Editor’s note: This is the first in a new video series by the City of Round Rock to highlight impactful locations in the City’s history.
Along the recently-designated Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Round Rock stands a one-room church that has withstood the test of time.
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church is not the biggest church in Round Rock, nor does it have the most congregants; however, long-time member and Round Rock resident Ella Sauls Morrison says the congregation has a “small but mighty” reputation that continues today.
The church was founded in 1885 as the first African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Round Rock. The founding members’ names are etched in stone at the church’s entrance. While many of the families still have generations living in Round Rock today, the church has seen significant changes — including a move across Interstate 35.
Just a half century after the church’s founding, Round Rock was already beginning to grow at a rapid pace. The original location of the church, which was constructed of wood from an old barn donated by a local farmer, was at the southwest corner of RM 620 and Interstate 35, where Sprouts and McDonald’s are currently located. When Interstate 35 was built, the church had to relocate to its present location on North Sheppard Street. Sauls Morrison’s father, Otto Sauls, and his brother secured a $500 loan with Farmers State Bank to purchase the land from their sister to build the new church, and the new building was completed in June 1958.
The church today features some of the original church’s lumber, windows, lightning rods, pews, altar, pulpit and piano. The church is missing its original iron bell, which was stolen by local teenagers during the move.
The church has regularly scheduled Sunday services, prayer services and opens its doors for community meetings and prayer vigils. St. Paul A.M.E.’s mission is to “provide spiritual and religious teachings and fellowship to the community and all who enter.”
The AME church was created at the turn of the 19th century by black parishioners from St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, who had been confined to the gallery of the church during services. The church’s current pastor, the Rev. Sharian Brown-Taylor, said the congregation continues to find its roots in social action. In 2021, the congregation helped push for Sheppard Street to be designated Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and held a ceremony with the City of Round Rock to install the signs.
“The various people that attended, you didn’t see one color — you saw the community come together, and those are the things that are important and those are the things that the church should represent,” Brown-Taylor said.