The History of Wesley Temple
Wesley Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, the first Black church organized in Akron, Ohio had it beginnings when a small group saw the need of a church for Blacks in Akron. As early as 1864, this group of fervent religious worshippers were meeting in different homes and small halls holding prayer meetings. Hascomb Hall at 11 1/2 North Howard Street was rented in 1866 and used as a place in which to worship.
Rev. Joseph Armstrong, in 1868 after organizing the group became the first pastor of the church, which was then called A.M.E. Zion Church. While plans were in the making to find a new home for the church, the congregation worshipped at the Bowen School at Broadway and Perkins Street, which is now the Administration Building for Akron Public Schools.
In 1870, the missionary ladies became very interested in missions and made plans to secure a permanent place to worship. They were able to gain the trust and influence of Mr. George Crouse and Mr. Fred Stone, who were instrumental in raising funds to purchase a lot on South High Street.
The ladies Home Missionary Society, led by Mrs. Pharor, solicited additional funds from the Honorable George Crouse and the Canal School Building was given to the church. It was moved onto the lot at South High Street and named Crouse Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church. Rev. Armstrong had a fund raising contest, giving the person who raised the largest amount of money the honor renaming Crouse Chapel. Mrs. Bell Wesley, an ardent and religious woman, raised the largest amount and the name was changed to Wesley Temple A.M.E. Zion Church.
In 1924, Rev. James Black was appointed pastor of Wesley Temple and purchased the site on which the church was erected and still stands at the corner of Perkins and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Rev. B.F Gordon was appointed pastor in 1926. Plans to erect the edifice were drawn up by architects Wardner and Sommerville. The church was built by Mr. Plato, a Negro contractor at a cost of $170,000.00. The church was dedicated the week of August 12-19, 1928. The Congregation walked from High Street Church to the new building. What a glorious day this was for all. The membership grew from 300 to 750 in a short time.
During the depression year, Rev. J.E. Kennedy served as pastor. Many members were unemployed and the church was struggling under a heavy indebtedness. It has been repeated over and over how Rev. Kennedy would lock the church and go fishing to avoid creditors who wanted to reclaim the pipe organ in church. Today Wesley Temple is still the only black congregation with a pipe organ. Under the pastorship of Rev. James P. Foote with the help of Dr. Noble Elderkin, members and the Ministerial Association, the mortgage was liquidated in 1945.
In 1953, Rev. E.E. Morgan, Jr. was appointed pastor. During his pastorate, a new three-storied educational unit was added to the existing building at a cost of $200,000.00 which was raised by pledges from the members. The building consisted of offices Sunday School classrooms and multi-purpose rooms.
The Akron NAACP was organized at Wesley Temple A.M.E. Zion Church which also purchased the first $500 membership.
Rev. Wm. Lloyd Burton, Jr. was appointed pastor in November 1989. Under his administration the church continued to grow and new programs were implemented.
Wesley Temple was pastored by the Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker, Sr. who was served from September, 1992 until June, 2009.. Under Pastor Walker’s leadership the following programs were initiated: a Tutorial Program, Feeding the Needy twice a month, Saturday School for children, Evangelistic Crusades and New Members Classes. The church purchased two 25 passenger seat busses, put a new roof on the church and apartment building, repaved the parking lots, purchased a dishwasher for the kitchen, purchased additional property and established the Library/Resource Center (LRC). The church caught on to the spirit of volunteerism and Outreach Ministry.
Rev. Dr. Vince L. Monden was appointed as pastor June, 2009.
PASTORS HAVING SERVED THE CHURCH: Rev. Joseph Armstrong Rev. Norm Cypert Rev. Caskill Rev. Disheron Rev. James M. McMullen Rev. Pringle Rev. B.L. Conbash Rev. J.O. Little Rev. Simmons Rev. Washington Rev. Wheeler Rev. E.D.W. Bell Rev. M. Upperman Rev. James H. McMullen Rev. James L. Black Rev. B.F. Gordon Rev. J.T. Kennedy Rev. J.P. Foote Rev. J.T. Dunn Rev. Dr. E.E Morgan, Jr. Rev. Wm. L. Burton, Jr. Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker, Sr., Rev. Dr. Vince Monden.