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Submitted by:

----------Pearl (Taylor) Vanderbilt, 2003

 

 

 

 

Zion Rock Baptist Church

Highbank, Falls Co., Texas

 

 

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Zion Rock "On the Hill" Organizing Members

 

(Deacons)

Mr. Willie Burch, Mr. Jim Freeman, Mr. William Holmes, Mr. Steve Route,

Mr. Sherman Turner, Mr. Abraham (Abe) Tubb, Mr. Allen Williams.

 

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Zion Rock Baptist Church, Highbank, Organizing Members

 

(Deacons)

Mr. Levi Buckner, Mr. Perry Diles, Mr. Fate Fisher, Mr. David Lockhart,

Mr. Ernest Lockhart, Mr. Andrew Maxwell, Mr. Austin Washington, and Mr. Nelson Washington

 

 

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Past Matriarch of Zion Rock Baptist Church

Sister Eliza Holmes

 

Sister Eliza Holmes was a long time active member of Zion Rock Baptist

Church. She was a Sunday School teacher, and an usher for more than 50 years, until her

health caused her to relinquish that duty. She passed away in 1991 at the wonderful age of 102 years old.

 

1889 - 1991

 

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Former Members of Zion Rock Baptist Church

Submitted by Pearl (Taylor) Vanderbilt

 

 

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     This composition is excerpted and revised with permission from an original work written by Mrs. Ernestine Lynn Evans - Zion Rock Baptist Church, One Hundred Second Church Anniversary, June 11, 1995 - retired educator, lifelong  Zion Rock Baptist Church member, and unofficial church historian.

                                    ----------Pearl (Taylor) Vanderbilt

 

 

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     Zion Rock Baptist Church is located less than fifteen miles south of Marlin in the once bustling farming community of Highbank, Texas.  It is probably one of the many, many, small African American churches that broke ground in the long years following the Emancipation Proclamation.

    

     Established in 1893 by Reverend P. Williams, Zion Rock began its journey as the first of two (2) churches. The first church being built on a tract of land known as, "On The Hill." A historical reference to the structure's original site situated on a slope on the main highway leading into town. When a decision was made by church leaders to move the building to its present location at Highbank proper, some of its then-members and deacons expressed an unwillingness to make the move. The remaining group, instead, choosing to pool their monetary resources and raise a second church. This second building housed both a church and a public school.

    

     The two churches, Zion Rock "On the Hill," and Zion Rock, Highbank, would eventually merge as one complete house of faith in the late 1940s.

     

     In the early days, as was the custom with most churches in modest communities, Zion Rock was the focal point around which all other activity revolved. It was a place of praise and a meeting place. A place, whereby, after services on Sunday, town's folk briefly socialized, exchanged a pleasantry, or perhaps offered the invitation of a meal before getting back to the trials and tribulations of the harsh work week ahead.

    

     Many of the descendants of Zion Rock's founding fathers and prior members still make up the Body of Christ there today.

    

     As of June 1995, while celebrating its 102nd Anniversary, Zion Rock had had a total of nineteen (19) pastors. Some of whom traveled long distances in keeping with their Sunday commitment. One minister, Rev. R. T. Morgan (1948-1950) drove from his home in Brownwood, Texas, to Highbank every second and fourth Sunday, returning on Sunday nights to prepare for his civilian job the following morning as principal of a school.

    

     Rev. R. L. Westbrook took the helm at Zion Rock in 1950. He later resigned to become pastor of a church in Marlin.

    

     Under the leadership of Rev. M. H. Evans (1953) Zion Rock's membership grew. It was also under Pastor Evans' supervision that Zion Rock's largest overall restoration to date took place. The church building, pastor's study, and choir room were remodeled. New carpet was laid, and after years of using oil lamps mounted along the walls for lighting, electricity was introduced.

   

      In 1964, under the auspices of Rev. R. L. Harris, a wing consisting of a kitchen and dining area was added. It was under Rev. Harris' charge that the church's first and only Corner Stone was erected. Rev. Harris also maintained the longest tenure as head of the Zion Rock congregation - 17 years.

     

     In September 1986, Rev. A. C. Franklin of Austin, Texas, was called to pastor. His guardianship brought about much abundance and prosperity. Bringing to the fore a renewed physical, spiritual, and financial growth. Central air and heat was installed, insulated walls were put in place, a water fountain, microphones for the pulpit, telephone communication, the Lord's supper table, just some of the many things Pastor Franklin achieved.

    

     As with most institutions that have braved the centuries, Zion Rock's facade has undergone several changes. Evolving over the years from one distinct look to another. Each stage providing a cherished memory for every member assembled there. Baby-boomers will most recall the church's early double doored front entry. Each separate doorway having its own set of steps leading into the vestibule. A more somber memory many might also recollect is the sad tolling of the bell in the church tower when someone in the Highbank community had passed away.

    

     Church baptisms, long since performed indoors, were once conducted in a nearby creek known as the "Corner Hole," and the "Annie Murry Fishing Hole," named for a Highbank resident.

    

     Today, at 112 years old, Zion Rock is as vibrant a congregation as ever. Flourishing under the pastorate of Rev. R. L. Franklin who, like several messengers before him, makes the biweekly pilgrimage from his home in Austin, Texas.

    

     Church Homecoming festivities are held every June. It is an annual bringing together of existing members and former members from towns and cities both near and far away. A joyous gathering together to celebrate with worship Zion Rock's rich and full past and its future.

 

 

 

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