History of Mt. Zion Baptist Church

From "Souvenir Journal of Mt Zion's First Hundred Years", 1968, donated by Mrs. Georgellen R. Williams, Staunton VA.


The history of the Mount Zion Baptist Church is the recital of the efforts of a people, once in bondage, to build and maintain for themselves a suitable house of worship in Staunton, Virginia. The first services for Negro Baptists in Staunton were conducted by a rev. George Taylor, pastor of the white Baptist Church. In the fall of 1866, Brother William Givens of Charlottesville organized the first Deacon Board for this group of worshippers. The following men composed the Board: Borthers Peter Payne, James Payne, Penbrooke Mosely, Fielding Anderson, Henry Lewis, George Denny, and John Harris.

This little band held its worship in the white Baptist church until 1868. On August 22, 1868, Rev. John Beale, Rev. William Barnage, and Rev. Milton Smith came from Botetourt County and helped them organize the Mount Zion Baptist Church.

The first House of Worship occupied by this little group was a log cabin located on East Frederick Street which they rented from Dick Hawkins. After two years a better edifice was ereceted at the corner of Sunnyside and Baptist Streets. The first pastor called to the church was Rev. Fielding Morris. He stayed only one year, but during that time the membership increased to one hundred-fifty.

In 1871 Rev. Pleasant Bowler came. He, too, stayed only one year. Under his leadership the basement of the church was completed. In 1872 The Rev. Wiley Simpson came to serve as Pastor. The church building was soon completed and was dedicated in 1874.

In every undertaking misunderstandings and differences arise. This happened in 1878 in Mount Zion. There arose a disagreement between the pastor and congregation which resulted in the resignation of Rev. Simpson. He and a large number of the memebers left and formed the Ebeneezer Baptist Church.

Rev. R. H. Porter, a graduate of Wayland Seminary, became pastor of Mount Zion in 1878. The first trustee board consisting of Brothers John Moore, William Perkins, Charles Points, Thornton Scott, and Scott Powell was organized under his direction. In 1880 Rev. Porter resigned in order to continue his education.

Note: The history continues, with the story of the Church in the rest of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.