be profiled, including: St. John’s Baptist Church, County Line Baptist Church, St. James Baptist Church, St. Marks AME, and CME Pilot Point church. Most evidence of African American Pilot Point churches that operated during the late nineteenth and/or twentieth centuries were found the in the “Texas Towns” sections of the Dallas Express
newspaper. St. James
is considered an exception, since it was formerly located in Cooke County before the construction of Lake Ray Roberts.
Other African American churches outside Pilot Point in Denton County that organized during the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries are also included in this study, including, St. James AME
, St. Emmanuel Baptist Church
, Mt. Pilgrim CME Church
, and Lane Chapel CME Church
. These churches were selected since three out four are considered historical markers and they were organized during the time period of this study. Furthermore, these churches listed were not located in explicitly rural areas like the churches located closer to Pilot Point. In addition, these churches are included in this study to draw deeper context of African American churches from various environments of Denton County.
Denton church attendance, 1909
Pilot Point church directory, 1891
Citations: Willie Frances McAdams “St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church,” Texas Historical Commission (THC) Subject Application, 1985. https://apps.dentoncounty.com/website/HistoricalMarkers/PDFs/St-James-African-American-Methodist-Episcopal-Denton.pdf (accessed April 29, 2018) ; Valerie Scott “County Line Baptist Church” Texas Historical Commission (THC) Subject Application, 2006 https://apps.dentoncounty.com/website/historicalmarkers/PDFs/County-Line-Baptist-Church.pdf
(accessed April 14, 2018); E. Dale Odom, “Lane Chapel CME Church.” Texas Historical Commission (THC) Subject Application, 2000. https://apps.dentoncounty.com/website/historicalmarkers/PDFs/Lane-Chapel-CME-Church.pdf (accessed April 29, 2018); C. Eric Lincoln & Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), 95; Mark Jackson, Interview by Sarah Cunningham. UNT Oral History, Pilot Point, Texas, April 26, 2018.