Our History

The history of
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

July 12, 2014 will be a historical day for the members of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Tarentum, Pennsylvania, as they commemorate the founding 97 years earlier as the first African Methodist Episcopal Church for black worshippers in the Allegheny Valley.  The local church was born out of a dream, the faith and the efforts of an evangelist, The Reverend Lula A. Moore.
The Reverend Moore moved to Creighton, PA in 1915, where she operated a small grocery store.  Licensed to preach in 1913 at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Pittsburgh, Pa, she was concerned there wasn’t an African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Upper Valley.  With zeal and enthusiasm, she contacted other concerned residents and non-denominational meetings were held in her store.  As more residents were won over to her dream of founding a church, a building had to be located.  The old Pfeffer Building on West Seventh Avenue was utilized for Church Services and Sunday School in 1917.  As the congregation grew, a dream had begun to materialize. Fund raising for the building of a church was the first priority of the members. Five years later a sufficient amount of money was raised for a down payment and the trustees contacted the President of Tarentum National Bank, the late Robert Pitcairn, and a mortgage was arranged.
Most blacks had migrated to the Tarentum/Creighton area to puddle in Penn Iron and Steel.  They came from Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana to make steel for guns and ammunition during World War I.  Mrs. Moore’s husband, Lucius, was a foreman with Penn Iron and Steel, and made trips throughout the South to persuade and arrange for the transporting of farmers to work at the hot steel furnaces in support of the war effort.  The owners of Penn Iron and Steel, Mr. Neiman, Mr. Hicks and Mr. Lewis donated the land at Wayman Place to Mrs. Moore for the building of a church.  When financing was complete, the trustees of the church picked and shoveled out the foundation.  An architect from New Kensington designed and built the new concrete block church that remained in the area until 1966.  In the early twenties, more blacks migrated to the area to work at what was then called Allegheny Steel Company, and the congregation began to grow.  Administratively, the African Methodist Episcopal Church is a National and International body divided into districts for governing. After the local church was completed in 1923, a decision was made to join the larger African Methodist Episcopal Conference.
The conference branch did not approve of women pasturing churches and assigned a male minister, Reverend Charles Addison to lead the new congregation.  The local church grew and prospered as more joined the new congregation.
Under the rules of the Pittsburgh Conference, ministers are assigned annually to the local church.  Twenty-Four ministers have served and all have left their imprint.
The Reverence F.W. Thompson added a parsonage to house the ministerial family.
The year 1948 was the Reverend James A. Jarvis, Jr.’s arrival in the valley and under his leadership, the interracial interfaith Friend’s Day became an annual event.  The J.A. Jarvis Scholarship Club was organized to encourage young people of the church to continue post-high school education.  Bethel membership is very proud of their young people’s accomplishments. The majority of them have settled in other areas of the country.
During Reverend Jarvis’ tenure, redevelopment was started which necessitated relocating.  Once more, fund raising with community people, organizations and the congregation helped to realize another dream.  Groundbreaking for the new church was June 1966, with dedication and laying of the cornerstone in 1967.  The Reverend Jarvis retired in 1968, proud of his many accomplishments in his 20 years of service to Bethel A.M.E. Church and the community.
As the members of Bethel A.M.E. Church celebrate 96 years of existence, they are constantly reminded of the heritage of the African Methodism.  Richard Allen, a former slave, was the founder.  The African Methodist Episcopal Church originated as a protest against the racial discriminatory treatment, which the helpless people of African descent were forced to accept from the white people belonging to the St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, PA.  The first A.M.E. Church was organized in 1787 in Philadelphia , PA.  Richard Allen felt Methodism, with its emphasis upon the plain and simple gospel, which the unlearned could understand and its orderly system of rules and regulation which the underdeveloped needed, would encourage the new freedom to make progress, worship God freely and fill every office for which he had the capability.
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Tarentum, Pennsylvania, though born humbly in the storefront church in 1917, celebrates 96 years in the community, proud of the contributions of its members both locally and nationally.


Ministers who served from 1917 thru the Present

  1. * Rev. Lula A. Moore 1917 – 1923 (Founder)
  2. * Rev. Charles Addison 1923 – 1927
  3. * Rev. John W. Dixon 1927 – 1928
  4. * W.L. Peteet 1928 – 1929
  5. * Rev. Jessie Bass 1929 – 1930
  6. * Rev. W.S.T. Jordan 1930 – 1933
  7. * Rev J.O. Edwards 1933 – 1935
  8. * Rev. F.W. Thompson 1935 – 1940
  9. * Rev. Joseph A. Jarvis, Sr. 1940 – 1941
  10. * Rev. L.G. Long 1941 – 1943
  11. * Rev. John D. Long 1943 – 1945
  12. * Rev. W. H. Frazier 1945 – 1948
  13. * Rev. James A. Jarvis, Jr. 1948 – 1968
  14. * Rev. William Walton 1968 – 1972
  15. * Rev. Ernest E. Davis 1972 – 1976
  16. * Rev. George Emory Matthews 1976 – 1980
  17. Rev. Clem C. Ragster 1980 – 1988
  18. Rev. Richard E. Cox 1988 – 1991
  19. Rev. Wilma Jean Smith 1991 – 1991
  20. Rev. Willie George Saddler 1991 – 2002
  21. Rev. Kenneth Boyd 2002 – 2004
  22. Rev. Dr. Helen Milner Burton 2004 – 2008
  23. Rev. JoElla Williams 2008 – 2012
  24. Rev. Melva Hartzog 2012 – Present

* Deceased