First AME Zion Church has a rich history. As we enter the year 2020, we are committed to continuing that history by "Making history in the 21st century.
The end of the Civil War brought the migration of many Blacks to the Western United States. Among them were John Williams, James Lodge, William Smith and John Madden. Mr. Williams was a former valet to General Grant. Mr. Madden immediately established himself as a voting citizen and entrepreneur who subsequently became a successful landowner. Both of these men worked for San Jose Woolen Mills and were crucial in establishing The First African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in San Jose, California.
The First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in San Jose was founded in 1864. Mr. William Smith, Mr. John Madden and the original Board of Trustees were among the founders. This first Board of Trustees included William Smith and James Lodge. These men saw the necessity for exercising their constitutional right just as the founding fathers of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church had done nearly sixty years earlier at the John's Street Church in New York City. The City of San Jose had no other religious order serving the Black community in 1864. The (Black) parishioners met in each other's homes until they could get more firmly established. In 1870, the San Jose City Directory listed First A.M.E. Zion Church as being at Fourth and San Antonio Streets, and it was the “only religious organization among the colored people of the city”. The City Directory also noted that “the church is in a prosperous condition, the attendance on Sunday always being sufficient to fill the church." Rev. A. Stephens was listed as the pastor in that year.