St. Paul's A.M.E. Zion Church, erected in 1917, is the third church to be used by Gettysburg's oldest African American congregation—founded ca. 1838 in a small frame building on nearby Franklin Street. Members of this congregation have long been active and prominent in the Borough's African American community, and have provided a rich tradition of served to the community and nation.
Prior to the Civil War many members became part of the "abolitionist" movement. In December 1840, a committee headed by Henry O. Chiler met at the first church to form the "Slave Refugee Society." This group appointed a committee composed of James Cameron, Henry Butler, James Jones, Henry O. Chiler and John Jones to draft a constitution and seek a means to help those who sought freedom from "the tyrannical yoke of oppression."
During the Civil War, several members of St. Paul's joined the newly formed "United States Colored Troops" and served during 1864-65. Among them were Lloyd F. Watts and Samuel Stanton. Watts went on to become an important community leader and one of the first African American teachers in the public school system.
Stanton had a diverse Civil War military career. He joined the U.S. Navy early in 1863 and served a year as a "landsman" before being discharged and re-enlisting in the army's Third Regt.
U.S. Colored Infantry.
This commitment to public service, despite racial prejudice, has been a hallmark of many others from this church who have sacrificed on behalf of their countrymen.