Historical Sketch of New Zion Benevolent Baptist Church

New Zion Benevolent Baptist Church traces it origins from three lower Richland Baptist churches. The first one being the Congaree Baptist Church founded by the Reverend Joseph Reese in 1765. Congaree Baptist Church was the first Baptist church in lower Richland county. Congaree Baptist's fellowship consisted of a small number of white members and a majority black membership. During the early 1800's Congaree Baptist moved from the Congaree/Grovewood community and relocated to the Gadsden community. The members remaining in the Congaree/Grovewood community opted to form a new church. The new church was called Beulah Baptist. Beulah was organized April 26,1806. Beulah Baptist's mixed membership was majority black. Immediately after the Civil War, the white and black members decided to worship separately. The black congregation worshiped on the second and fourth sundays, while the white congregation worshiped on the first and third sundays. Eventually, the black congregation evolved into two churches, Shiloh and New Light Beulah Baptist churches. Shiloh Baptist, now defunct was the first independent black church in lower Richland.

New Light Beulah Baptist church evolved from the balance of Beulah's separate black congregation. The members of New Light Beulah continued to worship in the two story sanctuary jointly claimed by themselves and old Beulah (white). The dispute contributed to the eventual organization of New Zion Benevolent Baptist Church in 1871. Approximately, three hundred members of the 500 member New Light Beulah withdrew to organize New Zion Benevolent Baptist Church. Simply stated, New Zion Benevolent evolved from Congaree, Beulah and New Light Beulah Baptist churches.

New Zion Benevolent Baptist founders included Clem P. Davis, the first pastor, and deacons Paul Sims, William Sims, Peter Brown, Robert Goodwin, Jack Cornish, Frank Jones and Robert Jones along with their respective families. Pastor Clem P. Davis, a former slave of Joel Adams, Jr.,born in 1839 had been Baptized January 26, 1851 at Old Beulah Baptist during slavery. Under the leadership of Pastor Davis and the church's deacons, New Zion Benevolent Baptist joined the Gethsemane Association, upper division during its 1871 annual session.

The church's Sunday School department was organized in 1873. Oliver H. Hopkins at age 23 was selected as the first Superintendent. Mr. Hopkins served as Superintendent until 1878 when he was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel. The Sunday school enrollment had grown to 250 at the time of Mr. Hopkins' departure. While serving as the church's first Superintendent, Oliver H. Hopkins also served as the church's first clerk. Mr. Hopkins tenure as clerk ended in 1878. New Zion Benevolent Baptist membership totaled 312 by the ended of 1871. The church witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit when 155 souls were converted and baptized in 1873. The total membership exceeded 460 members by the end of 1873. Clerk Oliver H. Hopkins recorded 547 members during his last year of service (1878).

A small band of members residing in an area known as Log Town withdrew to organize St. Matthew Baptist Church in 1875. St Matthew Baptist called Peter Shiver, a former member of Zion Benevolent, as their first pastor. While the 50 year old Peter Shiver and his wife Irene were helping to organize St. Matthew's, St. John Baptist of Hopkins was being organized with former members from New Light Beulah and New Zion Benevolent Baptist churches. St. John called William M. Lowman as their first pastor.

During the Gethsemane Association, upper division's annual session of 1875 occurred a split of the Association. The eastern portion became known as the Gethsemane, II division. New Zion Benevolent Baptist Church affiliated with the Gethsemane Association, II division in 1875.

Dennis H. Jackson assumed the role as church clerk in 1879. He is known to have served as church clerk continuously up to 1900. Dennis Jackson, his wife Lucy and children: Joel, John, Caroline and Martha, were diligent members of Zion Benevolent.

Zion Benevolent's second Superintendent of Sunday school was Edward Weston, the son of Robert and Ann Weston. Edward Weston's tenure as Superintendent ended in 1884.

Zion Benevolent affiliated with the newly formed Wateree Association October 29, 1881 at Shiloh Baptist Church in Bennettsville, S.C. Nine other churches from lower Richland joined the Wateree Association along with Zion Benevolent. Immediately after joining the Wateree Association, Zion Benevolent members lead by Pastor Davis and Deacon Paul Sims organized St. Mark Baptist Church as a missionary project of the Wateree Association. Pastor Davis served as pastor of both churches.

The church's total membership had dropped to 352 after some 72 members were dismissed to organize St. Mark Baptist on the Pea Ridge Plantation in Gadsden, S.C. Zion Benevolent's membership slowly built back up to 450 members by 1897.

Pastor Clem P. Davis died in 1885 leaving a big void for the members of the two churches he Pastored. Reverend Davis was buried in the church's cemetery. His tombstone can be spotted today in the church's cemetery.

St. John's Pastor Wlliam M. Lowman was asked to serve as Zion Benevolent's second pastor. Pastor Lowman promptly resigned as St. John's pastor to become Zion Benevolent's newest pastor in 1885. Reverend Lowman pastorate was short lived when St. John's members asked him to return after a 1 year absence. Lafayette Goodwin assumed the position of superintendent of the Sunday school during Pastor Lowman's one year tenure. Mr. Goodwin served in this capacity until 1888 and again in 1891.

The church immediately turned to reverend Jacob Jovan Durham, a Medical Doctor. Like his predecessor, the Reverend Dr. Durham served as pastor for a little less than a year. Some 52 souls were converted and Baptized during Reverend Durham's pastorate. It was probably during the Reverend Durham's Pastorate that John B. Goodwin was inspired to become a doctor.

Daniel Boyd, former pastor of New Light Beulah and Siloam Baptist churches was selected to serve as the church's fourth pastor. Pastor Boyd was the son of Peter Goodwin and Racheal Boyd. Pastor Boyd asked Deacon Paul W. Harris, a member of Mt. Moriah to serve as Benevolent's superintendent of Sunday school in 1889. Deacon Harris served one year, after which Napoleon B. Goodson was elected to serve as superintendent. Brother Goodson served until 1898 as superintendent with 1891 being the exception, a year that Lafayette Goodwin served a second time. During pastor Boyd's 10 year pastorate over 150 souls were connected with Christ and the New Zion Benevolent Baptist Church.

Sadness overcame the members of Zion Benevolent in 1888 when two prominent members were lost to death. Those two members were Deacon Peter Brown and Reverend William Boyd, Sr. Shortly after Deacon Brown's demise, Pastor Boyd ordained Dennis H. Jackson as a Deacon. Pastor Boyd's tenure ended January 19, 1897 when he died.

The church once again turned to 48 year reverend William M. Lowman as pastor. The former state legislator served the church until his death in 1899. It was during Pastor Lowman's tenure as pastor that the church elected its first superintendent of Sunday school, Sallie Adams. Ms. Adams served as superintendent during 1899. Napoleon B. Goodson served a second time as superintendent starting in 1900.

Reverend Seymore Jones, the son of Mary Jones, became the fifth pastor of the church. Pastor Jones began his pastorate in 1899. Pastor Jones baptized 20 souls during the first year of his ministry. It is believed that the church's sanctuary was rebuilt during Pastor Jones' administration.

Original Zion Benevolent Baptist Church cornerstone Rectified and Contrast Enhanced

Ms. Deborah Scott Brooks  has sent a photo of the cornerstone on the church (above, including an attempt to increase legibility), listing my grandfather, Rev. Jesse W. Neal, as being pastor when the church underwent a renovation (apparently 10 July 1927).  Photographs Copyright ©2009 Deborah Scott Brooks, all rights reserved.

Listed below are some of the oldest known members of the church:

Clem and Mahaley Davis,

William, Janie and Henry Sims, Lewis, Julia, Tenah, Anna, Thomas, Haynes, Samuel, Maria, Willie, Robert and Jeffery Thompson,

Oliver H., Lucy, Charlie, Nancy, Millie, Mary and Martha Hopkins,

Peter, Della, Burrell, Jeffery, Nancy, Maria and Fanny Brown,

Paul, Matilda and Dennis Sims,

Jane Adams,

Beverly and Sallie Garrick,

Wilton, Matilda, Wilson, Caroline, George and Jesse Anderson,

Robert, Nancy, Phillip, Racheal, Jeffry, James Samuel Weston,

Marcus, Louisa, Lafayette, Agnes, Thompson, Lean, Daniel and Clem Goodwin.

 Copyright ©2002, John Middleton, Associate Minister at New Light Beulah Baptist Church, Hopkins, S. C, all rights reserved.  Copyright ©2002, New Light Beulah Baptist Church, 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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