Maury County African American History

Goal: To chronicle the history of the Black community in Maury County through documents, photographs, oral history, interviews and videos.

Members of the Mount Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church, Columbia, Tennessee, circa 1880’s


These archival documents from the Columbia, Tennessee birthplace of Sandra Seaton include the history of two of Seaton’s family churches, St. Paul A.M. E. Church, founded in 1830 and Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church, founded in 1843; an article about Seaton’s grandfather Will Evans; and photo of College Hill School, the main educational institution for Columbia’s Black community, founded in 1881.

St. Paul A.M. E Church

St. Paul A.M.E (African Methodist Episcopal) Church
Founded in 1830

Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church

Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church, founded in 1843, by three of Seaton’s ancestors: Eliza Webster, Annie and Dempsey Cherry and four others, is the oldest Black Baptist church in the state of Tennessee. Edmund Kelley, who traveled with Frederick Douglass, was the founding pastor.

Information was compiled and presented to Tennessee State Archives by Sandra Seaton.

History of the Founders of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church

Lyman Johnson: Civil rights leader and grandson of Dyer Johnson, one of the founders of Mount Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church (biography, The Rest of the Dream: The Black Odyssey of Lyman Johnson)
View Johnson obituary from the New York Times, October 6, 1997.

To learn more about the Dyer Johnson Family and the Mount Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church, view the Dyer Johnson Family Papers

Will Evans Article

Article from Historic Maury about well-known fishing and hunting guide Will Evans, the grandfather of Sandra Seaton. Evans, whose clientele included both African American and white men from Middle Tennessee, was called on to take FDR and Cordell Hull on fishing trips as well as physicians from Meharry and other Black community leaders

College Hill School

College Hill School, established in 1881, was the elementary and high school for African Americans during the era of segregation. After the last high school class graduated in 1949, prior to the opening of Carver Smith High School for Black students in 1950, College Hill became known as College Hill Elementary School.
Although it received much less than its fair shares of material resources, it was graced with outstanding principals and teachers. Two of the most notable principals were Professor J.H. Kelly and Professor Robert Johnson, father of the civil rights leader Lyman Johnson.

College Hill School, Columbia, Tennessee, 1920

This portrait, taken in 1888 in Columbia, Tennessee, was discovered by Sandra Seaton during her research on the church.  The photo’s restoration was funded by a Kellogg Foundation Grant received by Sandra Seaton.
Custom photo assistance provided by Custom Photographic, Lansing, Michigan, and Central Michigan University.