2017-09-21 / Front Page

Jackson Chapel to celebrate 150 years in special service with Bishop Jackson

Sitting at the center of Freedmen Road, now known as Whitehall Street, Jackson Chapel continues to be “Empowered by Legacy and Committed to Serve.” This Sunday, September 24, at 2:30 p.m., Jackson Chapel AME Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary. Bishop Reginald T. Jackson will be the guest speaker, and music will be provided by the Male Chorus of First AME Church in Athens, Georgia.

The history of Jackson Chapel AME Church is uniquely tied to the present-day Gaines family membership (Pastor Patricia Wilder and family) whose ancestors were once property of the Robert Toombs family, a prominent antebellum family with plantations in Wilkes and Muscogee Counties. The Jackson Chapel legacy evolved from the difficult work of two brothers whose labors helped to establish African Methodism in Georgia: Rev. William Gaines (1824-1865) and Bishop Wesley John Gaines (1840-1912). Like numerous other early AME ministers, they were ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church – South which broke away from the national body in 1844 over the issue of slavery. Despite their circumstances, these men left an indelible record of service to the AME Church.

In January 1865, three months before the Civil War ended in April, Rev. William Gaines was part of the delegation of colored leaders who met with Major General William Tecumseh Sherman in Savannah, Georgia. Over the years immediately following the Civil War, Rev. William Gaines and Rev. Wesley John Gaines established AME Churches across the state of Georgia, including the counties of Muscogee and Chattahoochee. After being promoted to the episcopacy, Bishop Wesley John Gaines co-founded Morris Brown College in Atlanta. He also held positions at other higher education institutions including as a trustee, superintendent, and treasurer of Morris Brown College and vice president of the board of trustees of Payne Theological Seminary, Augusta, and of Wilberforce University. He published African Methodism in the South (1890) and The Negro and the White Man (1897).

Bishop Gaines’ great niece, Rev. Patricia Downs Wilder, now serves as the pastor of Jackson Chapel. Rev. Wilder is well-known across Wilkes County as, like her great uncle, a staunch supporter of education and community. She is a former City Councilman and founder of the Washington-Wilkes Pre-Kindergarten program. Pastor Wilder has dedicated her life to the progressive evolution of Jackson Chapel AME Church and its surrounding neighborhood.

Jackson Chapel has hosted major political meetings such as some of the first local Republican political convocations during the Reconstruction Period. But, it has been the people of Jackson Chapel and Washington, Georgia, who have made this church truly special. In the 1970s through the 1990s, Mrs. Mary Ferguson, Mr. and Mrs. Marion Dubose, Mrs. Melba McLendon, Mrs. Sarah Jackson, Mrs. Sarah Gartrell, Mrs. Marion Stokes, Mr. Willis Dubose, Mrs. Martha Flint, and other soldiers of the church served selflessly. Mr. Curtis Williams and Mrs. Joyce Williams, prominent educators, taught Church School for years. Mrs. Cynthia Stokes Walton and others continue the legacy of their parents and grandparents in serving Jackson Chapel with grace and perseverance.

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