History of Zion Baptist Church

Elizabeth Studebaker Special Correspondent

April 23, 2014

XENIA — As Zion Baptist Church prepares to celebrate its 175th anniversary this weekend, the church has shared its history going all the way to the beginning.

The 14 original members, all free-born Negroes from Virginia, settled in Greene County to help promote the Underground Railroad. They were first organized at the home of Jack and Priscilla Roberts by the by Rev. Wallace Shelton in April 1839.

Seeking a larger place to worship, the growing congregation purchased and renovated a log cabin on Water Street (now Third Street). The first service there was held in June 1843. A lot for the church was obtained in 1849 and a brick building was erected in 1858. This is the site of the current church building. The cornerstone for the current building was laid in July 1898.

In 1913, when the disastrous Dayton Flood occurred, the entire Zion church was used as sleeping quarters for men and women, a hospital and lounging rooms. Committees composed of members of all colored churches and clubs of Xenia had charge of the kitchen and dining rooms.

Zion extended a call to the Rev. Jewel Hanley in 1949. He accepted and began his service and continued as pastor for 37 years, the longest tenure in the history of Zion.

Zion has seen 30 of it’s sons ordained and sent forth to preach the gospel. The church has witnessed many joyous occasions

“We’ve come this far by faith,” Zion Baptist Church officials attest.

The church is located at 565 East Main Street.