This year will bring the 150th anniversary of First Baptist Church in Mathews: the first church in the county, and surely one of the first in Virginia, in which freed slaves organized to manage their own destinies.
And remarkably, just a few weeks after First Baptist was founded, another group of freed slaves also organized. Their congregation became known as Zion Baptist Church at Miles, on East River Road, and today both First and Zion churches are thriving.
First Baptist was formed from Mathews Baptist Church (Old Baptist) at Hudgins, and a history notes “in 1858, out of a total membership in Old Baptist of 795, 445 were Negroes.”
Even as the Civil War raged across the South, the history notes that in 1863-64 “under the leadership of Pastor Ramon of Old Baptist, the seeds were planted in the minds of the leading members to give the Negro membership an opportunity to establish a church of their own. This was quite a contribution, for the right of slaves and even ...
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