Old Church records reveal that in 1869 Ezekiel Gillespie serve as chairman of a small group of eight Christian men and women who wanted to organize a “Church of Allen” in their new Milwaukee home. Others in the group were Ezekiel’s wife, Catherine, Louis and Matilda Hughes, Charles and Sarah Dorsey, James Johnson and Catherine Paget. These courageous men and women were dedicated to Allen’s Creed – God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, and Man our Brother. The creed dated back to 1787 when Richard Allen, a slave, bought his freedom and became the first free African to be ordained in the Methodist Church. Ezekiel Gillespie, on behalf of the Milwaukee group, sent a request to the Rt. Reverend William Paul Quinn, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church to send a minister to help organize and A.M.E. Church.

The response was prompt. On January 8, 1869, the Rev. Theodore Crosby arrived in Milwaukee to participate in a meeting planned by the Milwaukee group. As it was written in the book of Mark 14:15; “And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared; there make ready for us” That “large upper room” was a rented upstairs room at 1 Spring Street (Wisconsin Avenue).Sanctuary

The meeting was fruitful. The eight dedicated men and women set their sights on a permanent church home. The “Old Engine House” on Second Street, between what is now Wisconsin Avenue and Michigan Street, was rented temporarily. (insert the photo of the first church building)


On April 5, 1869, at the request of Rev. Crosby, Bishop Quinn cam to Milwaukee. A church was organized. It was called The First African Methodist Episcopal Church, (years later, in 1886, the name was changed to St. Mark A.M.E. Church). The church became an official member of the Indiana Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church – the Church of Allen.

For eight courageous Founders, the trials were to be almost insurmountable. With complete trust in God and in the Bible, as their inspiration, they set their course never once looking back. In the words of Psalms 25:9: “The meek will be guided in judgment; and the meek will He teach His way.”

In June 1869, just two months after the church was organized, a 50 by 75 foot site was purchased on the corner of Fourth and Cedar Streets. Two buildings were located on this lot, a church formerly occupied by the German Zion Evangelical (Methodist) Congregation and a four-room house, which was used as a parsonage. The property was bought on a Land Contract. A down payment of $500 was made. A Mr. Henry Hesse and the trustees of the Evangelical Church held the mortgages jointly. St. Mark’s small congregation was proud indeed of its new home, however, the problems were great. Besides the mortgage payments and the expenses of operating the property, the congregation soon had to face unexpected expenses. There were city assessments for street improvements, levies for sewers and there were repairs to be made on the property. ( Insert the photo of the second church building)


In 1876, during the pastorate of Rev. M.K. Alexander, the work of razing the old structure and building a new one began. The church basement was completed in March 1887. It became the place of worship until the church edifice was completed on March 29, 1887. With the Rt. Rev. J.M. Brown, Presiding Bishop of the A.M.E. Church participating, the congregation joyfully held Dedicatory Services. “And the word of God increased: and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly.” Acts 6:7. Membership in St. March Church increased. There was fine Christian leadership of dedicated ministers. There was hard work by faithful members. St. Mark became known as “The Friendly Church.”

In March 4, 1914, the Trustees report stated: “Since the last quarter, we have disposed of our church property on the corner of Fourth and Cedar Streets by exchanging the same for the German Reform Church property, consisting of a brick church edifice, a brick parsonage of nine rooms, situated on a plot of ground 100 by 150 feet located on Fourth Street between Cheery and Galena Streets.” “In addition to the Real Estate property, the German Reformed Church paid over to us $600.”

The Cornerstone was laid and the Dedicatory Services for the newly acquired church was held on June 7, 1914 with the Widow’s Sons Lodge, F.A.M., and the Palesting Lodge, K. of P., assisting in their varied capacities. At this time the membership was about 100. This church at N. Fourth and W. Galena was to be St. Mark’s home for almost half a century.  (insert the photo of the third church building)

In 1953, under the able leadership of Rev. John E. Bradford, the membership of St. Mark agreed to purchase another larger church home. It was realized that the membership had far outgrown its old church structure. The church bought the property on 1876 N. 11th Street and this became the church home of St. Mark from 1953 to 1966.( Insert the photo of the 4th church building)

With Milwaukee’s Redevelopment program of the 1960’s, the course of the North-South Expressway was chartered. It wound its way through the city with deadly precision and St. Mark was in its path. Shortly after the mortgage was burned, the news came that the church would have to be sold and demolished.

In September 1964 the Rev. Lovell Johnson became pastor of St. Mark. It was a time of change and challenge, a time of decisions and affirmations. Pastor Johnson’s motto was “God is able!” These words became, indeed, the motto of St. Mark’s congregation. The congregation rented the old Knights of Pythia Lodge Hall located at 2470 N. 1st Street and worshipped there until March 1969, when they dedicated their new church building.

No greater tribute can be paid to Rev. Johnson’s undying faith in God’s guidance, than the completion and dedication of St. Mark’s beautiful edifice. The building and grounds cost over $600,00.

Over a hundred years have passed since Ezekiel Gillespie and his group sat in the upper room and decided that with God’s help, a church would come into being. Their dreams, and aspirations, their prayers, and their trust point to the realization that success is not achieved at the speed of a jet nor in the realms of outer space.


Symbolism of Building    (Fifth church building insert)
“Church of the Anvil”

The erection of the new St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church should have a similar meaning for us as some of the memorable experiences of the Israelites at the Jordan River. To commemorate and memorialize this last event, before entering Canaan, Joshua commanded twelve men to each pick up a large stone from the Jordan and carry it to Gilgal, where Cairn was erected. A similar monument of twelve stones was erected at the site of the crossing. These monuments served to remind people of all the generations of the miraculous intervention of God in the history of His people.

Today, these stones in the St. Mark edifice, should remind us that God has provided the way for us to glorify Him, so we built this edifice to Him. Throughout the long struggle to erect this building, God provided a way.

St. Mark is an expression of our history and our faith. The anvil is our Connectional symbol historically established in a blacksmith shop. The very shape of the building is expressive of that fact. Replicas of the anvil are on the front of the building (16th St. entrance) representing the three points in our motto: “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother.”

Inside the Sanctuary there are three aisles leading to the altar. These symbolize the three manifestations of our one God; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – The Trinity.

There are 27 windows on the north wall of the Sanctuary representing the number of Books in the New Testament. There are 12 windows on the south wall of the Sanctuary, which represent the Twelve Apostles. Combining the numbers 27 and 12 we get 39, which is the number of books in the Old Testament. There is one pulpit lectern in the center of the pulpit-rostrum. This indicates the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God, in the lives of His people.

The low point of the sanctuary ceiling represents humility before God and the high point of the ceiling suggests the help and inspiration the worshipper receives when he lifts his eyes unto the hills from whence cometh our help.

Outside on the front lawn stands a cross on top of a 40-foot campanile. This cross symbolizes the victory which we have in Jesus Christ.