William Paul Quinn was born in Honduras sometime near the turn of the 19th Century, although some accounts list his birthplace as Calcutta, India. According to an affidavit issued in 1851, his mother was Egyptian and his father a Spaniard engaged in the mahogany business. This document would have been essential to him in the days before the Civil War to prove that he was not a runaway slave.
He came to America in the early 1830s and was associated with the Quaker leader Elias Hicks, but soon converted to Methodist Episcopalian. He was authorized to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, and in 1944 was named Bishop in that Church.
In 1836, he was appointed missionary and sent to the Western states, particularly Ohio and Indiana. On September 23, 1836 he organized Richmond’s Bethel A.M.E. Church. He also organized similar churches in Dublin, Newport (now Fountain City), and Cambridge City, as well as most of the A.M.E. Churches in Ohio and Indiana. He liked Richmond enough that he made it his home and base of operations.
Throughout the rest of his life, he was a highly esteemed member of the community. His funeral in 1873 had to be held in the Pearl Street M.E. Church because the Bethel Church was too small to hold the large number of mourners.