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Quinn marking its 189th year

April 28, 2012
The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE -The six-day celebration of the 189th anniversary of Quinn Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church will come to an end Sunday with a dinner celebration in the Fort Steuben Hotel banquet room.

The 2:30 p.m. dinner will follow Sunday's 11 a.m. worship service with the Rev. Ronald R. Eskridge, the 85th pastor in the church's history, and guest preacher Elder James H. Harris at the church, located at 515 North St.

Elder L. Anthony Gatewood of the Columbus District, pastor of St. Paul Smithfield A.M.E. Church, will be the guest speaker at the dinner.

The church traces its history to 1822, when 18 area residents met in the home of Brother Jacob Moore at the corner of Fourth and South streets to establish the first African-American, Christian-based church west of the Allegheny Mountains. Shortly afterward, the Rev. William Paul Quinn, an itinerant deacon, crossed the Alleghenies and met that group of 18, who embraced the Free African Society principals of the newly formed A.M.E. church. The church officially was founded in 1823, with Quinn becoming its first pastor.

Unable to maintain sufficient funds, the church lost its property at Fifth and North streets. Quinn continued as pastor and was subsequently elected as the fourth bishop of the A.M.E. church on May 19, 1844.

In 1830, the first school for black children was started as a part of Quinn's program, with the first textbook being the Bible. During the 1830s, the church continued to meet from house to house. In 1846, the congregation had raised enough money to purchase a lot at Third and South streets, where members built a small brick church, which became the hub of activity in the Steubenville black community.

From last late 1840s through the end of the Civil War, Quinn was a part of the Underground Railroad circuit and was a major "hush harbor" for slaves seeking freedom in the North and Canada. Black and white residents helped to clothe, feed and care for runaway slaves until they could move to the next station.

In 1873, Quinn's leaders tore down the old church at Third and South streets, but were unable to construct a new building. A split in membership followed, with a faction forming the Sixth Street Methodist Church on Adams Street, which became Simpson United Methodist M.E. Church, which still exists.

In 1876, a committee made up of the Rev. D.M. Mason, David Bruce and James P. Guy formulated a plan to secure a location for a new building. After 18 years of planning and securing money primarily from the affluent white community, Quinn purchased and remodeled a house at the corner of Fifth and Washington streets, the current location of Froehlich's Classic Corner. Construction was led by the Rev. Charles Bundy, Quinn's 43rd pastor. The church auditorium was completed by the Rev. Dr. W.T. Anderson, Quinn's 47th pastor, in 1893, and was dedicated by Bishop Daniel A. Payne in 1895. Anderson convinced Dohrman Sinclair to donate more than 50 percent of the money needed to complete the church.

In 1928, the Ohio Power Co. offered to buy the church property for $65,000 to build an office building. Quinn's board accepted, and in 1929, the Rev. R.E. Hutchinson and a committee that included Andrew Guy, Bart Guyder, David Madison, John Matheus, Addison B. Reed, David Smith and Elmer White built a new church at the present location of 515-17 North St.

Also in 1930, Steubenville natives Jennie B. Prentiss and Mary K. Prentiss raised $3,700 for a pipe organ that remains in use today. On Easter Sunday, April 20, 1930, the church was dedicated by Bishop William H. Heard.

The anniversary celebration included events Tuesday through Friday evenings. An ecumenical musical extravaganza directed by Delores Wiggins will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at the church.

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