Zion Baptist Church
Zion Baptist Church, in Walton, Kentucky, began as an idea in the mind of one Timothy Smith. According to records, Smith “did everything he could do that was wrong, but like Saul of Tarsus (who later became Paul), Smith, in 1872, was turned around by the Lord. He began to have prayer meetings in his home with the understanding that as soon as possible a church would be organized
The earliest founders were Rev. John Greene, the Chatman, Williams, and Watkins families. The first house of worship was on high street and was organized September 20, 1872. Deacons were from the Anderson, Hoard, and Sleet families. The second building, built in 184 on a hill directly behind the present building, served both as a day school and a church, with the school being held in the lower part of the edifice. Church services were held in the basement except on special days, when the upper room was used. It is believed that the Odd Fellows held meetings in the building also.
Rev. Solomon Watkins, the first pastor of Zion Baptist, is buried where the church on the hill stood. No marker remains to show the exact location buy Agnes Sleet, age 104, was able to show present members approximately where he was buried.
Hymns commonly sung in the early church included Bound for the Promised Land, Amazing Grace, Two Winds to Fly Away, Little David Play on Your Harp, and I Need Thee Ev’y Hour. The church on the hill had no piano, organ, or choir; congregational singing was the primary type of music. Deacons or male members of the church led anthems. Praise and glory to Almighty God was expressed through the chanting of the congregation. Moaning and groaning in harmony and blended voices were a part of the worship services. For communion, a church member made the bread, wine was used instead of grape juice, and everyone sipped from a cup.
This early church had recreational festivities. Box suppers, with the women and young ladies of the church preparing food for the boxes, were auctioned off. The highest bidder got to eat the contents of the box with the lady who prepared it, and early method of courtship. Festivals were held with a variety of foods such as oyster stew and homemade ice cream being served. At Christmas, gift exchanges helped make the holiday a joyous occasion.
The second pastor, Rev. Campbell, rode the train to Walton from Stamping Ground, near Lexington, Kentucky. Later, after moving to Erlanger, Kentucky, he walked to Walton two Sundays a month and to a church in Beaver, Kentucky on alternate Sundays until a church member gave him a horse to ride.
Rev. J. S. Boles was responsible for the church being in its present location. “There are enough of us to tear down the old church and build a new one.” Donations of materials, labor, and money came from members and others in the community. On May 26, 1922, the present building was dedicated with an all-day meeting and basket dinner on the grounds.
Among Zion’s membership, several men have been called to the ministry, including the Reverends Herbert Baker, Williams C. Johnson, Wilfred David, Jr., Wayne Davis, Stephen Davis, and Douglas Johnson.
Several phase of addition, rebuilding and remodeling have been completed through the membership effort and the help of Almighty God. Since 1972, a baptismal pool, stained glass windows, carpeting, new furnace and air conditioning, a basement lounge, and handicapped accessibility have all been added.
The current [winter, 2000] pastor is Rev. O. B. Ford. Rosella Porterfield has been church organist for 40 some years and is a trustee and treasurer of the building fund. George Floyd is church treasurer, a deacon, and Sunday school teacher. Ernie Arnold is a trustee and deacon. Melvin Harris is a trustee and Sunday school teacher. Mary Lou Rice is a trustee and treasurer of the Missionary Society. Jo Ann Johnson is a trustee, Vernon Porterfield and John Johnson are deacons. The choir president is Michelle Johnson, Nanette Johnson is president of the Missionary Society and teaches Sunday school. Katherine Kirtley is church secretary, Helen Kennedy is secretary to the Missionary Society. Agnes Sleet has been designated Mother of the Church. Ushers are Barbara Thomas, Katherine, Fred, and Jeana Kirtley, Sonny and Patricia Sechrest.
By Rosella Porterfield, from the Northern Kentucky African-American Heritage Task Force Newsletter.