The History of Mount Zion

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Our Humble Beginnings

Mount Zion Baptist Church began in 1824 with 16 charter members. Mount Zion Church began in Pike County, Alabama, about one-half mile south of Josie, Alabama. Services were held in a log building at this location until 1840. In 1839 the Conecuh River Baptist Association had a split over the issue of missions and Mount Zion along with several other churches withdrew from the association.  In October of 1839, the Conecuh River Baptist Association voted this resolution into effect: "We will not hold in union any church that holds any member in her that is a member of the following institutions, to wit: Theological Schools, State Conventions, Missionary Society, Bible Society, Tract Society, nor any Society that is tributary to the missionary place as it exists in the United States." Seventeen churches voted in favor of the resolutions, but eight did not. The opposing churches were: Liberty, Fellowship, Salem, Sardis, Clayton, Mount Zion, New Providence, and Bethel. These eight churches left the Conecuh River Baptist Association and called themselves Missionary Baptists. A number of members of Mount Zion were dissatisfied with the church’s decision to become Missionary Baptist and withdrew to form Ramah Primitive Baptist Church on September 7, 1840.  


The Missionary group that was left maintained the name of Mount Zion. In the early 1840s the log church building was torn down and moved across Pea River to Barbour County.  Church services were held under a brush arbor until the log building could be rebuilt.  By 1845, Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church had moved to its current location, the juncture of County Road 9 and Caraway Lane.  


On October 5, 1851, Mount Zion hosted the 13th Annual Meeting of the Salem Baptist Association and was received into this association at that time and remained in the association until October 1885.  In 1890, Mount Zion joined the Eufaula Baptist Association, which is today known as the Barbour Baptist Association. 

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Early Church Buildings

In 1895, a new wood frame building was constructed at Mount Zion.  Lumber was hauled by mule-drawn wagons from Louisville, Alabama.  Mr. R.A. Kelly built the new building.  The church had two front doors and three sections of pews. The ladies and younger children sat on the right side and the men sat on the left side of the church.  The young people and unmarried couples sat in the center section.  The pulpit was in the center of the back (west) wall, with a pump organ directly in front of it.  A wood burning heater sat between the congregation and the pump organ.  Pews on the left (south) side of the church were used as the Amen corner, and pews on the right (north) side of the church were for the choir.   In 1939 electric lights were installed in the building.  In 1933 and again in 1944 the church building was damaged by tornadoes.  As a result, on February 11, 1945 the church voted to build a new sanctuary.


The new church building was constructed just south of the 1895-1945 building, and was a little larger.  The lumber for the new building was purchased from Mr. Arthur Green and Mr. T.R. Sanders was the contractor.  The old church building, and the two story Woodsmen of the World Building were both torn down and lumber from both were used in constructing the new building.  The new building was constructed with a vaulted ceiling , had two front doors, four windows on the south side, three windows and a door on the north.


In 1950, Sunday school rooms were added to the back of this building, which included the first indoor restrooms. In 1956, two Sunday school rooms and a vestibule were added to the front of the building, asbestos siding was added to the building, and the first air conditioners were added.  In 1970, a fellowship hall was built and the sanctuary remodeled, including a total redesigning of the pulpit area.  


In 1981 and 1982, the church underwent a massive remodeling. New round top frosted glass windows were installed, the door on the north side was closed and replaced by a window, a back window was removed from both the north and south side of the church, the choir loft was enclosed, new doors to the choir loft and back Sunday school rooms installed, new stained choir rail added, wainscoting on the outside walls was removed, a new steeple was installed, all sheetrock was removed and replaced, the two original front doors were closed off, and new pews and wall to wall carpet were purchased.


Sometime in the late 1980s, the fellowship hall addition was completed, adding new restrooms, a nursery, and larger fellowship room. In March of 2005, a massive hailstorm destroyed all of the windows on the south side of the church.  As a result a massive remodeling was completed, including new lighting, new stained glass windows, replacement of all siding on the church, converting the front Sunday school rooms into a pastor’s study and audio control room,  removal of the old gas space heaters from all areas, and painting of the choir rail.

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More Historical Information

The annual Sacred Harp Sing was held at Mount Zion on the second Sunday in May and drew large crowds.  According to a newspaper article, in 1894 there were over 1,500 people in attendance at the all day sing and dinner on the ground homecoming. 


The old baptismal pool for Mt. Zion was located across the road under the old oak trees at the Huey Lee Sanders place.  Fed by a natural spring, the pool was originally made of wood. Later a cement block pool was constructed. This pool was used until the church installed a baptismal in the sanctuary in 1970.  The old spring provided some of the coldest water anywhere around, as many of the older members of Mt. Zion can attest to. A flowerbed surrounded by railroad cross ties marks the location of the old baptismal pool today. 


A cemetery was started while Mount Zion Church was located in Pike County, south of Josie.  This cemetery is still in use today and is known as the First Mount Zion Cemetery, Old Ramah or Renfroe Cemetery. As of 1982 there were 70 graves in this cemetery, 54 marked and 16 unmarked graves.


The present cemetery at Mount Zion Church Cemetery, located at the juncture of County Road 9 and Caraway Lane, 10 miles west of Louisville, Alabama,   has been enlarged numerous times. The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is that of Matthias C. Taylor (1788-1860), although a grave marked by a pile of rocks, marking the burial place of child by the name of Lee, is said to be the oldest grave in the cemetery.


The cemetery can be divided in several sections, [1] the new part of the cemetery, east of the original road to the colored cemetery; [2] the colored cemetery, on the north side of the property; [3] the old cemetery, located between the original road, the colored cemetery, the back access road, and the side church yard; [4] and the old cemetery west of the back access road.