In the Beginning │ The 1800’s │The 1900’s │ Recent History │ Our Pastors │ The History of Our Brunswick Stew │ Pictorial History
The first recorded pastor of Zion Church was reverend R.F. Webb in 1881, over 100 years after the congregation was established. This is not surprising since many Methodist Churches, especially in the rural South, did not have full-time pastors until the Mid-19th Century. Circuit Riders like Peter Cartwright and Francis Asbury travelled along preaching routes, or Circuits, on horseback serving dozens of congregations. The preacher might only get around to a particular congregation once a quarter, so congregations learned to be fairy independent. In 1811, Reverend John Early recorded an entry in his diary about one such trip to Oine. He wrote, “To Zion 10 miles. A few attended to whom I spoke and went to Brother Edmund Mayfield’s.” One of Zion’s members, William Wallace White, mentioned two such preaching services by itinerant ministers Reverend Nicholson in April 1860 and Reverend Shell in October 1861.
There is no record of where and how frequently the congregation met before 1837. The Old Zion Meeting House was a one-room log building constructed around 1837 on land Agnes Mayfield White inherited from Abraham Mayfield. In 1859, David Hall deeded land to Durell Gholson with the clause, “except for Zion Meeting House,” in order to protect the old church. The 1800’s were tumultuous times in America and in the Methodist Church. A schism took place at the 1844 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of slavery. The Denomination split North and South and Zion MEC became Zion Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In the mid 1800’s, Zion, Ridgeway, Middleburg, Jerusalem, Tabernacle, and Union Church Virginia were all part of the Ridgeway Methodist Episcopal Church, South Circuit. Preaching services were held once a month as the six churches shared a single minister.
The first Trustees were appointed after the Civil War in 1870: John Hilliard White, Ham Fleming, Captain J.H. Mayfield, John Patillo, R.F. Rose, and William Paschall. At the tail end of the Reconstruction era, something of a spiritual renewal swept across these parts. Church attendance went up and a recommitment to faith spread through the churches. In 1874, the second Old Zion Meeting House, a plank structure, was built to replace the log church. It was customary in those days for ladies to sit on one side of the sanctuary and gentlemen to sit on the other. Revival services, camp meetings, were held annually and lasted for two weeks. People came from miles around to attend these services, overflowing the church. Barrels of water were hauled up by wagon from the spring behind the church to accommodate the many people and their horses and mules. Everyone was welcome and invited to these meetings. However, since most congregations remained segregated for another century, accommodations had to be made. A shed, or lean-to, was built onto the church with a window cut into the wall so that “black folk” could worship.