UNION HILL MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH HISTORICAL REVIEW
In the 1800’s, being led be the Holy Spirit, a group of Black people living on and around the Billy Woodard Plantation, now know as Jon Griffin’s farm, met and held religious services in an old gin house located on the plantation. The Reverend Harry Alston, a Missionary Baptist and the Reverend John Westry, a Primitive Baptist, held individual services each Sunday.
These, our ancestors, elected the Missionary Baptist preacher, Reverend Alston, to be their pastor. Reverend Alston was also the pastor of Castalia Baptist Church. This group of blacks, along with borrowed members from Castalia Church, organized and purchased the land to build the Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
In 1872, Reverend Jim Burgess from Warren County, North Carolina was chosen as pastor. During his tenure, the construction of the first church was started. The church was made of rough timbers, with the planks going up and down instead of across; and the seats were made of flattened poles placed on wooden blocks.
1883 – 1902
In 1883, Reverend Burger Harper was elected pastor and served faithfully until his death in 1945, sixty two (62) years. Under his pastorate, the first church was completed and replaced by a second and yet, a third. At the end of the 1890’s, the second church was built and enlarged in 1902. Due to the growth in membership, a third, and larger church was completed and dedicated in 1923.
The first church clerk was a hired member of the Castalia Baptist Church. Reverend Harper believed that the clerk should be a member of the Union Hill Church, and Mr. Aaron Battle was elected. Mrs. Cornelia Battle was elected as Mother and Mr. Bode Boddie as Sexton.
Initial Deacons were Wiley Woodard, Arch Stallings and George Yarborough. The first Mother was Henrietta Cooper and Mother Lucy Batchelor was later added. Deacons Aaron Battle, George Drake, Britton Batchelor, Frank Drake, Jack Williams, Ciscero Evans, Henry Boddie, Sonny Battle, George Davis, Will Harrison and Al Pridgen were added.
In the Spring of 1922, Musician George Terrell started the first choir. He taught the choir members to read “shaped” notes. Members were Lonnie Hilliard, Ernest Hilliard, Della Hilliard, Viola Hilliard, Obie Gilliam, George Gilliam, Anna Gilliam, Elbert Gilliam, Lillie Battle, Loutoria Battle, Alverado Battle, George Battle, Frederick Douglas Batchelor, Mamie P. Batchelor, Betty B. Davis, Troy L. Battle and Mary Sessoms. The choir gave its first away from home concert at a Children’s Day Program at Jacob Evans School.
1942 – 1953
In 1942, Reverend Marable, assistant under Reverend Harper, was elected pastor. Under his pastorate, the Choir, Senior Missionary, Junior Missionary, Usher Board, and Sunday School were organized. A heating system was installed in the church and robes were purchased for the choir. Reverend Marable served faithfully until his death in 1953, eight years.
1954 – 1972
The Reverend S.G. Dunston, Moderator of the Association, was elected pastor on April 3, 1954 and started regularly in October 1954. He was a meek and mild person. Under his pastorate, the Hospitality Committee, Program Committee, Funeral Committee, Nurses Aide, Prayer Band, Ladies Chorus, and the Junior Choir were added. In 1956, restrooms were added, a baptismal pool and a second heating/cooling system were installed and an organ was purchased. In 1963, a new piano, new windows and storm windows were added. The building program was started and land was purchased for the church in which we worship today. Reverend Dunston, truly a man of God, faithfully served Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church until he tendered his resignation on the third Sunday in October 1972 – eighteen years.
1973 – 1976
Reverend Carl Lee, of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, was elected pastor on December 2, 1973. Under his leadership, the church building fund grew, the designs were drawn for a new church and a parsonage was built. The Junior Usher Board was formulated. Softball, basketball and bowling teams were formed. A telephone and cool water fountains were installed. New choir robes were purchased. In May 1974, twelve ladies were added to the Mothers’ Board. Third Sunday service became a reality. In August 1976, reverend Lee resigned.
1977 – 1978
In December 1977, the Reverend John Mangum, of Zebulon, North Carolina, was elected pastor of Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church. The church, in character with its heritage as a sustaining people, continued with the existing programs and added others. Under the pastorate of Reverend Mangum, the final plans for a new church were drawn. A bond program was initiated. These bonds were deposited in a local bank, to be cashed at maturity. This bond sale helped to make the completion of the Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church, in which we worship today, a reality.
On the first Sunday in November 1978, services were held in the new Church. The Chairman of the Trustee Board, Brother Willie Brooks Harrison, Jr., presented the building to be dedicated, and Deacon Granville Pridgen prayed the dedicatory prayer. Seeing the completion of the new church and progress in many other areas, Reverend Mangum tendered his resignation.
The church then elected the Reverend Lester Hall as pastor. Under his pastorate, the Pastor’s Aid Circle and other programs were started. Approximately two years into his tenure, Reverend Hall offered his resignation and again we were without a pastor.
1991 – 2003
At that point in our existence, the members did much praying and soul searching. In 1991, the Reverend Jeremiah Davis, of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, was elected. Under his pastorate, there was steady growth in membership. The mortgage had been burned and the church was finally stable. The kitchen was enlarged and new appliances were purchased. New air conditioners and new carpet were installed. The Outreach Ministry was started through visitation, radio and television. The music department grew tremendously with the addition of the Gospel and Tiny Tots Choir. An Associate Pastor was added in the person of Reverend John H. Battle. The Wednesday night Bible Study was organized. Many of what used to be termed “committees” were changed to “ministries”.
In 2003, after serving as pastor for approximately thirteen years, Reverend Jeremiah Davis resigned. Again, the members did much praying and soul searching. On September 5, 2004 our current pastor, Reverend Thomas E. McCullers from Garner, North Carolina, was installed as the fourteenth pastor of Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
We, the descendants of the organizers of Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church are proud of our heritage. We now vow to keep the church moving ahead, both spiritually and physically.
Copied from the 135th Year Church Anniversary Booklet