The "Little White Church on the Hill"
This church owes its existence, to a large degree, to the late Sarah Gibson. Mrs. Gibson, known to many of those around as "Nanny," was an ex-slave, and settled in an area of Montgomery County, Maryland, known for many years as "Number Ten." This name was given to a voting district largely resided in by Blacks which is currently known as Cabin John, Maryland.
Mrs. Gibson was a native of Virginia and during her enslavement, she served her slave owners as their seamstress, doing the sewing and knitting for that family while her husband, Louis, served his slave owners as the wagon driver. When there was no sewing to be done or no trips to be made, Mrs. Gibson often joined her husband to work in the fields.
When the Civil War came to an end, the Union soldiers forced the Gibson family to leave the plantation of their former slave owners. The Gibson family went to work on a farm located in Potomac, Maryland, and 16 years later, the family purchased 4-1/2 acres of land on Seven Locks Road in the "Number Ten" area of Cabin John, Maryland.
Mrs. Gibson was a spiritual woman and felt the need of having a place of worship. Being an individual of action to demonstrate her beliefs, she gave a portion of her property, in 1898, and under leadership of the Reverend Wright, the first GIBSON GROVE A.M.E. ZION CHURCH was constructed. The building was built from logs harvested from trees located on Mrs. Gibson's property. In recognition of Mrs. Gibson's foresight and thoughtfulness, the members of the church named the church in her honor. The first church was located on the lower south side of the present structure.
Mrs. Gibson also felt the need for black children to gain as much education as they possibly could, and to that end, the first building was used in a dual capacity--the first church and the first Gibson Grove School. Not too long following the construction of the initial building, and under the leadership of Mrs. Gibson, a one-room school was constructed beside the church. That facility was later turned over to the State of Maryland and it was then moved to Moses Hall.
The first members of Gibson Grove Church were baptized in Cabin John Creek, a stream which was located about 1/2 mile south and east of the church. For several years, a portion of the church property was used for a cemetery.
In 1923, twenty-five years after the first building was constructed, and under the pastorate of Reverend G. Stevenson, Gibson Grove A.M.E. Zion Church was rebuilt on the site where it stands today.
Ministers who served the Gibson Grove congregation prior to 1974, in alphabetical order, were Reverends Cook, Cooper, Covington, Diggs, French, Grant, Howard, Linder, Mitchell, Pagan, Proctor, Stevenson, Truss, Wallace and Watkins.
In 1974, Reverend Robert L. White became the pastor of Gibson Grove Church. Under the leadership of Reverend White, the membership of Gibson Grove took a "giant step" by mortgaging the church and its property to acquire a loan of thirty thousand ($30,000) dollars for the purpose of modernizing the church. That modernization included installing central heat and air conditioning, indoor restrooms, and construction of a lovely kitchen and dining facilities.
Reverend Joseph A. Davis, was assigned to Gibson Grove in 1986. At that time, the balance due on the mortgage was $23,000. Reverend Davis, with the endorsement of the membership, set a goal of liquidation the church's indebtedness by July 1, 1990. By July 1, 1989, the mortgage had been reduced to $12,000, and at that point in time, GIBSON GROVE WAS BLESSED WITH A MIRACLE. Reverend Davis was contacted by an individual who informed him, "I WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR THE LORD. I HAVE SELCETED GIBSON GROVE CHURCH FOR DOING SOMETHING FOR THE LORD BY DONATING THE BALANCE REMAINING ON THE CHURCH'S MORTGAGE WHICH I UNDERSTAND IS ABOUT $12,000. THE CONDITION UNDER WHICH I AM WILLING TO MAKE THIS DONATION IS THAT MY NAME WILL NEVER BE REVEALED." The membership voted unanimously to accept the offer and, shortly thereafter, the mortgage was paid in full.
The Gibson Grove family is eternally grateful to all members and nonmembers, past and present, who have so unselfishly contibuted to our "LITTLE WHITE CHURCH ON THE HILL" being the great institution whose history we so proudly live and celebrate.
- The Historical Committee (1989)