668 Main St. Ext. – St. Thomas AME Zion Church

The first church on the property was thought to have been floated down the White Oak River on barges. Per newspaper accounts, from 1878 (when the white “free church” was destroyed by a hurricane) until the 1890s, St. Thomas AME-Zion church was the only church in Swansboro.  The building today was constructed after the older structure fell into disrepair and was torn down in the 1980s. The AME-Z denomination has roots back to John Street Methodist Church of New York City where members left due to overt racism and built their own church in 1800.  Swansboro United Methodist Church, long affiliated with St. Thomas Church, has overseen community efforts to fund and provide labor for renovations to the present building.

Swansboro’ s African American community after the Civil War formed St. Thomas African Methodist Episcopal-Zion, one of the oldest independent black churches in the county. Early members were Nelson and Celia Blount, Isaac and Delia Bell, Daniel and Easter Ambrose, and Phillip and Caroline Chavis.  A Freedmen’s School was built at the same time,1868-1869, with the help of the American Missionary Association. The original building cost $397.20, and had a 12 foot ceiling with a schoolroom 24 feet by 18 feet, not plastered. There were rooms in the rear of the house for teachers’ quarters with a parlor 15’12’ and a lodging room approximately 7’15’.  This school building might have been the same that became the segregated Black school of the 20th century.