The Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church was founded between 1810 and 1813. We pick the date of 1810 for its formation. By all account, it is one of the oldest institutions in the USA. We can only speculate as to the purpose of its location. One hundred years later, it was rare for one to reach the church except on foot or horseback. It was in the mid-1900’s before it could be reached by auto. The Black Churches in southern Ohio was more consumed by the slave problem than any item on their agenda.

We must come to terms with the Underground Railroad if we want to ask slaves to take up the cross and follow me. Relying on the information of Ted Sedgwick, a reporter with the Herald-Dispatch, lronton Bureau, we are made aware that Burlington, Ohio the first county seat of Lawrence, County, and Ceredo, Virginia has its roots in the struggle for the abolition of slavery. Before the Civil War, Burlington was an abolitionist sanctuary for runaway and freed slaves. Burlington has a special meaning for many of the descendants of runaway and freed slaves currently living there. Blacks owe a debt of gratitude to Massachusetts abolitionist congressman EliThayer. Ceredo VA had no slaves. Blacks would escape from Cabell County and be ferried across the river to Burlington from Ceredo, located in Wayne Co. In a handwritten history of Ceredo and Burlington, Ed Adkins, then 90 years old, tells the story about William McKee, and William Davidson, two abolitionist preachers, launching the Underground Railroad in 1799. ln, that year the two Baptist preachers convinced Rev. Plymale to free his slaves and move to what is now South Point, Ohio. The farm was divided into two sections on which the former slaves settled. The town grew and became the County Seat in 1816.

Underground Railroad

The key leader in the Underground Railroad operation was John Campbell. His political connections, coupled with monetary resources and his desire to strike a blow against slavery worked overtime. The animals and vehicles he loaned or in some instances gave to the runaway slaves no black person of the day could provide. He believed in freedom, and he was committed to crippling slavery. He changed his political affiliation when he could not convince Democrats to change their thinking on slavery. He was the man.

ln 1816 two more churches were organized in Lawrence County, Ohio. Big Rock and Union Grove Baptist Churches began having services. Their locations were more remote in term of proximity to the underground slave activity. The church was very conscious of the slavery problem and wanted to help enslaved Black people gain their freedom. Black churches felt the need to be organized. They founded the Providence Anti-Slavery Missionary, Baptist Association in 1821. The Macedonia Missionary Baptist was a charter member.

The first organized slave rebellion occurred under the auspice of Nate Turner in 183L. Fifty-seven white men women and children were killed in Jerusalem Va. He was captured, hanged, skinned, and put on display. immediately laws were passed making meetings of Black people out to the presence of White people illegal. Prayer service, suppers, or annual gatherings were also abolished.

The operating churches were very active in assisting runaway slaves. This activity was a primary objective. Records indicate members of the Black communities of Jackson, Lawrence, and Gallia County participated on a regular basis to facilitate successful escapes from slavery.

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey

The first Black Advocate was born in 1818 on one of the largest plantations on the eastern shores. Five hundred slaves worked the 10,000 acres. It was out of character for a slave to be given a name, but this boy was named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He had no knowledge of who fathered him and his mother died when he was nine years of age. At a very early age he found slavery so wretched he wished he had never been born. He was determined to experience life other than that of a field hand. He taught himself to read and write and became an accomplished orator at a very early age.

Slaves were often reminded that they lived a life similar to a dog, but in their slave quarters, they knew their life was not that good because the dog was allowed in the house.

Slavery was fueled by card-carrying Christians. ln 1832 Frederick Bailey was introduced to Christianity. Slaves having so little control of their life, and no power to change their wretched condition identified with the hope expressed in religion. Bailey attempted to escape slavery in 1833, but he was captured and returned to the plantation. ln 1838, he successful escaped to Philadelphia, PA. From there he found his way to New Bedford, Mass, married, and changed his name to Frederick Augustus Washington Douglas. Shortly after arriving in New Bedford Mass. he met Wm Lloyd Garrison, the President of the American Anti-Slavery Society and editor of the newspaper Abolitionary. Both the Society and newspaper took strong positions on abolishing slavery. Garrison hired Douglas to lecture about his life as a slave. Douglas; although he was not yet free, accepted the challenge of describing slavery. He expounded there is nothing positive about the institution of slavery. You work ten or twelve hours daily, no legal family ties, barred from acquiring an education, poorly fed, and someone owns you. You can be sold or traded based on what your owner decides. Humans are not collateral, nor should they be treated as collateral. ln 1845 Douglas was sent to England. He was charged with the responsibility of branding the institution of slavery and those who support it as being barbaric.

While Douglas and Garrison were doing their thing, the religious community was busy expanding. Three more Black Churches founded, Paint Creek in Gallipolis, Ohio came on board in 1833. Bethel Missionary Baptist was founded in 1845 in Morgan Township, Gallia County, Ohio. ln 1846 Providence Baptist Church was founded in Kerr, Ohio in the community of Buckridge, Gallia, Co. The Underground Railroad was functioning and slaves were more determined to gain their freedom. All Ohio communities directly across the Ohio River from Virginia were getting involved. No growth would be possible without black people most of whom were former slaves. The growth of the Ohio communities enabled Black Churches to reconsider their open organized opposition to slavery. The Providence Anti-Slavery Missionary Baptist Association founded in 1821 was changed to Providence Regular Missionary Baptist Association in 1833. On the occasion of changing the name of the association, the Macedonia Missionary Baptist was acclaimed the mother of the Black Baptist Church movement in southern Ohio. The assistance of white people was very important in the escaping of slaves and retaining their freedom. Changing the name of the church organization was in response to the participation of the white community.

Douglas experienced great success in England. ln describing the barbaric treatment of Blacks, and the inhumane institution of slavery, there was no rival anywhere in the world. While in England, associates agreed to purchase his freedom for 150 pounds. Now that his freedom was official, he returned to New Bedford MA. in 1847 and soon moved to Rochester, NY. With the 2,500 raised by his associates in England, he founded the Liberator newspaper. Through its publication, Douglas denounced the denial of all rights based on class, race, or gender.

Canada The Only Safe Refuge

1850 is now upon us. People are coming from all directions. The congressmen compromised. The agreement reached was not to create any more slave states, but they gave slave owners the legal right to go into any state and capture any runaway slave. All black families were at risk. Slave owners found blackness in any northern state as evidence of a runaway. Canada became the only safe refuge; therefore, it became the destination of choice.

The biggest local news was the emancipated slaves from Madison County VA. No one thought to count them when they arrived. And based on the evidence available, thirty-seven was not the number. What was the number, no one knows, nor do they care. But if you were leaving from Madison County Va. and I knew of it, I would catch a ride. More people arrived than those listed on the plaque erected over one hundred years later.

Lincoln Elected President

On November 1860, Lincoln was elected President. Five months later the Civil War began in Charleston, SC. The South seceded from the Union. The North had few victories in the early years of the war. ln 1862, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all Slaves in rebel territory. Douglass was delighted with this decision. Lincoln needed recruits to fight the war, and Douglas needed the Black man to win his freedom. Three of the sons of Douglas fought with 179,000 Black soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Thirty-eight thousand Black soldiers lost their life. Several white headstones in the Macedonia Baptist Church Cemetery mark the graves of deceased Civil War Veterans.

Little before the war won by the Union ended in 1865, the 13th amendment to the constitution passed abolishing slavery. This led Douglas to state “The black man is free of a single master, but he is now a slave to society. He is free of the old plantation, but he has nothing but the dust under his feet. He is free of the old quarters which once gave him shelter, but a slave to rains of summer and the frost of winter. Turned loose naked and hungry to the open skies. The nation has freed the slave, now it must free the African American.”

First Free Schoolhouse 

It is difficult for any reasonable human being to get their arms around how all former slaves owned their home. Nothing fancy, but it was home. Pay your taxes, cut some wood, put some oil in the lamp, pop some corn, drink a little milk, and feed the animals. The vast majority could not read or write, but they could count and was aware of the importance of education. They built a schoolhouse on land given to the community by a black property owner George Hall to be used for that purpose. Property for graveyards was donated by black property owners. Julia Temperance Smith, born in 1864, went through the eight-grade twice. She like some others loved school. They found teachers and the means to compensate them. Ezra Mullins was the most notable teacher that I heard about. I am sure the Macedonia grade school was the first free school of its kind open to everyone and all races in Lawrence County, Ohio

Well, we must have a church building larger than a corn crib. That is what the initial building was used for after the new church was built. Materials were purchased to build the church, but the work was done by former slaves. Crude was the order of the day. Pews, the entire building from the ground up, lectern, floors, plaster, all done by those who had no money to hire someone, but built a building that is still standing after 200 years. Oil lamps, piano, and stoves were the items purchased.

Macedonia Baptist Church, pews, donation, Mission Statement