Building of Zion Baptist Church in Harrisburg:
The following news article
appeared in the Harrisburg Daily Telegraph,
April 25, 1897. (Thanks to Harrisburg historian
Calobe Jackson Jr., frequent contributor to
Afrolumens, for scanning the original news
clipping.) The writer gives a detailed account of
the cornerstone ceremony for Zion Primitive Baptist
Church, now The Greater Zion Missionary Baptist
Rev. Walker Tolliver, the first full-time pastor,
and several founding members of this church were
born into slavery in Virginia. This special outdoor
service was an occasion to raise funds for a new
Telegraph, April 25, 1897
Yesterday afternoon the cornerstone laying at the new Zion Primitive Baptist Church (colored) on Marion Street, near Calder, took place. It was an event of no little interest in that section of the city, and brought out a large congregation. The exercises were held on a temporary flooring, covering the foundation work, and began at 2:30 with Scripture reading by the pastor Rev. Walker Tolliver. Rev. Mr. Edwards, of Middletown, sang “Behold a Sure Foundation Stone which God in Zion Lay” with such fervor that some of the good brethren on the front seats could hardly restrain their pent-up desire to join in. Rev. William Brown of Berryville, Va., a solemn-looking gentleman wearing spectacles, offered prayer. This was followed by the sermon by Rev. J. Wallace, who took for his text I Peter 2:6, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth in him shall not be confounded.” Brother Wallace waxed eloquent as he warmed up to his subject and urged upon the people the importance of earnest, united effort in fighting Satan. He said that if they would but put their shoulders to the wheel they would soon be in possession of a comfortable little church free of debt.
Rev. Mr. Brown of Berryville, followed Rev. Mr. Wallace in an appeal for contributions. He announced that he wanted to raise $200 for the Harrisburg congregation before the day was over.
Then the exercises were transferred to the cornerstone, which was a block of bluestone resting in the northeastern end of the brick foundation wall. Here Mr. Brown resumed his appeal for aid. One of the brethren was appointed clerk to keep a register of the names of the contributors who were asked to come up and drop their offering in the hole in the ground, Brother Brown remarking, “Now brothers and sisters, don’t be afraid that we are going to set your money in that stone. Oh no. It will be used in the building of the church.” Thus addressed, the giving commenced and for a short time the pennies, nickels, half dollars, and dollars dropped into the hole in quick succession. Then things began to lag a trifle and Brother Brown struck up a hymn, but got too high and gave way to another brother who did better, Brother Brown explaining that his forte was raising money, not singing.
At the service in the evening it was announced that a large sum had been raised toward the new church during the day, and the people were greatly encouraged there of. Work was begun on the new church, which will be a frame affair like the old, March 25th. It will be 28 x 50 feet in size, whereas the old church was only about 24 x 24. The seating capacity will be 800. The congregation numbers some fifty members. Rev. Mr. Tolliver has been the efficient pastor about five years.
The current address of The Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church is 212 North Progress Avenue, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 17109. Their website is www.tgzmbc.org
material on this page copyright 2006 Afrolumens Project
The url of this page is http://www.afrolumens.com/century of change/zion.html
Contact the editor: [email protected]
This page was updated March 22, 2023.