In April 1867, shortly after the Civil War, local African American leaders in Huntsville founded a "Union Church." For $50, Joshua Houston, William Baines, and Strother Green bought property three blocks from the local square and established a building that served both Baptists and Methodists. As Patricia Prather and Jane Monday have argued, this church "became the first institution in Huntsville owned collectively by ex-slaves and thus subject to their control. It became much more than a religious institution. Freedmen often met there to share information about how to protect themselves and their families. The church also became an education center where both children and adults began learning to read the Bible and the few other books that were available to them."
Despite the central role that the Union Church played in the local community, the congregation soon grew too large and diverse for a single location. The church, therefore, split into three separate groups in January 1869. The Methodist Episcopal congregation founded St. James United Methodist Church at the “Union” site at 14th Street and Avenue M. Members of the African Methodist Episcopal faith founded Allen Chapel AME church on Avenue I and 11th Street a few years later. Meanwhile, several dozen other Baptists established the First Baptist Church on 10th Street in Rogersville.
Between 1870 and 1890, the new St. James United Methodist Church experienced her glory years. St. James was the liveliest church in town with a membership of three to four hundred. In addition, the church had a great choir, good organist, fine preacher, and a splendid and well-arranged Sunday school.
After almost a century of use, the congregation at St. James replaced the original church building with a new structure in 1964. The church remained on its original site, however, and years later Pastor Iowa D. Jones unveiled the official Texas Historical Marker on February 21, 1982. Dr. Chester Steele gave the dedicatory sermon. St. James has been and will always remain an important landmark in the development of Huntsville.