Missoula homeowner digs up history of African-American church

    A Missoula newspaper article announced the opening of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909. (Photo: NBC Montana)

    February is Black History Month. It’s dedicated to learning the history of the experience of African-Americans in the U.S.

    In the 1900s, many traveled to northern cities and founded churches. Missoula was no exception.

    As one Missoula homeowner found, it was history hidden in plain sight. After digging up old Missoula newspaper articles, the history he found was right next door.

    The St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church opened in the early 1900s on the 1400-block of Phillips Street. By 1926, 36 registered members attended it.

    But Greg Martin was troubled when he couldn’t find any pictures of the church after sifting through old newspapers and talking with the historical society and University of Montana professors.

    "The newspaper description says that 500 people attended this giant barbecue that the church put on,” Martin told NBC Montana. “It's like, did people not take pictures then? I don't know.

    Martin hopes to piece together what little is known about what was likely Missoula’s only black church.

    “I'm just hoping that there is maybe someone in town here that knows more about this church or maybe has pictures or stories that they could tell," said Martin.

    He recently posted his findings online, in an article called “Hiding in plain sight: St. Paul A.M.E. Church and Missoula’s Forgotten Black History.”

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