Historic Church Property Donated to the Gordon Parks Museum

The former site of the church at Third and Lowman Street, the Learning Tree Sign is seen in center, left.

Fort Scottian Josh Jones purchased the property at 301 Lowman for a philanthropic purpose.

“I purchased it from the owner with the intent to transfer it to the Gordon Parks Museum,” Jones said. “I knew of the historic meaning of the property and wanted to get it to them.”

Left to right): Josh Jones, along with Kirk Sharp, Gordon Parks Museum Director  and Sarah Smith, member of the Fort Scott Community College Foundation. Submitted photo.

On the property once stood the historic African-American Methodist Episcopal Church.

Now it’s the property of the Gordon Parks Museum, thanks to Jones and the Fort Scott Community College Foundation, according to a press release from the museum director, Kirk Sharp.

“The FSCC Foundation Department helped with getting it deeded into their name, the museum is under its umbrella,” Sharp said.

“Jones donated the site on the southeast corner of Third and Lowman streets where the church, attended regularly by Gordon Parks and his family, was located,” according to the press release. “The church was also used in a scene from Parks’ acclaimed film, The Learning Tree.”

AME Church
Gordon Parks, 1950.
Photo Courtesy of and Copyright by The Gordon Parks Foundation

“We are very excited about this donation and can’t thank Josh and the Foundation enough,” said Sharp. “This donation creates this wonderful opportunity to keep this incredible history alive in Fort Scott. This is also the same location that is located on our Learning Tree Film Sign Trail.”

The sign that explains this site is part of the Gordon Parks Sign Trail.

The tentative plans, Sharp said, are to develop the property as a commemorative, low-maintenance park neighborhood-type park with signs, photos, benches and short walls with a history of the church as a tribute.

“The museum will look for possible grants and donations to help fund this project,” he said. “There is currently no timeline as of now for the completion of the tribute project.”

In its heyday, the church, established in 1866, was the hub of Fort Scott’s black community, according to the press release. The church moved from its original location in 1885, occupying a new brick building on the corner of Third and Lowman, where it stood at 301 S. Lowman with a viable congregation for more than 115 years.

A reduction in members and unsafe conditions eventually led to its condemnation and razing in the early 2000s, Sharp said. One of the stained-glass windows and two of the pews are on exhibit at the Gordon Parks Museum.

“The largest congregation was believed to have been in 1888,” he said. “The city directory for that year indicates the membership was 260 and the Sunday school membership was 100.”

The AME church was Fort Scott’s first and oldest black church with Shiloh Baptist being the second.

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