Leader Blues

Friday, August 14, 2009

TOP STORY >> Church marks 150th anniversary

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

Parishioners had a special reason to come together at Zion Hill Baptist Church in northern Pulaski County on Sunday. They were there to celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary.

The church’s members have seen it grow over those years, while many churches surrounding it were unable to flourish.

The church held an anniversary lunch and service to mark the occasion.
“God tremendously blessed this church throughout its history. The church survived the Civil War, two world wars and the

(Great) Depression. Several smaller churches in this area did not survive,” Bro. Terry Fortner said.

“We are the oldest church of the 61 churches in the North Pulaski Baptist Association,” Fortner, who is the church’s pastor, said.

The church on Zion Hill Road off West Hwy. 89 near Hwy. 107 is a survivor. Fortner remembers hearing stories about the church’s long history.

It was twice burned by fire.Later, a tornado made its mark by blowing the roof of the church into a neighboring yard.

During Sunday’s anniversary service, the church presented a plaque to 92-year-old Aline Driskill of the Zion Hill community.

She has continually attended Zion Hill for 75 years dating back to June 1, 1934. She was a student at the one-room Zion Hill School located on the church property.

Church member Steve Harbour of the Zion Hill community talked about the importance of the church.

“In the early days the church was the main focus of the community. It was the central place to gather, ” he said.

He said traveling was difficult and families would make grocery trips to Cabot once or twice a month. A trip to Little Rock would happen once or twice a year.

No records have been found to show how long the church congregation has been meeting.

Simeon and Julia Tate gave Zion Hill trustees one acre on Aug. 1, 1859, to use for a church and school.

Rev. Earl Cole, a former pastor, held services in a one- room log cabin.

In the early years, pastors were elected by the church to preach for one year at a time. Church services were held one or two weekends a month. A pastor could preach at more than one church during the month. In 1885, a pastor’s yearly salary was $40.

In 1891, E.B. Dover and wife Eliza gave the church another acre of land. Four years later a new church building was constructed on the top of a hill where a parking lot is now located.

Lighting for the church was provided by kerosene lanterns. The lanterns were later switched to gasoline-burning lamps. By 1938 the church had installed wiring for electricity and added Sunday school rooms.

Adjacent to the church was the Zion Hill School, a one-room schoolhouse open from 1895 to 1927. One teacher would teach students during a session and two sessions were held in a school year.

The school was closed when the Pulaski County Special School District was formed.

In 1928, students attended the old Bayou Meto School. Today the North Pulaski Ball Park sits where Bayou Meto School was located.

The Zion Hill school stood where the current church stands today. An abandoned well across the street from the church is a relic from that time. The well once provided fresh water for the church and for the school.

The old church was used for 89 years until a new sanctuary was completed in 1984.

Zion Hill has had services every Sunday since 1942 and began holding Wednesday night services two years later.

Today Zion Hill church sits on nearly 15 acres of land and the church has 417 members.