Our actual Church began in 1834 when lot #82 was purchased on Wood Lane in Rockville for the purpose of establishing a Methodist Episcopal Church. All ceremonies and church services were held at the parsonage and in homes until funds could be raised. According to Peerless Rockville, the first mention of the Church is a newspaper (Sentinel, 3/28/58) “religious notice” that “John Bear, General Agent of the Maryland State Bible Society, Providence permitting, will preach and present the claims of the Bible Cause at the following places … April 11. Union at 10-1/2 o’clock, and Rockville, M.E. Church at 3 o’clock.”
It was about 1858 when the church was built. Both races made up this membership of the Rockville Methodist Episcopal congregation. It was the first of it’s kind in Rockville and separatism was the practice of the day. White people worshipped in the sanctuary while slaves and freedmen sat upstairs in the Gallery. On Communion Sunday, Negroes were allowed to commune only after all white people had communed and had left the church to return home. We entered and left through a separate door. Some proud Blacks refused this segregated system, preferring to stand outside at the windows and “attend” worship service.
Negroes served as local preachers and class leaders but also took on a subservient role in order to participate in Worship service.
During the 1850’s some African-American family names listed here as both slaves and freedmen were: Mr. Daniel Brodgen, Mr. Warner Cook, Mr. Perry Budd, Mr. Jerry Davis, Mr. Nelson Edwards, Mr. Steven Johnson, Mr. Wilson Johnson, Mr. Henson Martin, Mr. Thomas Price, Mr. Wesley Randolph, and Mr. Lorenzo Snowden. No women are listed.
In the year 1863 white members withdrew from the Wood Lane Church rather than give up their slaves. They joined the Methodist Episcopal South, and sought to build a separate church.
Early records at Peerless Rockville indicate the Wood Lane Church was simply turned over to the African-American congregation who remained here. A later account, also from Peerless Rockville (Gazette, June, 1990), points to considerable evidence of legal action when these former members elected to sue for title to Wood Lane Church property four years later in 1867. They either lost or settled out of court as there is no record at the Rockville Court house.
1867 is the same year some Negroes who were dissatisfied with their treatment at Rockville Methodist Episcopal, and who had long held worship service in the basement of Rockville Methodist Episcopal Church, left Wood Lane to be governed by an African-American conference. They had for some years now worshipped in the basement of the Wood Lane Church and they left to form the African-Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church. Clinton AME Zion is still active.
We changed the name of our Church to Jerusalem Methodist Episcopal in 1881, and joined the Washington Mission Conference organized specifically for African Americans in 1864.
It is difficult to decipher specifics between that breakup in 1863, the lawsuit in 1864, the arrival of Rev. P. H. Matthews in 1871 (his race not mentioned in Washington Conference Minutes) and in 1890 when the Rev. Daniel Wheeler arrived. He was the first African-American minister here according to Mrs. Rosalie Campbell, (Church Historian). It seems we mark the 1890’s as the time we became a viable Church.
The undiminished Church membership remaining here was eager for a fresh new beginning. They tore down the existing structure by hand, washed the bricks and rebuilt the Church – using those same bricks but adding to make the structure a bit larger. Following this rebuilding and reorganizing Jerusalem has undergone many repairs and renovations. One such repair became necessary when the 1896 Tornado hit Rockville and appears to have damaged the Church steeple. Jerusalem remained on its soul-saving course.
The “new” Church was dedicated in 1892. On September 9, 1893 the Articles of Incorporation were established under the general corporation laws of the State of Maryland. We persevered.
Early church activities were Camp meetings held on the old Standard Supply lot off Middle Lane, and at Hatten’s Park on Martins Lane where some members still reside. Families and friends frequently chartered open street cars and traveled to Lake View Park in Anacostia for day trips.
Some early Church organizations were the Ladies Aid Society, the Heart and Hand Club, the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society, the Epworth League, the Usher Board and later the Women’s Society of Christian Service, now called the United Methodist Women.
Many fires have historically occurred in our Black communities. This was particularly true of our churches, school and businesses. In 1912, the old Rockville School for Colored Children was destroyed by fire. Those children attended daily classes at the Jerusalem Methodist Church.
In 1964, two lots were purchased at the rear of the Church on Beall Avenue. An improvement committee was formed to raise funds to defray the Beall Avenue property debt. Wilbert Jenkins was the first Chair. Other chairpersons were Mrs. Sarah Ambush, Mrs. Anna Hall, Mrs. Mable Hill, Mrs. Rosalie Campbell, and Mrs. Frances Graham.
Two committee members, Mrs. Anna Hall and Mrs. Mable Hill took the initiative to pay off the debt. These ladies organized Friday afternoon dinners serving many local businesses, members and friends. On February 1, 1971, just seven years later, we paid off the balance on lots 9 and 10 on Beall Avenue.
A new parsonage – our third, was purchased in Olney, Maryland in September, 1986, with loans from the Baltimore-Washington Conference and our Church Secretary, Mrs. Jean Johnson.
The former Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church at Norbeck
As the Rockville Methodist Episcopal Church was becoming Jerusalem Methodist Episcopal a small community called Enster appeared on the 1865 map of Montgomery County. In 1879, Enster had disappeared from the map and Norbeck remained. Very old Rockville Court House records indicate the earliest known settlement at the crossroads of Georgia Avenue (Brookville Turnpike) and Norbeck Road (Route 28) was Mount Pleasant. It was founded by slaves.
Black people in this area had long held large tracts of land but the one half acre of land sold to the school commissioners for $5.00 was purchased from a White land and former slave owner named Wadsworth. It was to be used for a school for Black children, which was one of the first public schools in Montgomery Country for Black people. Located on the acreage adjacent to the present church building, Mt. Pleasant was first established in this little school on Muncaster Mill Road.
Earliest recorded trustees were Mr. Thomas Adams, Mr. John Johnson, and Mr. Monroe Ricks. These three purchased land for the Church at $40.00. Other trustees/members were Mr. Henson Dow, Mr. Lloyd Lee, Mr. Nathan Dimes, Ms. Mary Dimes, Ms. Minnie Hopkins, Mr. Walter Davis, Mr. Melvin Johnson, Mr. Sterling Holland and Mr. Charles Forbes. Later recorded trustees are Mr. Leroy Estep, Mr. Asbury Snowden, Mr. Robert Snowden, Mrs. Florence Snowden, and Mrs. Madeline Davis. The date on the Church cornerstone is illegible.
Organizations at Mt. Pleasant were much the same as at Jerusalem at the time. The two churches merged in 1989 – becoming Jerusalem-Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church. The little Church once called Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church has a very special charm all it’s own. It was sold to Waves of Glory Church, Rev. Wayne Jackson, Pastor. These two churches have always been on the same charge. We continue Praying, Playing and Staying Together.
But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
We especially thank Mrs. Rosalie Campbell, Mrs. Nina Clarke, (History of the Rockville Charge 1835-1979), Mr. Jesse Hebron, Mrs. Mable Hebron, Mrs. Jean Johnson, Peerless Rockville, and the Maryland Hall of Records in Annapolis, MD. There were talks with members and other Methodists in and around Montgomery County whose help we deeply appreciate.