NEIGHBORHOOD CHURCH TOUR
By LORETTA FULTON
Looking for a good excuse to get out of the house without endangering anyone’s health?
Jay Moore, Abilene’s favorite historian, has the solution. He has put together a drive-by tour of historic churches for the Grace Museum. Moore will compile several historic tours to keep us sane during the coronavirus shutdown. The first tour was of historic houses in Abilene. The next one will be unique trees in town. All the tours can be found at Abilene History in Plain Sight – Virtual Drive-By Tour. The site includes a printable map.
Moore’s tour of historic churches includes some familiar names–Mt. Zion Baptist, Antioch C.M.E., and Macedonia Baptist to name a few. Moore is a retired Abilene High School history teacher, and his interest in the churches reflects his interest in history, as well as the churches’ role in society.
“I’ve always been drawn to the connecting power of churches and I believe the churches centered east of downtown are central and vital to the lives of many Abilenians,” Moore said. “I also feel most folks aren’t aware of how long many of those congregations have existed.”
Moore added historical information about each church. The first church on the tour, Mt. Zion Baptist, was organized in 1885, just four years after Abilene was founded. Initially, the congregation met in a building at South Fourth and Cherry streets. In 1940, the congregation built a new church at 841 Ash St.. That building burned in 1968 and the congregation relocated to its present location on Stafford Sreet, named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Stafford. Mr. Stafford was prinicpal of Woodson school and the couple were longtime members of Mr. Zion.
All the churches, except St. Francis Catholic Church, are predominantly African-American. Several date to the early days of Abilene’s existence.
Top left, Macedonia Baptist Church sign; top right, Mt. Zion Baptist Church historical marker; bottom left, Macedonia Baptist Church historical marker; bottom right, Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The middle church on the right is Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. Photos by Loretta Fulton