Henry H. Horton was one of the earliest travelers in what’s become known as the Great Migration, when some 6 million African Americans fled the rural South to the North and West. Horton, who left Montgomery County, Alabama, in 1915, landed in Anderson.
It was there, six years later, where Horton started a church in his home at 1920 Park Ave. He called the church Wallace Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church after Bishop Paris Arthur Wallace, the presiding bishop of the Indiana Conference at the time.
Three church buildings and 27 more pastors later, church members and Horton’s descendants will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wallace Temple AME Zion Church with a two-day celebration Sept. 25 and 26. It will include a picnic, morning worship and a centennial celebration event.
Family historian Celena Bostic Perry, Horton’s great-niece, is old enough to remember Horton but not old enough to recall many details. She’s relied on interviews with family who are in their 70s and 80s to learn more about who Horton was, and the consistent theme is love.
“They spoke of him with reverence,” said Perry, who is working on a book about Horton, the AME church and Wallace Temple AME Zion Church.
WALLACE TEMPLE AME ZION CHURCH 100-YEAR CELEBRATION
Wallace Temple AME Zion Church in Anderson will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a two-day event that will also include recognition of Henry H. Horton, who founded the church in 1921.
• When: Sept. 25 and 26
• Where: Wallace Temple AME Zion Church, 1518 Forkner St., Anderson
Noon — Dedication
12:30 p.m. — Church picnic
10 a.m. — Morning worship
3 p.m. — Centennial celebration
Horton was born April 5, 1882, in Pike Road, Alabama, which is near the capital of Montgomery. He was the eighth of 13 children. Many followed him to Anderson, but the family still has roots in Alabama.
Horton was a carpenter who, as Perry wrote in a biography, “not only built buildings and things, but also helped to build the spiritual character of men, women and children.” He started the church primarily for his family but soon had to accommodate a growing congregation. A two-story church building and a parsonage were built in 1945, and the current church was built on additional land in 1985.
Pauline Rolling-Davis, another of Horton’s great-nieces, took piano lessons as a girl at Horton’s house and attended church when he was the Sunday school superintendent. She remembers all of the children would gather in the sanctuary for the last 15 minutes and report what they learned to the congregation. Horton knew how much she enjoyed doing that, so even if Rolling-Davis didn’t volunteer, he would often call on her.
“He was just a grand old man,” she said.
Rolling-Davis’ son, Derrick Wilkerson, is part of the anniversary committee and will emcee the celebration. He was born in July 1963, one month after Horton died at the age of 81.
“He was a legend when I was a kid,” Wilkerson said. “Uncle Henry represented excellence.”
Horton’s great-niece Sharon Hudson, who is Rolling-Davis’ sister, said Horton would be proud of the current church, which is pastored by Rev. Antwaun J. Johnson.
Not everyone in the family who lives in the area still goes to Wallace Temple, but organizers hope to bring family back together as part of the 100-year celebration.
There aren’t many living family members who can say from firsthand experience what Horton was like, so Hudson and others want to make sure his legacy continues to live on.
“You don’t have to be famous, rich or anything,” Hudson said. “You don’t have to have a Ph.D. Just do what you can to touch lives.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.