The Black church has been an important part of Black communities for hundreds of years. They were particularly active after the Civil War to help newly freed slaves lead independent lives. The African Methodist Episcopal Church emerged nationwide as the second-largest post American Civil War Black denomination.
During Jefferson City's earliest days, a group of free and enslaved Black people gathered for meetings under the banner of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. In the Methodist tradition, such groups were called societies, meeting whenever and wherever they could.
In 1840, the A.M.E. General Conference selected William Paul Quinn to be a missionary and plant churches west of Ohio.
Missouri was still a slave state and Bishop Quinn stayed in Illinois, preaching across the Mississippi River to the enslaved Black people gathered on the banks on the Missouri lipping across the Mississippi River at night to preach to Black people in St. Louis. He established St. PaulSt. Louis, the oldest A.M.E. Church west of the Mississippi, in 1841.
By 1844, when he was elected bishop, he had established 47 churches, with 2,000 members, 40 temperance societies and 17 camp meetings.
Bishop Quinn later traveled throughout the state of Missouri as a circuit rider, a traveling minister who moved among multiple societies of people who gathered for worship. The society in Jefferson City was formed around 1850.
In 1862, the society in Jefferson City was changed to a mission, a step toward recognition as a church. This was accomplished by the Rev. John Hunter when he organized 25 members in Jefferson City. Although organized, these members went without a pastor until 1863, when the Rev. Frank Carter was sent to be their first pastor.
Violet Ramsey, born enslaved, received her manumission papers from Ephraim Clark on Aug. 14, 1838. Ramsey was able to purchase freedom for her husband, Elijah, and youngest son, Elijah Jr., in 1845.
Once freed, Elijah worked as a drayman, teamster, farmer or laborer while Violet continued her laundry business. With their earnings, they purchased the remainder of lot No. 505 on High Street for $250 and three of the six remaining lots in the block where Central Motor Bank now stands at Miller, Madison and Jefferson streets (lots 708, 709 and 711).
Ramsey's son deeded a portion of the property, including a log cabin, at 116 E. Miller St. to the church. He later gifted more land for a parsonage.
Elijah Eugah Ramsey Sr. was born in Kentucky in 1794 and was believed to be a slave of Josiah Ramsey, one of the earliest settlers in Jefferson City and Callaway County. Elijah Ramsey arrived in Cote Sans Dessein, Callaway County, in 1818.
History tells us the Methodist and the Baptist worshiped together in the building in 1863.
In 1864, the Rev. Prince Wright tore down the log cabin, and a wooden frame structure was erected for worship.
The Rev. William Henderson built a brick structure on the corner of Madison and Miller streets in 1876.
In 1955, work on U.S. 50 through Jefferson City displaced Quinn, and the congregation moved to 529 Lafayette St.
In 2013, more changes to U.S. 50 caused Quinn to move once again — this time, just one block north. The newest home of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church sits at 415 Lafayette St., still in the heart of the historic Black community.
The current pastor is the Rev. Anthony McPherson, who was assigned to Quinn in 2019.
The Rev. Kimberley Woodruff is on the Ministerial Staff at Quinn Chapel and a third-generation member of the congregation. She serves as the Sunday School superintendent, with the YPD and on the Stewart Board. Lori Simms is a church trustee and lifelong member of the congregation.