Our History & Background

What would come to be known as Greater Mount Zion A.M.E. Church started with a small group of believers as early as 1797. Thus, Greater Mount Zion A.M.E. Church has the distinction of being the oldest black church in the City of Trenton. The initial place of worship by a group of free slaves was in a tent that was located on the site where the current Dr. Joan Cousin Apartment complex stands on Perry Street. However, when the winter weather conditions prohibited worshipping in a tent, a coppersmith shop owner by the name of Mr. Joseph Milnor, a white man, allowed the slaves to worship in his coppersmith shop.

In 1811, these early worshippers worshipped under the banner of The Religious Society of Free Africans of the City of Trenton.

In later years Mr. Milnor deeded the land upon his death to the free slaves. Subsequent to this, property which was once a graveyard for slaves was purchase, the same property upon which the first church structure was erected. Two grave markers denoting the fact of the lands earlier use as a graveyard can be seen even today as you enter the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church at 135 Perry Street.

In order for the land to be deeded to these free Africans, the new owner had to be recorded at the registrar of deed’s office as the Trustees of Mt. Zion. The Trustees at that time were James Berry, Julius Steward, Leonard Ennis, Sampson Peters a coppersmith and the first Pastor, and Francis Miller.

Even though the congregation for many years was known as Mt. Zion African Church, however, in 1816, the year the African Methodist Episcopal Church came into existence as a denomination, Richard Allen founder and first Bishop, visited the Society and brought them into the AME denomination. Thus, the name Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church was adopted and has been used from July 18, 1817 through the present.

The first deed for the property at 135 Perry Street bears the date of May 6, 1818. The second was conveyed to the Trustees of Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, in trust by a Mr. Elias Stockton, for the sum of one dollar ($1.00) dated 1834. The first church was built by Rev. Walter Proctor, in 1819, and when finished the member formed a line of procession and marched from the coppersmith shop to the new church, with much rejoicing. This building was an old fashioned stone structure.

It was expanded by Rev. C. Woodyard in 1858. In 1876, the building was torn down to the foundation and rebuilt by Rev. J.W. Stevenson. An in 1948 another expansion program was launched to extend the front of the church building to the street, thereby increasing the space available for community outreach, recreation, health and cultural activities. For its adaptability and beauty, it was considered the cathedral of the New Jersey Conference at that time.

The first parsonage at 311 North Montgomery Street was built in 1892, and was occupied by each successive pastor until 1961. In 1961 under the Pastorate of Rev. Jessie Jackson, a parsonage was purchase at 1486 Stuyvesant Avenue. Shortly thereafter, Mt. Zion purchase 33 Perdicaris Place which is the present parsonage.

Mt. Zion is no stranger to “being first”. It is the first black religious organization in the City of Trenton. Mt. Zion had the first nursery for “colored children” in Trenton located on Belvidere Street. The church built a group home for girls in the eastern section (Wilbur Section) of the City.

Mt. Zion was also the first black church to incorporate a credit union, and along with Shiloh Baptist church, helped build the Kingsbury Corporation Apartments, which is currently located on Market Street in Trenton and continues to be a member of their Board of Trustees. Mt. Zion hosted the “Reverse Freedom Riders” a civil right group, when they visited Trenton.

Through the years, Mt. Zion has hosted some of the most prominent and famous black public figures including W.E.B. DuBois, Roy Wilkins and Rosa Parks after her famous protest on the bus in December, 1955. In January 1956 Sister Parks made her first major speech at Mt. Zion. Her visit was sponsored by the NAACP.

The Greater Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church – Trenton has had 68 (Sixty Eight) Pastors serving over these 200 plus years.

Rev. Sampson Peters – 1816-1819
Rev. William Proctor – 1820-1827
Rev. John Boggs – 1828-1832
Rev. R. Robinson – 1832-1833
Rev. William Moore – 1834-1835
Rev. Israel Scott – 1836-1837
Rev. William Moore – 1837-1838
Rev. J. Bulah – 1838-1839
Rev. H.C. Turner – 1840-1841
Rev. G. Ginley – 1841-1842
Rev. Willis Nazery – 1843-1845
Rev. G. Ginley – 1844-1845
Rev. Henry Davis – 1846-1847
Rev. A.W.Wayman – 1847-1848
Rev. A.C. Crippen – 1848-1849
Rev. W.C. Catts – 1849-1850
Rev. Willis Nazery – 1850-1851
Rev. N.J. Young – 1851-1852
Rev. James Holland – 1852-1853
Rev. G.W. Johnson – 1854-1855
Rev. W.D. Schureman – 1855-1856
Rev. N.J. Young – 1857-1858
Rev. C. Woodyard – 1858-1859
Rev. J.P. Campbell – 1860-1861
Rev. William Moore – 1862-1863
Rev. F.W. Cooper – 1864-1865
Rev. William Moore – 1866-1867
Rev. J.M. Williams – 1867-1868
Rev. Walter Thompson – 1868-1869
Rev. Joshua Woodlin – 1869-1870
Rev. N.H. Turpin – 1871-1872
Rev. Redman Fauset – 1873-1874
Rev. J.W. Stevenson – 1875-1878
Rev. J.G. Yeizer – 1879-1880
Rev. J.A. Davis – 1880-1881
Rev. J.A.M. Johns – 1881-1882
Rev. A.H. Newton – 1883-1884
Rev. W.H. Yeocum – 1885-1887
Rev. J.P. Sampson – 1888-1889
Rev. J.T. Doggs – 1890-1891
Rev. S.D.W. Smith – 1892-1894
Rev. I.L. Roundtree – 1895-1896
Rev. J.W. Cooper – 1897-1898
Rev. H.C. Ashley – 1899-1900
Rev. J.V. Payton – 1900-1901
Rev. R.F. Hurley – 1902-1904
Rev. George Watkins – 1905-1906
Rev. Harry Anderson – 1906-1910
Rev. S.P. Good – 1910-1916
Rev. Carl F. Flipper – 1916-1921
Rev. H.K. Spearman – 1921-1925
Rev. C.E. Wilson – 1925-1933
Rev. Seymore Barker – 1933-1938
Rev. A. Chester Clark – 1938-1940
Rev. I. Stanley Jacobs – 1941-1945
Rev. M.M. Ward – 1945-1947
Rev. D.M. Owens – 1947-1955
Rev. B.T. Cartwright – 1955-1959
Rev. H. Alan Garcia – 1959-1965
Rev. John W. Johnson – 1965-1968
Rev. J.J. Jackson – 1969-1974
Rev. L.S. Odom – 1974-1979
Rev. Nathaniel Burgess – 1979-1981
Rev. Leon Gipson – 1981-1991
Rev. Carl F. Hunter – 1991-1996
Rev. J. Stanley Justice – 1996-2017
Rev. Frank I. Smart, II – 2017-2021
Rev. Charles F. Boyer – 2021-Present