“Scraps of African Methodist Episcopal History” w/ mentions of early presence on the Eastern Shore (Rev. James Handy, 1902)

The first Annual Conference of the A. M. E. Church met in Baltimore, Md., April 12th, 1817. This session was held in the home of Mr. Samuel Williams (a fine two-story building), on High street. Members present were Bishop Richard Allen, who presided; Revs. Daniel Coker, Richard Williams, Edward Waters, Henry Harden, Don Carlos Hall; Revs. Jacob Tapsico and James Champion were visitors from Philadelphia. At this session, Henry Harden, Edward Waters and Charles Pierce were recommended for and ordained Deacons. Some progress had been made financially, in securing additional church property at Sculltown and Mt. Gilboa, in Baltimore County.

        The appointments made by Bishop Allen were:

        Rev. Henry Harden, Bethel Church, Baltimore, with oversight of Bearhill, Frederick Road, Mt. Gilboa, Sculltown and Fells’ Point.

        Assistants to Rev. H. Harden–Richard Williams and Edward Waters.

        Richard Allen, Jr., Secretary.

        The second session of the Baltimore Annual Conference met in Baltimore, Saturday, April 14, 1818, Rt. Rev. Richard Allen presiding. Richard Allen, Jr., Secretary. After devotional exercises, the roll was called, and seven members answered to their names: Bishop Richard Allen, Daniel Coker, Richard Williams, Edward Waters, Henry Harden, Charles Pierce, David Smith and Don Carlos Hall (in whose house the Conference was being held). At this Conference the first Connexional Book Steward was appointed, in the person of Don Carlos Hall.

Says Bishop Payne, in his History: “Possibly no man in the Conference had any conception of what he was doing to promote the influence and power of the Church when he voted for that simple resolution to appoint a Book Steward for the Conference.” At the same time Rev. Henry Harden was appointed book steward for the circuit. Henry Harden, Edward Waters and Richard Williams were elected and ordained elders.

        Appointments made by Bishop Allen:

        Bethel Church, Baltimore, Rev. Henry Harden.

        Union, Bear Hill, Rev. Edward Waters.

        Washington, D. C. (as Missionary), Rev. David Smith.

        Cecil County, Md. (as Missionary), Rev. Jeremiah Miller.

        Oxenhill, Md. (as Missionary), Rev. Peter Schureman.

        The third session of the Baltomore Conference met in Bethel Church, Baltimore, April 16th, 1819. Bishop Richard Allen presided. After religious exercises, Rev. Jacob Mathews called the roll, the following members answered to their names:

        Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, Rev. Henry Harden, Rev. David Smith, Rev. Charles Mathews, Rev. Edward Waters, Rev. Charles Pierce, Rev. Abner Coker, Rev. Shadrack Basset, Rev. John Foulks, Rev. James Chase, Rev. Jeremiah Miller.

        Two persons were admitted on trial at this session: Joseph Chanie and John White. David Smith and Edward Waters and Charles Pierce were ordained elders. This Conference licensed seven brethren to the office of exhorters in the Conference. Rev. Shadrack Bassett was appointed to the Eastern Shore.

        The Annual Conferences met in the following order: One in Baltimore, in April, 1817, and one in Philadelphia, in May, 1817.

        He organized churches at Easton, Denton and Ivory town, and extended the church to French Town, and the Rev. Jeremiah Miller organized churches at Cecilton, Port Deposit and Octorara. These pioneers of our church in Maryland spread the work from the Choptank, on the Eastern Shore, to the Susquehanna River. They were assisted in this work by Joseph Clare, Samuel Todd, Richard Boon, Stephen Standford, Henry Brown and Graves Holland.

        In 1820 we find Rev. David Smith pastor in charge at Washington, D. C.; Peter Schureman at Piscataway, in Prince George County, Md.; Jacob Richardson and J. P. B. Eddy, Frederick County, Md. These men were operating in the interest of the Church, but a permanent organization was not effected until two years later, 1824.

        The Baltimore Conference up to 1820, 1821, 1822, had not laid off its work regularly in stations and circuits. The first General Conference meeting in 1820 paid very little attention to this order of things. But in 1821, the Eastern Shore of Maryland was considered, by common consent, a part of the Baltimore Conference. At this session, the Rev. Jacob Mathews placed it, by motion, under the charge of the Elder in Baltimore; in fact, this Conference session largely transacted the business that should have been transacted by the General Conference. The local preachers were formally admitted to seats in the Annual Conference. This was brought about by motion of Brothers Harden and Webster. By motion of Rev. David Smith, they were deprived of a voice in the Conference against any one of the traveling preachers, except in case of a trial, and then only as witnesses. A “General Rule” was adopted for the government of churches. This rule, it seems, had been drawn up in the city of Philadelphia in July, while the first General Conference was in session; but to this fact no allusion was made, and it was first ratified by the Baltimore Conference for the government of all the churches. This fact indicates the mistaken view which the members of the General Conference entertained concerning their power as a general body.

        This Baltimore Annual Conference, had not only fixed the rules and regulations, but also named the place of meeting of the next General Conference in 1824, in Baltimore. The Annual Conference of 1823, met April 10, and at the opening a very few were present, but all the members answered to their names before the close of the session. Don Carlos Hall, having died during the year, the announcement of his death, together with the memorial services, caused a gloom of sadness over the whole conference. By a unanimous vote Brother Charles Hackett, a layman, was elected steward in his place.

        Henry Harden and Jacob Richardson were the movers in agreement which was reached, that the Annual Conference have the selection of delegates from the district of Baltimore to the General Conference.


Handy, James A. Scraps of African Methodist Episcopal History. 1902. P. 26 – 28.


“The other Disney: N.E. man became respected AME preacher” (Cecil Whig, Jul 16, 2016. Erika Quesenbery Sturgill)

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Bishop Disney

NORTH EAST — It would be forgiven if the headline for this story caused the reader to squint and call to mind the affable smile and genius of the more famous Walt Disney, of Mickey Mouse fame, and wonder just how in the world he was connected to Cecil County.

Well, this is not about Walt Disney, or Mickey or Minnie for that matter. This story is about a lesser-known but still famous Disney who truly ought to be remembered in the county of his nativity. This Disney was born some say on July 13, 1835, while others avow on June 24, 1830, in the then village of North East. The son of Henry and Rebecca Disney, Richard Randolph Disney was a free-born African-American, whose parents had previously been enslaved.

Disney was greatly blessed to be born into freedom in the years before the Civil War and to receive a higher education at a seminary operated by the Rev. Samuel Osgood at Springfield, Mass. While working in Baltimore, Disney would later recall, he “felt a call to preach,” and went north to obtain an education in the field while supporting himself as a barber.

In 1857, Disney would be licensed to preach by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, or A.M.E. Church, which was formed in 1816. He would later be ordained as a deacon and elder. By the mid-1850s, the AMEC had seven conferences in the United States, and preachers had begun to work in Upper Canada in 1834, with a conference formed there in 1840.

The Rev. Richard Randolph Disney would come to Upper Canada in 1857 to minister to those who found refuge from slavery there prior to the Civil War. There he was enlisted by Bishop Willis Nazrey of the newly formed British Methodist Episcopal Church, which came about once the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in the United States in 1850

Disney served several pastorates in Canada and became well-known and regarded as the denomination’s book steward and editor of its publication, Missionary Messenger. When Bishop Nazrey died in 1875, the Rev. Disney had become so well regarded that he was chosen as Nazrey’s successor thus making him the second bishop of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, or BMEC. Bishop Disney’s area included Ontario, Nova Scotia, Bermuda, the West Indies and British Guyana.

Disney became mightily involved in mission work in the Caribbean, and in 1876 spent six months visiting missions there. By 1879, he was raising funds for an educational institution for the church, and visited Britain with a youth choir patterned after the famous Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, calling themselves Jubilee Singers as well.

In 1880, the BMEC reunited with the AMEC, and Disney was accepted as an AMEC bishop assigned to the 10th Episcopal District, essentially embracing all of his former territory and some AMEC churches that hadn’t previously joined the BMEC. By 1888, he was transferred to the Eighth District, in Arkansas and Mississippi, living in Greenville, Miss., where he was stricken by malaria and moved to Baltimore seeking medical treatment. Disney died in Baltimore on April 20, 1891.

He would be eulogized in 1891 as “courageous, thrifty and persevering, of genial spirit and suave manners.” He was laid to rest in Chatham in Canada, beside the body of the First Bishop, Willis Nazrey.

Bishop Disney was also memorialized in his own lifetime with a Methodist Episcopal Chapel, which was known as Disney Chapel in Yarmouth, Ontario, Canada. Built by Robert P. Kelley it was consecrated and opened for public worship Nov. 4, 1877, during a dedicatory service conducted by the Right Rev. Bishop Disney and Rev. Walter Grayson, pastor of the Disney Chapel. The chapel would close in late 1930, but would be reopened and closed again in fits and starts for a number of years. It finally became a Pentecostal chapel and serves to this day as Sharon Gospel Assembly.

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