A SUMMARIZED HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF
ST. STEPHEN AFRICAN
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH BRADENTON, FLORIDA
The vision and movement for establishing a place of working for its Negro citizenry residing in the unincorporated community known at the time as Manatee, currently known as East Bradenton, was initiated in the years of approximately 1880 – 1883.
St. Stephen A.M.E. Church was one of the first Churches built and organized under the leadership of Layman, Builder, and Minister the Rev. William J. Houser in 1894. The first Church building was located on the corner of 9th Street and 9th Avenue East. The initial locale was the office site of the now defunct Zoller’s Lumber Company.
The first members of St. Stephen A.M.E. Church were: June Adams (grandfather of Naomi W. Bivens), George Dabney. Annie Dabney, William Grant, Hazel Grant, George Houston, Mary Houston, Cleveland Williams (father of Naomi W. Bivens), Bessie Williams (mother of Naomi W. Bivens), Frank Daniels, Maggie Daniels, Mr. and Mrs. Buster James, William Houston, Mamie Smith, Mary Tess Abner (mother of the late Louise Abner Porter), Mary Williams, Anna Johnson, Jessie Houston, Rebecca Cogman, John Land, Josephine Miller, Elizabeth Taylor, Lula Donovan, Alma Davis, Jean Jackson, Virginia Johnson, Joseph Reed, Harry Reed, Josephine Reed, and Mattie Jones.
Rev. W. W. Williams, the second pastor, was the father of the late Brother Cleveland Williams. Pastors on record as of 1888 to 1902 were Rev. Houser, Rev. C. H. Robinson, Rev. J. H. Pinder, Rev. J. H. Houston, and Rev. A H. McCormick.
In 1907 during the pasturage of Rev. J. H. Houston, the church building was destroyed by fire and worship services were held in the Masonic Hall which was located in the 600 block of 9th Avenue East.
In 1963 under the leadership of the Rev. M. C. McCoy, the drive for the new building fund was established after a meeting with the late Mrs. Clifford King, the late Mrs. Anna Nottage, Mrs. Naomi Williams-Bivens and Mrs. Jessie L. Pryor.
In 1966 Rev. S. W. McKinney was assigned to St. Stephen A.M.E. Church. Under his leadership a $25,000 church was built.
In 2004 St. Stephen A.M.E. Church became a part of the West Coast Conference of the St. Petersburg District with Reverend Jerome L. Denmark, Presiding Elder.
October 21, 2007 – Rev. Edward J. Barthell was appointed to lead the St. Stephen A.M.E. Church family. The St. Stephen family has graciously received him and First Lady Mary Barthell.