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Upper Zion Baptist Church

The following is a copy of a letter written byAllene Bruce SMITH. The original is in the Virginia Baptist Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia.

In Mrs. Smith's words:

"This brief history is made with love by someone who was born into the church, baptized and married by Dr. Lacy M. RiITTER. Some of the information used was from a brief history of the church by Dr. RITTER and other details from papers held by my Daddy, Seddon J. BRUCE, at the final closing."
1774- 1942

At the time that UPPER ZION Baptist Church was organized in 1774, there was no Baptist church in Richmond. There was preaching in the homes in 1771-1773 by such preachers as Lewis CRAIG and John WALLER. This was unlawful so at least two citizens, James WARE and James PITMAN, were jailed for allowing their homes to be used for such a gathering.

A few years later there was more freedom of religion. The first church built was a very modest frame building, which was located about 4 miles east of the last buiding. The second meeting house was just about a mile north of the last brick structure taken by the Government. The first name of the church was TUCKAHOE and was changed to UPPER ZION in 1819.

This brick and last building was erected in 1852. The bricks were burned in a nearby field. Mr. James N. CARNEAL had charge of all brick work and did most of the work with his hands. In 1922 his sons and other members of the family gave the portico. The carpenters who were in charge of the building werre William and Samuel WRIGHT.

The original members were Thomas BROADDUS, James H. BROADDUS, Edwin LUNSFORD, George MAHON, John C. GRAVATT, William JORDON, SR., George W. TRICE, George MARSHALL, Joseph E. PENNEY, Mark L. BOULWARE, William D. BATES, Philip H. CARTER, Thomas B.SALE, Cornelius C. BROADDUS, William W. BROADDUS, James A. L. SHADDOCK, Byrad A. JORDON, William THORNLY, Benjamin F. SMOOT and James D. POWERS. The first pastor was Rev. John SHACKLEFORD who remained for 18 years. He was a native of Caroline County. In 1849 the church reported 202 white and 163 colored members.

The poor in the community were looked after and a small amount contributed to missions. In 1871 an effort was made to assist worthy students for the ministry at Richmond College by asking for help in the sum of $7.50 or 8 bushels of corn, many subscribed.

In 1879 the church endoresed one of its members, R. Baynham GARRETT, as a student for the ministry in the seminary at Louisville, KY. On Oct. 19, 1888 the church ordained its young pastor, Rev. A.J. RAMSEY. The first Sunday in April 1922 there was an ordination of one of its members, Rev. Roland J. BEAZLEY, who was a recent graduate of Richmond College and Crozer Seminary.

The church grew and prospered, in 1920 the sum of $2743.43 was contributed for missions and public welfare.

UPPER ZION was the first Baptist church in Caroline County to install electricity, in 1923. This was generated by a Delco plant. There was a Baptisory built within the church in 1905. They were also the first church to have modern factory-made pews.
Seventeen able and dedicated men served as pastors of UPPER ZION. They were Rev. John SHACKLEFORD, John SORRELL, Spilsby WOOLFOLK, John MICOU, Mordecai W. BROADDUS, Andrew BROADDUS II, Robert W. COLE, Andrew BROADDUS III, R. L. GAY, E. M. DOWLEY, John POLLARD, J. M. McMANNAWAY, Robert E. VELLINES and Lacy M. RITTER.

Those who served as deacons over the years were Younger MARTIN, George MARSHALL, SR., John C. GRAVATT, Dr. LUNSFORD, Thomas BROADDUS, James H. BROADDUS, James U. CARNEAL, Phillip H. CARTER, Andrew J. GRAVATT, William L. ANDREWS, John F. WRIGHT, Roland H. EAGER, M. Henry JONES, L. Judson CARTER, Davis L. COOK, SR., John W. GUENANT, Andrew B. MARSHALL, Seddon J. BRUCE, Bennie F. BROOKS, John BROOKS.

The church received word in February 1941 that the church and surrounding property would be acquired by the Government in the formation of the A.P.Hill Military training camp.
Trustees were appointed by the church, and were confirmed and authorized by the Circuit Court of Caroline County to oversee and invest the money received for the purchase of the church property. These men were P. Roland CARTER, Seddon J. BRUCE, Davis L. COOK, JR., John A. BROOKS, Elwood M. GRAY, Fred BROOKS, and Havis ALLEN.

The Government paid $11,000 for the UPPER ZION Baptist Church property. It was decided to give to our sister church, BOWLING GREEN Baptist Church $1500 to buy a memorial organ. An endownment fund was established with the Virginia Baptist Historical Society of $500 for the preserving of the history and records of the church. The income from $3000 was for the upkeep of GREENLAWN Cemetery. Income from invested funds was to be sent for 10 years to the relief and Annunity Board for the benefit of our pastor, Dr. L.M. RITTER. $1000 was given to the CONCORD Baptist Church building fund. A $500 bond was given to BETHEL Baptist Church in Stafford County. The church's oak pews and $1000 bond was given to SALEM Baptist Church at Sparta, VA. There was also $4000 given toward the construction of the chapel at GREENLAWN Cemetery.

This church had survived five major wars and had a continuous existence for 168 years. The building was destroyed and the membership scattered but the love and fellowship of this establishment can never be destroyed in the hearts and minds of those who knew it.
When the church was torn down by the Government, by German prisoners-of-war, the bricks were brought to BOWLING GREEN to form the new addition to the Methodist church."

(I wish to extend my thanks to Linda Butt for sharing this information.)

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