From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church (Cynthiana, KY)

According to an article by Marilyn Wash in the Harrison Heritage News, the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church was already established when the first house of worship was built in 1852 on Pleasant Street in Cynthiana, KY.

In 1854, abolitionist Minister R. A. Graham from Ohio spoke to a congregation of free persons and slaves during an evening service. Graham was accused of keeping the slaves out too late with his talk of escape and finding freedom in Ohio. The following day, Graham was ordered out of Kentucky. He refused to leave until his tractor was sold; the tractor was the initial reason given for his visit to Cynthiana.

When Graham attempted to ride a horse over into the next county (Bourbon County), he was attacked by a mob of slaveholders and chased through the streets until he was caught and then placed in the Harrison County jail for his own protection.

The following day, he was to be escorted to the train station for his exit from Kentucky, but a few members of the mob got to Graham while he was in jail and blackened his face with lunar caustic (silver nitrate).

After Graham's departure, services at the African Methodist Church continued. One of the early pastors was Rev. Levi Evans, who led the construction of the present St. James AME Church structure, beginning in 1872. Evans, a leader in the AME Church, was a free man (not a slave) who had been a trustee of the Fourth Street Colored Methodist Church in Louisville, KY, in the 1840s. He also dug the first shovels of dirt for the foundation of Quinn Chapel in Louisville. Evans was at St. James for a brief period and continued the work that had begun when the first pastor arrived around 1865.

The St. James AME Church is one of the oldest African American Churches in Harrison County.

For more see M. Wash, "St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) - 153 years in Cynthiana," Harrison Heritage News, vol. 6, issue 2, February 2005; the Black Methodist Churches section of "African-American life in Cynthiana - 1870-1940," Harrison Heritage News, vol. 5, issue 2, February 2004; History of the United Brothers of Friendship and Sisters of the Mysterious Ten, by W. H. Gibson; and "Slaveholders mob," Frederick Douglass' Paper, 9/15/1854, p.3.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Harrison County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Cynthiana, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Gibson, William H., Sr.
NKAA Source: Frederick Douglass' paper (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church (Cynthiana, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 25, 2020,

Last modified: 2020-10-02 17:05:12