By February 15, 2023 Read More →

Modesto’s Oldest Church

BY Harrison Power

Tucked among the residential streets of West Modesto stands the Clinton Chapel A.M.E
Zion Church. From the exterior, the modest wooden church seems unchanged from when
it was originally built. Located at 1024 4th Street for over 120 years, the Clinton Chapel has
withstood the test of time, a significant feat in a Downtown that has lost many early structures.
While other old churches of various denominations still stand throughout the city,
the 14-pew Clinton Chapel is the oldest original church building in Modesto.

The first mention of Modesto’s A.M.E. Zion Church in early newspapers was on March 3,
1902 in the Daily Evening News, when it was announced plans were underway to gauge local
interest in establishing a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. It was
Reverend A.J. Woodward, from Oakland, who the 1902 A.M.E. Conference sent to lead
the organizing efforts in Modesto, which were fruitful as a new branch, were successfully
organized under Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church by the end of March 1902.

By April 1902, the newly organized congregation had begun fundraising, seeking $300 to
purchase the “Carman property” on 4th Street between J and K Streets. The property looks to
have been successfully purchased by Reverend Woodward’s congregation by the end of May 1902. At this point, the structure was expanded to accommodate services for the new A.M.E better.
Zion Church members. On October 22, 1902, the new church was formally dedicated by
Reverend Bishop George Wylie Clinton (1859-1921), an influential and prominent member of
the Church that traveled to Modesto from Charlotte, North Carolina, for the dedication. In honor
of the esteemed bishop, the church was renamed the Clinton A.M.E. Church during the

From that point onward, you could say the rest was history for the Clinton A.M.E. Zion
Church. The Modesto Bee in 2004 rightly referred to the Clinton Chapel as a “survivor,” and the
church continues to stand proudly in the same place it has for well over a century. Sunday
Services are offered starting at 10:45 AM, and call (209) 846-9235 for more information.

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