ZION BAPTIST CHURCH •Pre-1900 History

 

    About the year 1802(the exact date of birth is unknown) Rev. Frank Dobbins was born a slave in Bladen County, North Carolina. He was later transported to Camden, South Carolina around 1843, where he was licensed to preach, while still a slave. About l85l, he was sold to a citizen of Columbia, where he developed many friendships. Included among these friends were White Ministers Sancho Taylor and Anthony Davis. Reverends Taylor and Davis principally conduct­ed the preaching to Black Baptist in the Columbia area but permitted Rev. Dobbins to perform limited pastoral duties. Upon the death of Reverends Davis and Taylor, the pastorate of these Black Baptists was given to Rev. Dobbins in accordance with the death bed wish of Rev. Taylor. He led this flock of devout Black Christians to the best of his ability until the outbreak of the Civil War.

 

    Meanwhile, Rev. Samuel H. Johnson, an influential preacher in slavery from Charleston, South Carolina, was removed from the coast by the Confederate forces, and settled inland in Columbia. He and Rev. Dobbins teamed up to become the leaders of Baptist freedmen.

 

    Reconstruction heralded revolutionary changes in the Black movement. Whereas earlier it had been the practice to use accommodations supplied by Whites, the new freedmen found this dependence degrading and unsatisfactory and chose to meet in temporary accommodations of their own. During this time, Rev. Wilson Carr and Charles H. Corey (White) of Charleston on March 4, 1866 called together the Baptist Freedmen at the home of Sister Celia Mann (now Mann-Simons Cottage). There, Rev. Johnson and Rev. Dobbins were presented to the assemblage (at the time numbering about 300 former members of Columbia First Baptist Church) to elect their leader. Rev. Johnson was elected by a major­ity vote. The minority numbering some 25 members, adhering to the dying request of Rev. Sancho Taylor, were dissatisfied and resorted to another location in the city of Co1umbia, and organized First African Baptist Church (now Zion Baptist Church) in the year of 1866. The exact location of the initial church is unknown. We only know that it was a hum­ble dwelling in the 1400 block of Gadsden Street. References, reflect only later that the owner  became a deacon, furnished them a place to worship. This dedi­cated flock affiliated with the Zion Baptist Association on July 17, 1867 under the leadership of Reverend A. Burk, Moderator. The Zion Baptist Association was organized July 15, 1865 with churches from Georgia and South Carolina at First African Baptist Church of Hilton Head, South Carolina. Zion Baptist Association was the first interstate Black Baptist Association organized in the state of South Carolina. The Ebenezer Baptist Association was the second interstate Black Baptist Association constituted with South Carolina Churches. Like the Zion Baptist Association, it was organized in late 1865. Mt. Zion and Silver Bluff Baptist Churches of South Carolina were charter members. The 1868 minutes of the Zion Baptist Association credited First African Baptist of Columbia, South Carolina with 168 members and Reverend Frank Dobbins as pastor. Thirty four of those members were baptized during that same year.

 

    First African Baptist Church changed its name to Zion Baptist by 1870, the year they sought dismissal from the Zion Association to affiliate with the Gethsemane Baptist Association. Gethsemane Baptist Association was the first intrastate Black Baptist Association organized in South Carolina (November 1867 – Gethsemane Baptist Church, Chester, SC). The Gethsemane Baptist Association met at Calvary Baptist Church in 1871 during its fifth annual session.  The Gethsemane Association split into two associations during 1871. Those associations were called the Gethsemane Association, Upper Division and the Gethsemane Association, Lower Division. Zion Baptist joined the Gethsemane Association, Upper Division during this session convened in Columbia.

 

    In accordance with Act No. 253 of the 1870 General Assembly of South Carolina, the Governor was authorized to transfer a 52’ x 208” lot on the corner of Washington and Gadsden Streets to John Little, Alfred Goodwin, Stephen Daniel, Martin Mary, Isaac Goodwin and Andrew Worthy (Deacons of Zion Baptist Church) for the sum of $10.00. County records reflects that by deed of Robert K. Scott, Governor of South Carolina dated April 22, 1871, John Little, Alfred Goodwin, Isaac Goodwin (successor of Stephen McDaniel), Martin Mary, and Andrew Worthy were in deed conveyed title to this lot (at the corner of Washington and Gadsden Streets.

 

    Under the leadership of Rev. Frank Dobbins a small, humble church building was erected, and 172 men and women moved from their former place of worship in the 1400 block of Gadsden Street to their new church home.

 

    During 1873 twenty six members were received by letter increasing Zion’s membership to 318. A sizeable number of these members belonged to Zion’s Sunday School headed by Brother Jordan Young.

 

    The Gethsemane Baptist Association, Upper Division divided itself into two associations in 1875. Those Associations were called the Gethsemane Association, II Division and Gethsemane Association, III Division. The Gethsemane Association, II Division eventually became known as the Pee Dee Baptist Association. The Gethsemane Association, III Division reverted to the name of Gethsemane Baptist Association. Zion Baptist hosted the first session of the Gethsemane Baptist Association, III Division on October 21, 1875.

 

    Zion’s membership had grown to 549 members by 1875. The church had 62 baptisms, 10 transfers in by letter and 7 restorations in 1875. The church excluded 6 members, lost 7 members by letter and lost 6 members by death. The Sunday School had 114 scholars and 9 teachers under the leadership of Superintendent Jordan Young.

 

    Brother I. Jordan was the first known clerk of Zion Baptist Church. Brother Jordan reported 634 members in 1880. Brother Jordan Young continued to be Superintendent of Sunday School with  J. E. Hayne as Church School Secretary.

 

    In 1883, Rev. Scipio B. Stratfoot was elected  to assist Reverend Frank Dobbins. Rev. S. B. Stratfoot served as a member of the Gethsemane Baptist Association Executive Council in 1883. Rev. Stratfoot  served as assistant pastor aiding the aged Rev. Frank Dobbins  and pastor of the church  until he died on September 8, 1887. Brother James Lowndes served as clerk in 1884. Reverend Frank Dobbins leadership made Zion Baptist an integral part of the historic growth of Columbia. He pastured until his death in 1886.

 

    In the year of 1887 on December 1, Reverend Harrison N. Boney was elected pastor of the church. Reverend Born in Edgefield County during 1849. Dr. Boney was sent the SC Education, Missionary and Sunday School Convention as a missionary to Liberia, Africa August 14, 1878. He took charge of the Shiloh Baptist Church of the Shiloh Baptist Church organized a short time prior to the sailing of the Azor from Charleston, SC on April 21, 1878. Churches of the state raised $603.70 for his support.

 

    According to county records, on March 30, 1886, Palmetto Lodge No. 5 of the independent Order of the Odd Fellows conveyed to Benjamin F. Goodwin, in trust for the members of Zion Baptist Church, the lot next to and east of the church lot (site of the former parsonage – now the Zion Conference Building) for the sum of $350.00. Mr. Goodwin was given authority to mortgage the lot to pay the Odd Fellows the purchase price therefore and to erect improvement thereon. There after, Mr. Goodwin mortgage this lot to Richland Building and Loan Association for the benefit of the church for $900.00. This mortgage was to be repaid at $6.00 per month.

 

    Public records reflect that on May 19, l888, Zion Baptist Church of Columbia was incorporated  by the Sate of South Carolina as an eleemosynary cor­poration with power to purchase and hold real estate not exceeding in value of $15,000.00. Incorporators of the church were Benjamin F. Goodwin, Calvin Nelson, Jefferson Haynes, William Lewis, James Owens, Marcellas Lomas and Jim Lyles. It is believed that at this time a second church was built on the lot deeded to Mr. Goodwin by the Odd Fellows. On May 28, 1888, Benjamin F. Goodwin Conveyed to Zion Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina, the lot of land previously conveyed to him by the Odd Fellows. This deed recites that the lot was bounded on its west by lot on which is situated Zion Baptist Church, indicating that the second church had not been constructed. The second church was subsequently constructed on the lot received from the Odd Fellows, while the congregation continued to utilize the first Church (on the  lot at the corner of Washington and Gadsden Street) to conduct worship services.

 

    Zion Baptist Church’s Sunday School had grown to 183 scholars by 1887. Brother Jordan Young continued to serve as superintendent with A. Wallace, Jr. as secretary. Pastor Boney reappointed James Lowndes as church clerk.

 

    On April 11, 1888, the State Baptist Women Missionary and Educational Con­vention of S. C. was organized here at Zion Baptist Church. Records were un­available noting other accomplishments during Rev.  Boney’s four years as pastor of this church. He served until 1890, when he resigned to become a missionary on the foreign field. During Rev. Richard W.  Baylor’s pastorate, which began in 1890, the $900.00 mortgage to Richland Building and Loan Association was paid off through the dedicated efforts of the membership. Later, the first parsonage was built and the member­ship greatly increased.

 

    The annual salary for the pastor was $600.00 in 1892. Zion’s church property was valued at $7,000.00 during that year. The church’s membership had grown to 908 in 1892 including 30 baptisms, 13 transfers in and 3 restorations. Miss U. B. Wallace served as secretary of the Sunday School in 1892. Brother H. E. Lindsay serve as Superintendent of the 200 member Sunday School Department.

 

    Pastor Richard W. Baylor was elected Treasurer of the Gethsemane Baptist Association in 1894. Pastor Baylor baptized some 70 souls in 1894 pushing Zion’s membership to more than 1000 members. Brother D. Dauvall, Zion’s clerk reported some 30 members transferring in and 28 restorations in addition to the 70 baptisms.

 

    Brother G. Goodwin had assumed the position of church clerk by 1899. Brother Goodwin reported the Zion’s church property value of $9,000.00 in 1899. The pastor continued to be paid $600.00 annually. Zion lost 8 members by death in 1899.

 

    Pastor Richard W. Baylor was pictured in the 1901 minutes of the Gethsemane Baptist since he still served as treasurer. Moderator John C. Daniels and Clerk J. C. Jackson were also pictured in the associational minutes. During the 1901 Sunday School Convention, Reverend Baylor made a presentation entitled “Should your pastor teach the Sunday School”. Pastor continued to lead Zion forward with 52 new members in 1902. Brother S. Hawley served as the new clerk in 1902. Brother W. Entzminger served as superintendent of the 375 scholar Sunday School.

 

    Brother A. Thomas served as Superintendent of Zion’s Sunday School in 1908. The church school library had 270 book and 234 scholars. Brother Thomas Williams served as church clerk during this period of time.

 

     The Missionary Society was organized under the leadership of Rev. Baylor with Mrs. Delphine Baylor as the first president. Rev. and Mrs. Baylor were the parents of four daughters and four sons. He served as pastor for over 23 years and resigned in 1913.

Copyright ©2006, Minister John Middleton, all rights reserved. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy. However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same.

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