1856- A group of free men, guided by Anthony Bowen, founded St. Paul A.M.E. Church. It was originally called the E Street Mission and Later renamed the St. Paul Society.
1860- Anthony Bowen was ordained by the Annual Conference of African Methodist Episcopal Churches.
All throughout the more than century f its existence the church has played a significant part in community activities. During the pre-war days of 1865 and the Reconstruction era, much was done to help the free men of color and the freed slaves who were coming into the District. The church served in a triple capacity: as an educational institution, an underground railway for slaves and a religious meeting place.
1865- All Free Negro men were taxed by the District government. Anthony Bowen and other free petitioned the Mayor to provide free public schools for Negro children. With the assistance of white supporters, the men carried a petition to Congress. To augment these efforts, Bowen donated land to the District to use in this venture.
In 1867 Congress also appropriated funds for the first free public school for Negro children. This school, Located at Second and M Streets, S.W. was named for Anthony Bowen following his death 1871 and remained there today.
Many prominent speakers of the early days were presented at the church Phyllis Wheatley was one among this number. In reviewing the history we noted that in 1874, “A Grand Banquet held for the benefit of St. Paul Chapel at Richmond House on Pennsylvania Avenue, November 26, 1874” was one of the outstanding events.
One outgrowth of the work of the church was the formation of Turner Memorial Church. This was done by members of St. Paul who felt the need for another church in the northwest section of D.C. Another church dedicated by one of our members, Reverend P.A. Scott, was Pilgrim A.M.E. The activities of the members of our church have been numerous and in all lines of endeavor.
In the wake of the redevelopment program of Southwest in the mid nineteen-fifties, St. Paul was slated for removal and eventually was relocated to the current location here at Fourteenth and Emerson Streets N.W.
Anthony Bowen/Underground Railroad Site
Location: Eighth Street between D and E streets, SW, now SW-SE Freeway (near 10th Street Promenade)
Anthony Bowen (ca.1805-1872), born enslaved in nearby Prince George's County, Maryland, moved to Washington in 1826 and became legally free within four years. In Washington he worked as a clerk at the U.S. Patent Office and served as a religious leader. He helped to found the St. Paul AME Church in 1856 and established a Sunday Evening School for children and adults. Both met in his home in the 900 block of E Street, SW (now part of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway). As one of the city's active abolitionists, Bowen met freedom-seekers at the Sixth Street wharf and sheltered them at his home, an important stop along the Underground Railroad. Bowen co-founded the nation's first black YMCA in 1853, and today a YMCA bearing his name is located at 1325 W Street, NW. During the Civil War, Bowen met with President Lincoln to urge him to recruit African American soldiers.
Photo: Anthony Bowen. Credit: Kautz Family Archives, YMCA of the USA.