Bertie County, NCGenWeb Project Page -- Books Last update:Monday, 10-Sep-2018 11:10:48 MDT



Earlier Churches frequently listed "colored members", as prior to Emancipation, many slaves attended and were listed on membership roles of their owner's church, i.e. Cashie Baptist; Sandy Run Baptist.

A book entitled St. Luke Guide to African American History in Bertie Countycontains two interesting essays on the historic African American Churches and their development by Alice Eley Jones (African American History Consultant, Durham, NC.) and Benjamin Speller(Dean, NC Cen Univ, Durham)

The majority of the book was prepared by LaRae Umfleet and contains photos of all church buildings and histories of each one. Many of these list the organizing families.

For our purposes, I'm listing the churches (alphabetical) and the approximate date of organization and location.

Available for purchase through Hope Plantation: $15 plus shipping (probably $3)
[email protected]
132 Hope House Road, Windsor, NC 27983

St. Elmo Church

Direct quote from The Bertie Ledger-Advance, Windsor, NC September 28, 1972, Section C-9:
Windsor---Mrs. Hannah Burden died before paying for the land on which her small home was built. The land and house were claimed by the late Judge F.D. Winston as she had no living relatives. Thus Winston Hill originated.

A dispute arose between the Negroes who met to organize a Baptist Church in Windsor as to where the church should be built. The people who wanted the church built on Winston Hill rushed to see Judge Winston to purchase the land. The judge sold the land to the Rev. George Edward Freeman for a church spot for Negroes.

The judge named the church St. Elmo, after St. Elmo's Fire, the glow accompanying the brushlike discharge of atmospheric electricity which usaully appears as a tip of light on the extremities of pointed objects such as church towers.

The judge predicted that St. Elmo would be a light in Windsor and environs. Judge Winston worked with Augustus Robins, who had served with the judge in the state legislature and a small group of Negroes to organize the church. On February 21, 1887, the St. Elmo Baptist Church was organized on the Hannah Burden land.

Judge Winston gave the first $50 toward building the church house. Augustus (Gus) Robins served as acting recording secretary for the group in making their plans for organization and building. The present structure stands near the original spot. The Rev. George Edward Freeman was the first pastor to be called to St. Elmo.

Original deacons were Henry Jordon or Gilliam, William White, Augustus (Gus) Robins, Roscoe Singleton, Napoleon (Nep) Overton, Calvin Bunch White and Benjamin (Ben) Askew; secretary, Augustus Robins; assistant secretary, Calvin Bunch White; treasurer, Roscoe Singleton; financial secretary, Joe Bunch; director of music, Peter Cooper; Sunday School superintendent, Augustus Robins."
Notation: Originally taken from The Bertie Ledger-Advance, November 28, 1968.


Direct quote from The Bertie Ledger-Advance, Windsor, NC, September 28, 1972, Section C-5:
"SHILOH CHURCH SMALL BUT WELL ORGANIZED WINDSOR---The Shiloh A.M.E. Zion Church is in the Edenton District of the Albemarle Conference.
The church was at first a small mission which was dedicated by the laying of a cornerstone by the late Rev. M.M. Lenier and he served as pastor for three years. Membership at the time was very small but under his leadership it began to grow. Each member was said to have worked with him until his death.

Other pastors were the Rev. A.W. Garrett and the Rev. C.S. Dixon. At the closing of the annual conference in the year 1909, the Rev. C.C. Hunter of Edenton was appointed to this church. Being a strong man, he took much interest in the work and the membership grew much larger. Within five years of his pastorate he made many friends and with his few members built the new church which stands today on Granville Street Extended. During his pastorate he entertained the first annual conference in 1911.

During the pastorate of the Rev. W.V. Ormon, a great deal of interior work was done in the church and the first carpet was put on the floor. He served the church until his death.

During the history of the old and new church, those serving as presiding elders were Dr. S.P. Cook, Dr. C.W. Winfield, M.N. Levy, A.C. Littlejohn, E.J. Hayes and N.S. Harris. In recent years many repairs have been made to the church including new underpinnings and cement steps and the roof has been covered. New members have been added and the church is well organized with all at work."
Notation: Originally taken from the Bertie Ledger-Advance, November 28, 1968.


This church had its beginnings in a bush arbor led by Reverend Bryant Lee, around 1865 in Lewiston. The Rev. Lee was born a slave, and attended the Connaritsa Baptist Church. After the War, he and about 60 other African-American members, who had attended Connaritsa and Republican Baptist Churches, formed this new worshipping community. The first church building was built on land purchased around 1886, near the Bush Arbor.

The church celebrates Founder's Day on the first Sunday in November, and the gravesite of Rev. Lee is visited at that time.

Rev. Lee's work in finding jobs for the congregation in his cotton gin as well as providing homes for orphaned children, helped the Lewiston black community in those early days of freedom.
St. Luke Guide to African American History in Bertie County - (Benj. Speller and Le Rae Umfleet. page 6,7

From Turner's Crossroadsx to Lewiston by Pike Harrington 1981


The Piney Wood Chapel Baptist Church, located near Powellsville, North Carolina, was organized in 1870 under pastoral leadership of Rev. Emmanuel Reynolds one hundred years ago. These one hundred years of service have been dedicated to God and humanity.

The first congregation of freed slaves had been members of Holly Grove Baptist Church. The organizing pastor, Rev. Reynolds, was a freed slave, and besides this church, helped to form seven other churches in the area.

The land for Piney Wood Chapel was donated by slaveowner Walt Mitchell after seeing the congregation gathered for prayer service in a bush shelter.

             Roster of Former Ministers                       
Rev,  E.  Emmanuel Reynolds, Founder and Pastor**

Rev.  George Edward Freeman, **  (Deceased)

Dr.  D.  L.  Simons, Pastor** (Deceased)

Rev.  Hilliard Dorsey Sessoms, Pastor (Deceased)

Rev.  Moses Freeman (Deceased)

Rev.  Daniel Freeman (Decesaed)

Rev.  Charles Sessoms  (Deceased)

Rev.  Robert Hoggard  (Deceased)

Rev.  Zebb Wynn  (Deceased)

Rev.  Willie D.  Watford  (Deceased)

Rev.  Isaiah Jones  (Deceased)

Rev.  Jeremiah Hoggard  (Deceased)

Rev.  Joe Hoggard  (Deceased)

Rev.  Dennie Hoggard  (Deceased)

Rev.  Jackson Mitchell  (Deceased)

Rev.  Harry Morris  (Deceased)

Rev.  Andrew J.  Ward  (Decease)

Rev.  Brode Wynn  (Deceased)

Dr.  Jasper Freeman

Rev.  Leo Ward

Rev.  Lee  Freeman

Rev.  Cleveland Freeman

Rev,  John McMiller

Rev.  Thomas Smith (obit notice on Bertie Obit Board)

Rev.  Luther Morris

Rev.  W.  H. Trotman

Rev.  Charles Lewter  **

Rev  George Griffin

Rev.  Bond

Rev.  Ricks

Rev.  W. S.  Creecy** 

Contributed by Brenda Sessoms (great granddaughter of Rev. H.D. Sessoms [email protected] from 1970 centennial progrm
St. Luke Guide to African American History in Bertie County - (Benj. Speller and Le Rae Umfleet. page 8

Zion Bethlehem Baptist Church

Zion Bethlehem Baptist is believed to be the oldest African-American church in Windsor. It had its roots when friends gathered for prayers at the home of Mrs. Lucy Watson (wife of Frank Watson) after the Civil War in 1865. As the idea of an organized church grew in Mrs. Watson's mind, they sought a larger place to worship.

Services were held in a building back of King St and Rev. Zion H. Berry was their first pastor. The congregation took his name, and he served until his death (around 1897). The first deacon was Emmanual Taylor.

1916 photo
(photo by courtesy of Garfield Taylor. "The Windsor Story - 1768-1968" - published by Windsor Bicentennial Commission. Used by permission of Harry L. Thompson)
Zion Bethlehem Church in 1916. This building was built in 1911, and burned about 1925. It stood on the corner of Pitt and Queen Streets.
Some of the people pictured are; Steve White, Boy Jones, Charlies Mills and wife, Garfield Taylor, Sam Smith, Ephram Holley, L.C. Hoggard.

Rev. C.M. Cartwright became pastor in 1897 and land for their first church building was purchases under his leadership. Trustees Emmanuel Taylor, Turner Bond, and Samuel Duers purchased land from John B and Sallie B. Gilliam in 1902.

The church was destroyed by two fires and each time rebuilt in various locations. The present site on Ghent Street used bricks from the earlier church building.

Services were held in a building back of King St. The church prospered and the Rev. Zion H. Berry was called to serve as pastor. The church was named for the Rev. Berry who served there until his death.

403 Ghent St. Windsor (252-794-2969)

Indian Woods Missionary Baptist Church

indianwoods Sketch by Laney Layton, Artist
Full size sketches available from Windsor Chamber of Commerce

Indian Woods Missionary Baptist Church

Near Liberty Hall was Bertie's GOSPEL OAK, a silent reminder of the days when traveling preachers came through and members of the community gathered under this tree to hear religious sermons. Traditional word of mouth stories about this tree have been passed through the years. Tradition says this tree was also a meeting place for the Indians and the whites.

Gospel Oak at Grabtown. It is just on your left as you enter the Indian Woods Road going to Indian Woods Church. It is on the land of C.G. Gilliam almost in the yard of Liberty Hall. It extends almost across the road there. Gospel services were held under its huge canopy many years ago by evangelists. Now over four feet thick, the state Highway Dept. honors it as a historic site and will not cut it down.

It was here that the Indian Woods Missionary Baptist Church first had its beginnings soon after Emancipation. The congregation began holding worship services under the tree, and by 1876 they had called their first pastor, Rev Abrom Meban, and the next year purchased land for their church building.

First leaders of the church were Baptist Terpin, Valder Bond, Moses Gilliam, Robbin Smallwood, Cary Speller and Isaac Bond

The third paster, Rev. J.J. "Black Horse" Thompson began the first building program which was a frame building with a gallery.

Each Easter Monday, the church holds a fish fry at Coniotte Landing and draws many of its former members in a community reunion.

2330 Indian Woods Rd; Windsor. 252 - 794-4805

More information can be found in St. Luke Guide to African American History in Bertie County by Dr. Benj Speller and LaRae Umfleet.

Laney Layton has done a number of sketches of historic sites in Bertie County. They are available framed or in prints from Windsor Chamber of Commerce

Woodville Plains Missionary Baptist Church Woodville Plains Missionary Baptist Church is one of the oldest African-American Churches in Bertie County although the exact date is not known. It was first established in Woodville and later moved to its present location in Lewiston.
The first pastor was Reverend Brinkley, followed by:
Rev. Elex Cobb
Rev. Morris Newsome
Rev. Coleman
Rev. Everett
Rev. L.G. Powell
Rev. Trotman
Rev. Dove
Rev. Welps
Rev. Thompson
Rev. Powell
Rev Berkley P. Heckstall (1981)
Early Deacons of the church included Madison LEE, Lee A. CLARK, Thomas WATSON, Madison HORTON, Jake SHARPE, and Eugene HOWELL. Resources:
"From Turner's Crossroads to Lewiston" (1881-1981) by Pike Harrington
St. Luke Guide to African American History in Bertie County by Benjamin Speller(Dean, NC Cen Univ, Durham) and LaRae Umfleet Available from Hope Plantation
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