Missionary Baptist church

The history of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.

“In 1917 this church was called Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. The Rev. A.L.E. Weeks was pastor. Many called it Weeks Chapel.”

“Brother G.H. Holden, Brother James Holden, Brother J.C. White, and Rev. Frank F. Battle served as trustees. Rev. Fred Davis replaced Rev. Weeks and served as pastor for a short time. Dr. G.K. Butterfield and Brother Carter Foster also served as deacons at that time.”

“Rev. Charlie Jones became pastor and the church name was changed to Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.”

“In 1936, the original building was a wood frame structure and was badly in need of repair. Rev. Charlie Jones and members formed committees and captains to raise money to pay for the remodeling of the church.”

“While the church was being remodeled, worship services were held at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on Gay Street.”

“After much prayer and hard work, we returned to a beautiful new church. We now had electric lights, but no air condition. We had outside toilets and 2 pot belly stoves, new pews, and a baptismal pool under the pulpit.”

“Deacon James Stevenson can be remembered for his contributions to the maintenance of the church. Deacon George Alexander can be remembered for his contribution to the welfare and growth of the church. Deacon John Carr was ordained in 1952. Other deacons were: Brother Leary Underwood, Brother James Reeves, Brother Matt Turner, Brother Dempsey Mercer, Brother Charlie Harris, Brother Ned Barnes, Brother York and Brother Albert Ward.”

“The church celebrated its mortgage burning and a plaque was embedded out front in the corner of the church. …”

Ebenezer’s cornerstone.

Many thanks to Rev. Charles L. Howard, pastor of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church since 2008, for sharing this history. Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2016.

The purchase of land for Macedonia.

As we saw here, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church is one of the few surviving early twentieth-century wooden gable-end African-American churches in Wilson County. In 1917, Macedonia trustees R.A. Worrell and Matthew Sauls acted on behalf of the church to purchase the one-half acre lot on which the church was later built. 

Note the reference to the adjoining property — the “public school lot, known as Powell’s school house (col).” Powell School predated the Rosenwald school-era. It was not listed in a recent state survey of early African-American schools in Wilson County.


In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: on Goldsboro Road, Matthew Sauls, 43; wife Fannie, 36; and children Sylvester, 15, Nellie, 12, Maggie, 6, Dred, 4, Hattie, 2, and Bessie, 5 months.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: on W.R. Raper Road, farmer R[ichard] A. Worlds, 40; wife Rachel, 43; and children Bessie, 16, Eddie, 13, Effie, 12, Richard, 10, Iona, 7, Elnora, 6, Viola, 3, and John, 2.

Deed book 111, page 195, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.

I happened unexpectedly upon Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church a few miles east of Lucama. 

The style of the building suggests that it was built circa the turn of the 20th century. The original block of the church consisted of a rectangular, gable-front section with a square tower on the gable end facing the road. Five peaked windows grace each side. The cinder-block wings on each side of the double front door are relatively recent modifications, built to house restrooms. There are also newer additions at rear.

The church is decorated with a large cross fitted with lightbulbs and a cast-iron bell in the yard. Thelma B. Forbes states the bell was rung to announce church services.

When I sought information about this church, my childhood friend Dawn Forbes Murphy informed me her maternal grandfather Kennell Braswell and family had belonged to Macedonia. (Her grandmother Marie Cannady Braswell was a member of Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Church.) Dawn has wonderful memories of attending Macedonia as a child, sitting on wooden benches in summer heat, singing hymns without piano or organ accompaniment, delicious food served at church functions, and lots of love. Dawn’s mother Thelma Braswell Forbes recalls there was once two-room school on the grounds of the church. The school was moved down the road from the church, but may still be standing. Though Mrs. Forbes is not sure when the church was founded, she knows her father Kennell Braswell joined as a child, and eventually his mother Minnie Cox Braswell was mother of the church. The church met only twice a month, so the Braswells attended Mary Grove on alternate Sundays.

Kennell and Marie Cannady Braswell.

In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Braswell, 30; wife Minnie, 26; and children Sadie, 10, Missie, 9, Aira, 7, Sallie, 1, Mary, newborn, Ira, 6, Kennon, 5, and Roland, 3.

In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Braswell, 39; wife Minne, 37; and children Ira, 16, Kennen, 15, Roland, 14, Sallie, 12, Pennie, 10, Irene, 9, Hessie C., 7, Allen, 6, Hazel, 5, Bessie, 3, Leslie, 2, and William T., 10 months.

On 28 November 1936, Kennell Braswell, 22, of Lucama, son of Thomas and Minnie Braswell, married Marie Cannaday, 20, of Lucama, daughter of Charlie and Mary Cannaday, in Smithfield, Johnston County. Ossie M. Cannady and Curtis L. Cannady of Lucama were witnesses.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: South Carolina-born farmer Charlie Cannady, 60; wife Mary, 50; daughter Marie Braswell, 23; son-in-law Kennel Braswell, 24; and grandchildren Minnie M., 2, and Charlie T., 1. Mary and Marie were also born in South Carolina.

In 1940, Kennel Braswell registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 15 September 1916 in Wayne County; his contact was mother Minnie Braswell; and he worked for Ceney Boyex, R.F.D. #2, Wilson.

Kennell Braswell (1914-1992) as a World War II soldier.

Photo of church by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2019; family photos courtesy of Dawn F. Murphy.

The Joneses’ resting place.

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Virginia-born “horseler” Henry Johnson, 76; wife Luisa, 46, cook; and children Gertrude, 19, Mertie, 17, Walter, 10, and Richard, 8 months.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook Susan Jones, 42; her children William E., 23, tobacco stemmer, Levi H., 22, barber, Charles T., 20, tobacco stemmer, Butler E., 19, tobacco stemmer, Mary J., 15, Nancy A., 11, Luther, 8, and Harvey L., 2, plus niece Arnetta Sexton, 8.

Charles T. Jones, 24, married Gertrude Johnson, 22, on 23 April 1903 in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of William Gay, Lucy A. Richards and Rosa Farmer.

John Daniel Jones died 14 March 1914 of catarrhal pneumonia in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 June 1913 to Chas. Jones and Gertrude Johnson and resided on Nash Street.

On 20 September 1914, Butler Jones, 34, son of Henry and Sue Jones, married Mirtie Brodie, 28, daughter of Henry and Louise [Kersey] Johnson, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister H.E. Edwards performed the ceremony, and Ed Cox, Chas. T. Jones and Minnie McDaniel witnessed.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 667 Nash Street,  minister Charlie Jones, 41; wife Gertrude, 39; children Ruth, 16, Charlie, 14, Elwood, 12, Louise, 10, and Sudie, 4; plus mother-in-law Louisa Johnson, 65.

On 24 December 1926, Simon Plater, 30, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, son of Simon and Birdie Plater, married Ruth Jones, 22, daughter of Charles and Gertrude Jones of Wilson. The bride’s father, a Missionary Baptist minister, performed the service in the presence of Gertrude Jones, Louisa Johnson, and W.E. [William Elwood] Jones.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Harper Lane, farmer Charlie T. Jones, 52; wife Stella [sic], 49; and children William E., 23, farm laborer, Louise M., 20, and Sadie, 14.

Sudye Jones died 4 March 1937 of meningitis in Greensboro, Guilford County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was 21 years old; was born to Charles T. Jones of Hertford County and Gertrude Johnson of Wilson County; was a student at Bennett College; and was single. Rev. Charles T. Jones, 412 East Vick, was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.

In 1940, William Elwood Jones registered for the World War II draft in Halifax County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 6 January 1907 in Wilson; he resided in Halifax, North Carolina; his contact was mother Gertrude Jones, 412 East Vick Street, Wilson; and he was employed by Weldon City Schools.

Charles Thomas Jones died 2 September 1963 at his home at 412 North Vick Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 October 1878 in Hertford County, North Carolina, to Henry Jones and Louisa Copeland; was married to Gertrude Jones; was a minister; and was buried in the Masonic cemetery. Informant was Ruth Brown, 906 Faison Street, Wilson.

Louise J. Bulluck died 27 June 1968 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 July 1909 to Charles Thomas Jones and Gertrude Johnson; was married to Ruel Bulluck; resided at 412 East Vick Street; and was buried in the Masonic cemetery. Informant was Ruth Brown, 906 Faison Street, Wilson.

Mary Gertrude Jones died 17 September 1968 in Goldsboro, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 February 1880 to Henry Johnson and [Louisa] Kersey; was a widow; had worked as a tobacco factory laborer; resided at 412 East Vick Street, Wilson; was buried at Masonic cemetery.

Ruth Jones Brown died 24 September 1970 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 8 February 1904 in Wilson to Charles T. Jones and Gertrude Johnson; was married to Edwin J. Brown; was a teacher; and resided at 906 Faison Street.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018. The headstone, of course, was engraved by Clarence B. Best.

The Bear Creek Baptist Association meets at Rountree Baptist Church.

BAA 11 3 1917.png

Baltimore Afro-American, 3 November 1917.

“The Bear Creek Missionary Baptist Association was organized in 1872 by Rev. R.H. Harper, who was in the organization of Educational and Missionary Convention, together with Rev. W.H. Croom, Rev. J.C. Carroll and Rev. I.N. Patterson. Much credit is also given to Rev. A.A. Smith, the secretary who did much to strengthen the cause of the Bear Creek Baptist Association.” Rountree Missionary Baptist is not listed as a current member of the Bear Creek Association.

Studio shots, no. 54: Rev. Benjamin F. Jordan.

This portrait of Rev. Benjamin F. Jordan hangs in a ground-level hallway at Jackson Chapel First Baptist Church in Wilson.


In the 1880 census of Richland, Beaufort County, North Carolina: day laborer Phillip Jordon, 38; wife Elizabeth, 30; and children David F., 10, Solomon, 6, Judy Ann, 4, and Benjamin F., 1.

In the 1900 census of Idalia township, Beaufort County: farmer Phillip Jordan, 56; wife Elizabeth, 49; son Solomon, 26, daughter-in-law Carseary, 21; their child Perline, 1; daughter Julia A., 23; and son Ben F., 21.

In the 1910 census of Lumberton, Robeson County, North Carolina: Benjamin F. Jordan, 30, minister, was a boarder in the household of John H. and Margret Kinnear.

On 26 October 1910, B.F. Jordan, 32, married Maggie E. Dickins, 24, in Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County, North Carolina.

In 1918, Benjamin Franklin Jordan registered for the World War I draft in Bladen County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 21 April 1879; was married to Maggie E. Jordan; and worked in the ministry.

In the 1920 census of Mullins township, Marion County, South Carolina: on Laurel Street, clergymen Benjamin F. Jordan, 40; wife Maggie, 32; and children Benjamin F., Jr., 6; Marion, 4, Milford, 2, and Odis, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1113 East Nash Street, minister Benjiman Jordan, 50; wife Maggie, 44; and children Milford L., 12, Odis, 11, Williard, 10, Irene C., 8, and James D., 6.

Benjamin Franklin Jordan died 8 December 1955 at 717 East Green Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 75 years old; was a minister; was born in North Carolina to Phillip Jordan and Elizabeth (last name unknown). Informant was Marion J Maultrie, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Mary Grove.

Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Church is on Wiggins Mill Road northwest of Lucama in Springhill township. Founded in 1909, the church is home to branches of the Kent, Renfrow, Jones, Barnes, Creech and Powell families, among others. (Including members of the Gospel Four.)

These photographs, which appear to date from the early 1970s, show the church’s wooden mid-century iteration, an early cornerstone, and the road sign that once identified the church to passersby.


Mary Grove Church today. The sanctuary has undergone several remodels in its 100+ years and is now a modern brick structure with attached offices and meeting space. The cornerstone in the brick plinth shown above is now embedded front left.  The church’s cemetery is located behind the parking lot at the far right edge of the image below.

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Many thanks to Edith Jones Garnett for sharing family photographs of Mary Grove Church.

Cemeteries, no. 9: William Chapel church cemetery.

William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church is one of three extant 19th-century churches in the Elm City area, and the only one with a cemetery. The church is about three miles northwest of Elm City on William Chapel Church Road, which runs just inside and roughly parallel to the Wilson-Nash County line. The cemetery lies a few hundred feet west of the church, across from Silver Lake Cotton Gin.


Among the oldest graves at William Chapel are those of:



  • Alexander and Sarah P. Barnes


  • Harriet Hines


  • W.S. Ward


Aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps; cemetery photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, November 2016.

Early history of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church.

The roots of New Vester Church go back to the brush arbor in the mid-1860’s. Vester Church, located in an area known as Parker’s Island, was led first by a Reverend Stamper, who was followed after a few years by the Reverend Nick Anderson.  Reverend Daniel Stokes and Reverend Nick Arrington succeeded Reverend Anderson. In 1891, the church was relocated to its present site, where two deacons, Harry Dunston and Ned Kent, contributed lumber to build a new edifice. Under the leadership of Reverend Anderson, who served from 1891 until 1903, the church adopted the formal name New Vester Missionary Baptist Church. Reverend W.H. Mitchiner served from 1903 until his death in 1953, with Reverend Offie Richardson serving as Associate Pastor for three years due to Rev. Mitchner’s illness. Rev. Mitchner was succeeded by Reverend J.H. Bryant and Reverend A.A. Crum, who served from 1956 until 1970.


New Vester is located near Buckhorn reservoir southwest of Sims (and due south of Bailey), in western Wilson County. It remains an active congregation.

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  • Daniel Stokes may have been the 35 year-old farmer who is listed in the 1880 census of Castalia, Nash County, with wife Cherry. Their 1871 marriage license describes Daniel as born in Franklin County to Cary and Eliza Stokes and Cherry as born in Franklin to Redic and America Wheeless. Daniel died in 1917 in Cypress Creek, Franklin County.
  • Harry Dunston (1855-1950) was the son of Ben and Harriet Hester Dunston. He is buried at New Vester.
  • Ned Kent was born about 1855 in Johnston County. His death certificate lists his parents as Elbert and Abbie Sanders, but a family story published at Ancestry.com names Lightfoot Sanders and Angeline Kent. Ned Kent married Lydia Barnes circa 1875, probably in Wilson County. He died in 1940 in Springhill township, Wilson County.
  • Offie William Richardson was born in Wake County in 1884 to Richardson “Dick” Richardson and Cornelia (or Topsy) Richardson. He died in Johnston County in 1965.

Church history adapted from http://www.newvesterchurch.com/churchhistory.html