A Look at Where the Lord Has Brought Us From
Chappelle Memorial A.M.E. Church, on the corner of Pine and Senate Streets is a small progressive church with a membership of two hundred (200). The Church was organized by Rev. J.W. Witherspoon in 1903 in the 1100 block of House Street and was called Waverly Mission.
In 1918, Waverly Mission was sold for $50.00 and the members moved to the corner of Pine and Senate Streets in a three room house donated by Mrs. Pickney. The following ministers served as Pastors: Rev. J.W. Witherspoon, Rev. Fordham, Rev. W.D. Bolder, Rev. Lykes and Rev. William Thompson. During Rev. Lykes’ tenure, the name of the Church was changed to Lykes Mission.
In 1919, under the administration of Rev. W.P. Plair, the three room structure was torn down and the people built a new wood frame Church. The corner stone was laid in 1921 and the church was renamed Chappelle Station. The Rt. Rev. W.D. Chappelle was the Presiding Bishop; Rev. W.P. Plair, Pastor, J.F. Bowman, Secretary; J. W. Robinson, Treasurer: R.G. Hagood, Architect and Builder; Trustees: S.M. Spencer, R.J. Johnson, Fen Martin, and E.T. Thomas. The following ministers served as Pastors of Chappelle Station: Rev. W.P. Plair, Rev. H.J. Bryant (elected Bishop in 1964), Rev. W. M. Brown, Rev. Grant, Rev. F.D. Dreher, Rev. Cook, Rev. Miller, Rev. Jones, Rev. Robinson, and Rev. S. Spivy.
In 1933 the membership of the Church became divided; however, some of the faithful families would not be moved. The families remaining were the G.B. Blakelys, J.F. Bowmans, Bouliers, Gravsons, S.S. Smith, Monroe Gists, W.W. Williams, H.W. Nowlins, Henrietta Bouies, John Swygerts, Daisy Kysers, Louis Holmans, R. Scotts, Players, Wrights, Murrays, Kennedys, Martins, Friersons, and Eichelbergers.
The desire for the construction of another church building was made known and the building procedures for the present brick structure were started and the sanctuary portion of the building was completed under the leadership of Rev. B.J. Glover. The Religious Education Department was completed under the leadership of Rev. F. C. James, who later became a Bishop of the A.M.E. Church. During the construction of this building, worship services as well as business sessions were held in the library on Allen University’s campus. Members of the Building Committee were Heyward Bowman, Louis Holman, Claude Eichleberger, J.D. Snowden, H.W. Nowlin, Lomas Gist, and Marcel Blakely. The structure was completed in 1950 and the name of the church was changed from Chappelle Station to Chappelle Memorial in honor of Bishop W. D. Chappelle, a native South Carolinian.
Chappelle Memorial’s ownership of property has continuously grown since its move to the corner of Pine and Senate Streets. Chappelle Memorial owns properties located at 1105 Pine Street; 1100 Pine Street; 2300 Senate Street and 900 Harden Street with a value of $1,000,000. The expansion of realty ownership was continued during the conference year (2002-2003) through the gracious gift of three city lots near the Church with a value of $60,000. On December 4, 2003, Chappelle Memorial purchased land at 2123 Senate Street for $25,000.
In 2005 the property on Harden Street was sold for $20,000 and the property at 2123 Senate Street was paid in full with the proceeds from the sale of that property.
The following Pastors served after 1939: Rev. B.J. Glover (1939-1950); Rev. F.C. James (1950-1953, elected Bishop in 1972); Rev. J.J. Jenkins, Rev. J.A. Holmes, Rev. Julius Holman, Rev. Clarke R. Hawthorne (1957-1961); Rev. L.E. Crumlin (1961-1964); Rev. J.H. Gillison (1964-1971); Rev. W. J. Nelson (1971-1995); Rev. Leroy Cannon (1995-2000), Rev. Julius Steed (2000-2004); Rev. James E. Thompson (2004-2009). Rev. Clinton J. Hall, II (November 2009-2012). In September 2012, Rev. Timothy Cokley was appointed as Pastor during the annual conference and served until 2017. In September 2017, the Reverend Lester J. Drayton, Jr. was appointed by Bishop Samuel Lawrence Green, Sr. to serve as Pastor for Chappelle Memorial A.M.E. Church.
Chappelle has been blessed with a large number of excellent officials and organizations. Mr. Monroe Gist was the treasurer of the church from 1930 until he died in 1949. Mr. Claude Eichelberger became the treasurer in 1949 and served until his death in 1968. Mr. Lomas Gist was elected treasurer in 1968 and served until 1991. Mr. Otis Rivers became treasurer in 1991 and served until 2000. Mrs. Bessie Spencer Livingston served as treasurer from 2000 until 2010 and Mr. David Jones served as Chairperson of the Finance Committee.
The original Men’s Club was organized by Mr. Lomas Gist in the 1960’s to provide additional financial assistance for the mortgage and budget of the church. Original members of the group were: George Blakely, Marcel Blakely, Heyward Bowman, W.L. Conkle, Roosevelt Gist, James Green, Louis Holman, A.J. Lewis, Omar McIver, H.W. Nowlin, R. Scott, Crummie Spencer, Claude Eichelberger, Tinsley H. Benjamin, J.H. McCray, G. Hawkins, and Gillie Smith. In 2010, under the administration of Rev. Clinton J. Hall, the Men’s Club was revived. Present members are: Rev. Hall, Rev. Richmond, Rev. Miller, Rufus Wiggins, Connie Moore, Harold Frierson, Lomas Gist, Ralph Sligh, John Searles, Victor Reese, Edmond Day, and Larry Labrew.
The Women’s Missionary Society is a strong and vital organization which has been a part of this church for many years. Mrs. Lucille Holman served as president of the Society for fifty-two (52) years. Other presidents to follow her are: Mrs. Hazel Harkness (1985-1993 and 2001 – 2003); Mrs. Ruth Black (1993-2001);Ms. Tijuana Gladman (2003 – 2006); Mrs. Bessie Murray (2006 – 2008); Mrs. Judith Thompson (2008 – 2009); Mrs. Felita G. Davis presently holds the position as President of the Women’s Missionary Society. The Lucille Holman Unit of the Missionary Society was formed in honor of Mrs. Holman. The main objective of the society is Health Education. The members of the Senior Missionary Society became the Angels in Christ Unit and work cooperatively with the Lucille Holman Unit. The Floral Club was organized by Mr. Lomas Gist in 1950 after the death of his father.
In the early 1990’s, Rev. Willie J. Nelson appointed Mr. & Mrs. Ralph H. (Gardenia) Sligh to implement and direct the N.G. Blassengale Scholarship Program. The scholarship was named in honor of Mrs. Niece G. Blassengale, an extremely prolific educator and long standing Christian Education Director for Chappelle Memorial. The fund provided college scholarships for graduating seniors. Other directors were: Mrs. Theresa M. Hawthorne (2000-2009), Dr. Dorothy Gallman (2009 – 2013, Mrs. Annie Simmons (2013-2014) and Mrs. Gardenia S. Sligh is presently the Director.
In 2000, Mrs. Ruth H. Black initiated the concept of having a Family & Friends Day Celebration. Rev. Julius Steed appointed her to implement the first Church Anniversary~Family ξ Friends Day Celebration. She shared the title of Chairperson for that event with Mrs. Theresa Hawthorne for several years. Mrs. Gardenia S. Sligh served as Chairperson for the Celebration from 2005 – 2012. Mrs. Sligh spearheaded Chappell’s first Family & Friends Banquet, held at the John Hurst Adams Gymnatorium on Allen University Campus. The banquet yielded over $14,000. Mrs. Jackie Eichelberger is presently serving as Family & Friends Chairperson.
In 2006, under the direction of Rev. James E. Thompson, the church completed two projects on the Religious Education Department. A trophy case was added in January to display the many awards and trophies received by the membership. Chappelle Memorial completed a feasibility study in October, 2007 to address the possibility of relocating or remaining at the same site. The membership voted to renovate the present structure and remain in the same site. In April, 2009, Mr. Otis Rivers was instrumental in having an audio visual system installed to accommodate the overflow crowd, the handicap and senior individuals.
In 2010, under the direction of Rev. Clinton J. Hall, II, Chappelle Memorial experienced growth in several areas: An increase in membership; the purchase of a Church bus; a noon-day Bible Study; a class leadership ministry, an established Contemporary worship service, the Young Adult Ministry, a prayer room and senior citizen room. An upgraded technology system installed to include ADT monitoring service, cable service with cable-ready TVs, and Internet service with upgraded computers with a church e-mail address. Renovations to the sanctuary to include improved lighting system, a new roof installed on the Church; renovated fellowship house, upgraded Religious Education Department, and expansion of the Pastor’s study. The grounds were landscaped and a lawn tractor was purchased.
In 2010, our church was blessed to have Mrs. S. Yvette Vant elected as Columbia Conference Lay Organization President (She has since become First-Vice President of the Seventh Episcopal District Lay Organization). Mrs. Felita G. Davis was elected as Episcopal Debutantes-Masters Commissioner (She has since become the Columbia Annual Conference Women’s Missionary Society President. Mr. Jimmy Vant elected as Episcopal YPD President. Mrs. Diane La Brew is the Debutantes-Masters Commissioner for the Columbia District. To God be the Glory!
Chappelle Memorial has been blessed with many members to reach the Nonagenarian status; and beyond: The Mother of the Church, Mrs. Lucille Holman, a member since 1929, passed on September 18, 2008 at the age of 103. Mrs. Lois B. Reeves, was voted Mother of the Church in 2009 and passed away in 2010 at age 95. Mrs. Edna Bowman lived for 93 years and passed away in 2011. Mrs. Rosanna B. Felder lived for 100 years and passed away in 2012. Mr. Lomas Gist lived for 90 years and passed away in 2012. Mrs. Inez Robinson passed away in 2015. Mr. Roosevelt Gist lived for 97 years and passed away in 2016. Mrs. Mary Gist lived for 92 years and passed away in 2016.
May God continue to bless the rich heritage of Chappelle Memorial A.M.E. Church!
Gardenia Sligh - Contributing Writer