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Church History 1869-2012

By D. Fort
Church History



1869 ‑ 2012

Methodism, introduced to America by John Wesley over one hundred years before the Civil War, included active Black participation in its early societies and took a strong stand against slavery. The proximity of Freetown Road and Atholton School (for Negro children) to Locust Chapel suggests church activity predating the Emancipation Proclamation and the first ordination of Black Methodist preachers at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland, October 27‑31, 1864.

On August 10, 1869, a deed was drawn up in which Mr. Jeremiah Wilson, for the sum of twenty‑five dollars ($25.00), granted one half acre of land at Locust's present site to the Trustees of "Locust Chapel" upon which to build a house of worship. On November 3, 1871, this same deed was drawn up again. Both deeds appear to have been recorded in land records of Howard County and the State of Maryland. The two deeds do not differ in substance; however, the earlier deed contains deletions and corrections. The second deed contains more legal language and is free of changes.

On May 25, 1871, (between the dates of the two deeds), Mrs. Annie Carr presented to Locust Chapel a Bible with an inscription on the fly leaf that reads "May the Blessings of God be upon this church." Mrs. Carr's prayers were fulfilled on November 3, 1871, when Mr. Jeremiah Wilson (again) made the land gift for the erection of a house of worship. The Trustees on both deeds were Isaac Holland, Wilson Holland, and Jerry Wilson.

The deeds describe the area in which Locust was to be located as "Athol Enlarged," now known as Atholton. The neighborhood was known as Freetown, an enclave of free Afro‑Americans since before the Civil War. Within a six mile radius, with Locust at the hub, were two other churches (Hopkins T1881] and Asbury) which with Locust became the Atholton Charge. The name "Atholton" for the area and the Charge originated with the McGill family whose home place was on Route 32, where "Kings Contrivance" now stands. Simpsonville (which is the current address of Locust) was initially located at what is now Route 32 and Cedar Lane, as was the Simpsonville Post Office. An Atlas of Howard County 1878 contains a map of the area showing Locust Chapel very prominently. A copy of that map is included at the end of this history. A fire in the late 1880's caused the post office to be moved to Atholton, where it was named the Atholton Post Office for many years. Ultimately, the Atholton area and the post office at the junction of Routes 32 and 29 encompassing Locust resumed the name of Simpsonville.

On January 13, 1885, John R. and Susie Clark deeded to the Howard County School Board Commissioners twenty‑four perches of land for the Atholton School, which was a primary school for Black children. This land was adjacent to Locust Chapel, and the building which later held the Howard County Board of Education very close by, was originally the Harriet Tubman High School for Black children. When the Atholton School was later abandoned, the property became part of the Locust Chapel property. Since educational facilities were racially separate, displaced Black children from the Atholton School had to attend Guilford School on Route 32 and Mission Road, several miles away from Freetown. Also in 1885, the Randall Family Cemetery land was set aside immediately adjacent to the Church by the parents of Mrs. Jeannette Randall, Robert and Ellen Williams (see list of oldest families of Locust).

Over the years, the Church continued to add to its property. On February 4, 1902, John H. Owings, as Trustee for John R. Clark, sold to Locust Chapel four acres, one rod, and thirty‑five square perches of land for eighty‑nine dollars and twenty‑seven cents ($89.27). This area, as we know it today, comprises the property of Locust United Methodist Church and adjacent Locust Cemetery. The Trustees in 1902 were Jeremiah Wilson, Isaac Holland, Wilson Holland, and Henry Anderson. Successors to these Trustees were Charles Crawford, Henson Dorsey, Walter Dorsey, David T. Johnson, Benjamin Kelly, Lewis T. Kelly, Sr., Alonzo Myers, Daniel Thomas, George Thomas, George Warfield, and Robert Williams.

On March 13, 1909, the adjacent Locust Cemetery property was deeded to the Green Willow Cemetery Company by the Trustees of the Church. On March 31, 1923, this Company deeded the Cemetery property back to the Trustees of Locust Methodist Episcopal Church f or the sum of one dollar. It is interesting to note that the president of Green Willow Cemetery Company was also a Trustee of Locust.

In December 1923, Locust, as tenants in common with Hopkins, purchased twenty eight and one quarter square perches of land from Mary E.T. Sanner "in consideration of Five Dollars ($5.00) and other valuable considerations ..." "... subject however to the operation and effect of a mortgage ... of Four Hundred Dollars ($400.00) with interest..."

In another legal action, on June 13, 1920, Locust was incorporated. The certificate of incorporation in Howard County Certificate of Incorporation Records was signed by John J. Cecil, Minister in Charge, Nelson Holland, David Johnson, Henson Dorsey, and Alonzo Myers.

In addition to acquiring property over the years, the organizational and conference affiliations underwent changes. With positive support of the leadership of the Baltimore Conference (White), the first Conference of the Black Methodists, which signaled the birth of the Washington Conference (Black), was held at Sharp Street Church in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 27‑31, 1864. The following day, November 1, 1864, heralded the cessation forever of slavery in Maryland. The petition to organize this conference (embracing central, southern, and western Maryland, the District of Columbia, and northern Virginia) included a church from. Sandy Spring.

In 1876, Locust Chapel was identified as part of the Howard Circuit of the Washington Conference, along with Brown Chapel, Hall Chapel, and Pine Orchard Chapel. To date, the earliest established reference to the Atholton Charge of the Washington Conference is 1892. The Atholton Charge belonged to the South Baltimore‑Annapolis District of the Washington Conference, from 1892 through 1901. In 1902, this district became the Annapolis District. In 1923, it became the South Baltimore District and remained so until 1949, when it became the West Baltimore District. During this period, Locust Chapel continued to grow and became Locust Methodist Church, an all Black congregation.

In April 1951, the old church, a clapboard structure, was moved to the Locust grove beside the original church site facing Freetown Road and a concrete block edifice was built on the site of the old church. Rev. E.E. Arter was the Pastor and Rev. C.A. Scott was the District Superintendent during the time of the building. At the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone, Attorney Sybert of Ellicott City, Maryland, and Grand Master Willard Allen, Prince Hall Masons of the State of Maryland, were guest speakers. A donation of a Bible and $10.00 was made to the church by Mr. Sanner in memory of Mrs. Kate Kelly, a dedicated church worker and the mother of Mr. David Kelly (who was active in Locust life until well into the 1980's). Landmark Lodge, Prince Hall Masons of Catonsville, gave $30.60; Grand Master Willard Allen donated $10.00; and the American Legion Post from the Fort Meade area added $5.00 to a collection received from the public in the amount of $31.91. The Trustees at that time were Albert Dorsey, Lewis T. Kelly, Jr., James King, Sr., Idella Thomas, and Irving Thomas. The builders of the new church were Caleb Brooks and sons, Edward and Clifton, building contractors of Freetown.

In his report to the Washington Annual Conference in 1954, District Superintendent Scott wrote, "The beautiful, spacious Locust Chapel Church was erected on the Atholton Charge during the year."

A week of celebration and thanksgiving preceded the mortgage burning on Sunday, April 28, 1957, and this date also marked the fifth Anniversary of the building of the new church. Rev. Arter was still the church's Pastor. Rev. Carroll Thomas was the Assistant Pastor, Mrs. Frances Thomas (now Myers) was the Locust Lay Leader, Rev. Scott was still the District Superintendent, and Rev. Edgar A. Love was the Bishop. Newspaper accounts of the celebration listed Senator Frank E. Shipley of Savage, who introduced Senator Harry T. Phoebus of Somerset County as a guest speaker. Other guests on the program were: Bishop Love, District Superintendent Scott, Rev. Ennis Cole of the Howard County Circuit,, Charles Miller of the Howard County School Board, and Rev. Carroll Thomas. The main guest speaker was the Governor of Maryland, Theodore R. McKeldin.

In 1959, while Rev. Arter was still the Charge Pastor, negotiations began which culminated in the purchase of one acre of land and the building of the new parsonage by Mr. Leroy Thompson. During that same year, the old parsonage was sold and the proceeds were divided between Locust and Hopkins. This activity was specifically reported by District Superintendent Scott in his report at the 1959 Washington Annual Conference.

On June 16, 1965, the separate all‑Black Washington Conference, of which Atholton Charge had been a part, went out of existence after one‑hundred and two annual sessions. Bishop Edgar A. Love was the last Black Bishop of the Washington Conference. The West Baltimore District merged with the Baltimore Conference and the Charge became a part of the Baltimore Southwest District. At this time, our Minister was Rev. Lovell Parham; Rev. William Firth was the District Superintendent. Rev. John Wesley Lord became the first White Bishop to head the Methodist Churches of the Baltimore Conference, of which Locust was now a member. A letter from the Governor, J. Millard Tawes, was included in the letters of welcome to the Baltimore Conference.

Records of the late 1960's indicate that intermittent discussions were held concerning the possibility of merging the three churches of the Atholton Charge. There were also difficulties with the regularity of certain services and pastoral presence caused by the need to cover three churches. Even so, the next significant development with respect to church organization appears to have been the birth of the United Methodist Church. Ministers of the 1970 Baltimore Conference (November 1969) heralded the "Uniting Session of the Baltimore Conference (Methodist), the Susquehanna Conference (Evangelical United Brethren), and the Virginia Conference (Evangelical United Brethren) of the United Methodist Church..." At this conference, Bishop Lord spoke on "White Racism and Black Revolution." He proposed the abolition of the dual system of appointments no later than the Annual Conference of 1974. He further warned all churches and charges to be prepared for appointments of duly qualified pastors across racial lines. (While this has yet to happen at Locust, there was some concern which had to be addressed in 1976 when the Charge received its first female minister, Rev. Katherine Luckett, four months after Rev. John Day died.)

Rev. Walter B. Cox became the Charge Pastor in 1968 and served until 1974, when he was succeeded by Rev. Day. During their service, a Church newsletter and the Locust Learning Center were established under the leadership of Mr. William C. Hinds. The center offered courses in barbering, upholstery, sewing and tailoring, embroidery and crocheting, mimeograph operation, and a tax and legal assistance program for seniors.

In 1982, Atholton Charge was divided into two Charges: Asbury-­Hopkins Parish and Locust Parish and Locust gained Rev. Curtis L. Mitchell as its pastor. By 1984, the downward trend of the number of members had been reversed and 1985 witnessed a significant increase in membership.

Rev. Mitchell served six years, during which period the membership of Locust increased from a low of 97 to more than 150. This increase is, no doubt,, just one of the reasons District Superintendent John Coleman's report in the 1987 Annual Conference mentioned "the exploding ministries at churches like Locust and Glen Mar. The newsletter was resumed under the name Locust Messenger, and the number of choirs grew to four. A Music Program was initiated with funding, effective March 1986 for two years by a grant from the Baltimore Conference. A recital, featuring Locust students of the Program, was given in 1987 and 1988. Also while Rev. Mitchell was Pastor, Locust purchased ownership rights of Hopkins and Asbury to the Charge Parsonage and land. Because Rev. Mitchell already owned his own home, Locust rented out the parsonage for several years.

During the pastorate of Rev. Mark Venson, who succeeded Rev. Mitchell in 1988, it became apparent that the parsonage was in need of extensive repair or renovation. To this end, major church effort turned.

Work on the parsonage began in June 1990, and we acquired our current pastor, Rev. Victor E. Sawyer, in July 1990. Remodeling was not without problems for the church. In addition to the expense of housing Rev. Sawyer and his family, the building contractor abandoned the project with less than half of the required work completed. With a new contractor and additional bank financing, the job was completed in February 1992 and Rev. Sawyer and his family moved into the parsonage in March 1992.

Over the years, the Locust Women's Society (now called the United Methodist Women) and the United Methodist Men have worked faithfully to alleviate the financial burdens of the church and to improve its appearance. our pews, mini blinds, and new refrigerator are products of UMW projects. The United Methodist Men have ably maintained church grounds, including the cemetery, and, together with the UMW, performed significant personal labor support of the parsonage remodeling. Ensuring successful completion of the parsonage work was the last consuming interest of the UMM, President, Richard Myers, who died in December 1991.

During Rev. Sawyer's first year at Locust (1990), the Locust Center for Cultural Enrichment was formed with a grant of $1800.00 from the Baltimore Conference. Up to 20 children were taught concepts of spiritual and moral development and African American culture. A major Church project, Disciple Bible Study, was launched in 1991 with private funding and UMW assistance. This 34 ­week intensive study with Rev. Sawyer as leader/teacher ran from October 1991 to June 1992; seventeen students graduated June 21, 1992. A second 34‑week class will begin September 29, 1992.

Under Rev. Sawyer's leadership, we experienced a renewed emphasis on traditional religious ministry, and a significant, steady growth in membership. (See attached list of Locust membership.) A highlight of our 1992 observance of Heritage Sunday was the appearance of Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel as the guest speaker. This was the first time that a Bishop of the Baltimore Conference has participated in a Locust service. He was accompanied by Rev. Edwin Schell, executive secretary of Lovely Lane museum, who presented a history of the United Methodist Church, before Bishop Yeakel spoke on new, international directions of United Methodism.

In 2005, Reverend Carletta Allen became the pastor of the Locust United Methodist Church. Under Reverend Allen's leadership the Share food program was implemented at Locust. Additionally Pastor Allen was very active in the community. A grass-roots, faith-based Howard County coalition was mobilizing through the efforts of Dr. Allen. The coalition supporters implemented a door-knocking campaign to find more people who are eligible for health care under the county's Healthy Howard plan. The group, PATH (People Acting Together in Howard), has also obtained an assurance from County Executive Ken Ulman to push for lower-interest borrowing rates for consumers by moving public monies out of banks that charge high rates.

In 2011, Reverend Jane Wood became the 34th pastor of Locust United Methodist Church. As Locust embarks on its future with Reverend Wood we look forward to renewed spiritual growth based on the teachings of the Bible and the example of Jesus Christ.

(History credits to - Lil Dorsey and Marium Jackson)

Pastors, Presiding Elders/Dist.Superintendents And Bishops Of Locust



Presiding Elder/Dist. Superintendent



Rev. Watkins[1]

Charles G. Keys

W.E. Thirkield


W.W. Foreman




C.W. Matthews




T.B. Snowden




S. Brown




B.B. Martin

Nathaniel M. Carroll



Samuel Aquilla

William H. Gaines



John C. Norris

Joseph Wheeler



Abraham Jenkins




William Holt

Charles C. Cumming



Elijah Ayers




J. Cecil

Joseph H. Jenkins



Lawrence Valentine




R.D. Jennings[2]

Julius Carroll



William H. Dean



Geroge Booze

F.F. King



Benjamin Gross

J.D. Browne



Albert Hammond


Alexander Shaw


J.H. Carter




J.E. Dotson



V.N.S. Hughes

C.E. Johnson



E.E. Arter

Kelly Jackson



Ely Lofton



C.A. Scott

Edgar A. Love


L.H. Davis

K.P. Barnes



John J. Coursey




Lovell Parham




William Firth

John W. Lord


Harold Bell




Walter B. Cox

Odell Osteen




James K. Mattews


John M. Day

Carroll Doggett



Katherine B. Luckett




Daniel McLellan, Jr.




J.B. Buchheister



W.E. Middlebrooks


D.F. Wertz


Curtis L. Mitchell




John W. Coleman




Joseph H.Yeakel


Mark D. Venson

Gerald W. Weiss



Victor E. Sawyer




Carletta Allen


Jane Wood

[1]Circuit churches shared pastors and records for Locust (a part of the Howard Circuit of the Washington Conference) are fragmented prior to 1876; however, these earlier pastors have been identified.

[2]Surname shown in Washington Annual Conference minutes of 1926 as "Jenkins." Old Locust records show "Jennings."