Before the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the citizens of Gordon District,
Orange County, VA gathered to praise God through prayer, song and testimony.
Initially, the residents formed a Prayer Band in the home of Maria and Peter
Armstead (first known spiritual leader); an area referred to as Peter Bottom, off
Indiantown Road, Locust Grove, VA. Our early ancestors were many, and
consisted of the Armstead, Broads, Brooks, Carter, Cottoms, Henderson,
Johnson, Lewis, Minor and Vass families, with birth dates as early as 1810 (U.S.
Census 1880). Today the Prayer Band descendants are members and/or loyal
supporters of our Church.
The Prayer Bands’ next place of worship was a brush arbor built on a corner lot
subsequently purchased by Nathan Henderson and wife, Betsy (b. 1842 and
1847). They later donated this property to be used as Lewistown Cemetery.
Reverent John C. Willis, Jr. (b. 1824), a white minister, was the principal
speaker. In those days, many members walked to worship services. Others
traveled by horseback and carriages. They came from neighboring communities
referred to as Lewistown, Peter Bottom, Fox Neck, and Flat Run, now Locust
Grove. As the congregation grew in numbers and spirituality, Prayer Band
members decided to divide the travel distance. Therefore, the members moved
from Indiantown Road, Lewistown, and erected a log cabin on property owned
by Abe Roach (Governor Almond Road). Reverent Peter Armstead continued
as the Prayer Band’s leader until his death prior to 1860.
In 1858, needing a large sanctuary and unable to add to the log cabin on the
Roach’s property, the Prayer Band moved to property located on land owned
by Henry Willis (a few miles from Mt. Zion’s present location). During this
period, Reverend Robert Woodson (b. 1815), a traveling minister served the
congregation, and is listed as age 65 on the 1880 U.S. Census. Reverend
Wanzer Tibbs (b. 1842) a traveling minister was the Prayer Bands next spiritual
leader. Reverend Tibbs named the sanctuary Zion Baptist Church, later referred
to as Mt. Zion Baptist Church (Colored), and on November 5, 2000, formally
changed the name to Mt. Zion Baptist Church. From 1858 to 1896, the
congregants continued their service to the Lord - believing, trusting, praising, and
growing in their spiritual faith.
Reverend James A. Robinson (b. 1863) of Spotsylvania was Mount Zion’s first
official Pastor. He served the congregation for approximately 33 years (1895-
1928). Under his leadership, our first Sunday School (John J. Johnson,
Superintendent) and User Board (President, Sister Malcom “Pie” Broks, 1921)
originated. Our next Pastor was Reverend Robert L. Harris (approximately,
1930-1960). Under Reverend Harris’ leadership, many members were baptized
in the pond on Floyd Hicks farm.
In 1951, Reverend Ellis W. Yancey, was elected Pastor. Due to the
deteriorating structure, Reverend Yancey designed and began the construction of
a new Church. Groundbreaking services took place in 1954. Brother George
Johnson, and Deaconess Martha Henderson, assisted Reverend Yancey in the
ceremony. Benny Carter of Spotsylvania, was our builder. Each family member
donated 50 cinderblocks towards this endeavor. In 1957, Reverend Clifton H.
Sanford (1957-1979) was elected Pastor and under his leadership, the Church
was completed. Rev. Davis W. Board, founder and Chancellor of North
Western College of Religion, Washington, D.C. dedicated the Sanctuary in higher
order on May 1, 1963. A year earlier, on May 5, 1962, Floyd E. Hicks and
Mabel E. Hicks, then owners of the land, conveyed to Wyman H. Johnson and
MacNeire Johnson, as Trustees, the land on which Mt. Zion currently stands.
Reverend Winston L. Brock (1981-1995) greatly improved and enhanced the
building and grounds of Mount Zion. He was an inspirational and motivational
leader. On November 13, 1996 the interior of our Church suffered fire damage.
Deacons Howard Roberts and Joan Washington were instrumental in overseeing
the restoration. Rev, Ernest Woodson was Pastor at the time (1996-1997).
Pastor Reverend Dr. Robert Stone (2000-2006). Under Reverend Stone’s
leadership, Minister Jeneka Watkins and Reverend Catherine Parker were
licensed and ordained. Two Associate Ministers served under Reverend Stone -
Reverend Eddie Naylor and Reverend Alan Watkins.
Our current Pastor, Reverend Sanford Reaves, Jr., M.Div. (2007-Present)
continues to answer God’s call -grow His Church, both physically and spiritually,
and preach the gospel of his people.
**Historical content based on information given by Elsie Lawson (1906-2006),
Church records, and the U.S. Census.