“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Athens in McMinn County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

St. Mark A.M.E. Zion, “Free Hill”

Southeast Tennessee Religious Heritage Trail

St. Mark A.M.E. Zion, "Free Hill" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, July 21, 2021
1. St. Mark A.M.E. Zion, "Free Hill" Marker
Inscription.  Freedom had been a long time coming for three to four million African American men, women, and children. During a period of turmoil and strife in antebellum America, when racism and discrimination were widely prevalent, enslaved African Americans placed their hope in freedom for future generations.

During the 1850's and 1860's, African Americans settled in the Athens area. There were some that had not been slaves and some that had been granted the status as free men. They settled in a community in the northern part of the city. This community was named “Free Hill.” The church property was deeded to the church by two African-Americans of Cherokee descent that had never been slaves. Descendants from some of the first settlers lived in the community until the late 1960's when Urban Renewal removed the majority of vestige of “Free Hill” and changed the total look of the community.

St. Mark AME Zion Church, once called the Freedom Church is the only visible reminder of a historic community that was lost, but not forgotten. The Church was built in the late 1860's by one of its pastors. St. Mark has served as a school, a recreation
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center, and a meeting place for the African American Community. The memories that hallow the halls of St. Mark AME Zion Church capture the essence and the visage of a community treasured by all.

"Some men see things that are not and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not." — Robert Francis Kennedy

(Left) The first Church.
(Right, top) After renovation.
(Right, bottom) Present facility.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansChurches & ReligionSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Church series list.
Location. 35° 27.006′ N, 84° 35.838′ W. Marker is in Athens, Tennessee, in McMinn County. Marker is at the intersection of North Jackson Street (Business U.S. 11) and Knoxville Avenue, on the right when traveling north on North Jackson Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 707 North Jackson Street, Athens TN 37303, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Free Hill — A Forgotten Community (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); First United Presbyterian Church (approx. ¼ mile away); The Nocatula Legend (approx. 0.3 miles away);
St. Mark A.M.E. Zion, "Free Hill" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, July 24, 2021
2. St. Mark A.M.E. Zion, "Free Hill" Marker
Petty-Manker Hall (approx. 0.3 miles away); Battle of Athens (approx. 0.4 miles away); Tennessee Wesleyan College (approx. 0.4 miles away); Samuel Cleage (approx. half a mile away); McMinn County Jail (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Athens.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 25, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 24, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 217 times since then and 76 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 24, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Dec. 10, 2023