The historic Union Missionary Baptist Church, constructed in 1847, was the first church where slaves and freedmen could independently gather for worship services. The church was burned to the ground in 1868 and reconstructed in 1883.
Over the years, the church had fallen into disrepair, but today, thanks to the concern and determination of Richard Collins, founder of the Today Foundation in Dallas, staff members of Jefferson’s Collins Academy and a force of dedicated community volunteers, new life is being breathed back into the church. Initially scheduled for demolition, members of the Marion County Historical Commission joined forces with Collins to rescue the church, Collins said,
“We wanted this historic location to be more than a vacant lot with a marker standing in the middle of it. We could have lost the history and the structure to bulldozers or saved it from them, so we chose the latter.”
People driving by the location, in recent months, have noticed considerable activity at the site as volunteers have been involved in architectural excavation of the grounds surrounding the church. The grounds surrounding the church have given up numerous items of interest including personal artifacts of the early congregation and most recently an outdoor brick baptistry.
In the coming months, the church will undergo major changes in appearance during its journey toward rehabilitation as a premier heritage center for public use. Gary Endsley, Executive Director for Collins Academy, is asking anyone who may have photographs, church programs, memorabilia, or stories pertaining to the history of the church to drop them by Collins Academy to discuss their inclusion in the church archives and future interpretive displays.