Mt. Vernon organized in 1842

By Murphy J. Barr
Journal Historian

The Mt. Zion Baptist Church, one of the oldest Baptist churches in North Central Louisiana, is located in north central Jackson parish, a mile or two south of State Hwy. 148, midway between Clay and Vernon.

On September 10, 1842, Joseph Hickman and J. Newman, ordained ministers of the gospel, met in the home of Ivan Scarborough and wife Frances, to establish a Baptist Church. The church was founded before the creation of Jackson Parish, which was founded in 1845. Charter members were Noah Willis and wife Winnie, Jacob Madden and wife Nancy, Susan Smith, Hiram Aswell, Mary Thornhill, and Irvan Scarborough and wife Frances.

Prayer was led by Irvan Scarborough and Noah Willis was appointed church treasurer. Rules of Decorum were adopted in October, 1842, and the first meetings were held in the Scarborough home. During the church conference January 2, 1843, Noah Willis and wife called for their letters, and moved from the community to live in Catahoula parish. There they were charter members of another Baptist church known as Hebron, which is now in Winn Parish. In June of that year, Mt. Zion elected Bro. Asey Lee, a minister from Mt. Lebanon in Bienville parish, as pastor.

Among others who became members of this early church were Mathias Scarborough and wife Jane, A.J. Scarborough, W.T. Willis, and his brother Franklin Willis in May 1847.

The first church was built from logs taken from the nearby forest. In time it was decided to repair the church and the wooden shutters for a protracted meeting. A committee of eight members was appointed, including Mathias Scarborough and W.T. Willis.

In November, 1848, plans for a new building were laid on the table. It was some time before the new church was built. On November 10, 1850, Rubin Morgan Hargrove and his wife Elizabeth Culpepper Hargrove, became members. He was a large landowner in the area, owning a the plantation Tuckpaw on the Vernon-Woodville road four miles from Vernon. He sold this planation to Allen Green, founder of Lincoln Parish. Hargrove's wife, Elizabeth, died and was buried in the Mt. Zion cemetery.

In 1851, the building committee went ahead with plans to build a new church. Rubin M. Hargrove purchased 40 acres of land for the church, a committee was appointed to lay off a lot, and obtain a deed. A contract was let to Mr. Vinson for construction, not including the pulpit. The building was finished at a cost of $1,067.35. The foundation timbers and four large columns down the center of the building were taken from large trees growing on the church property.

W.T. Willis placed a dam on a nearby stream, and installed a water wheel which turned a lathe. With water power he turned the four logs that stand down the center of the church building.

In 1961, Mrs. J.H. Barr, who later lived in Dodson, lived in the Mt. Zion community and attended the church in the 1880s and 1890s. She gave a description of the church which had changed very little. The church had wide aisles with the columns down the center. A wall abut three feet high was attached to the columns dividing the building. Wooden benches were on each side of the three-foot wall, with men and boys sitting on one side, women and girls on the other. There were four doors, two on each end of the church. When a man and his wife entered the church, his wife entered the door to the ladies' side, the men to the men's side.

On the church was a horse block for women who rode horseback to church. They rode up to the horse block, riding sidesaddle, with both legs on the same side, stepped off the saddle onto the block, then down to the ground. Others came in wagons and buggies, and some walked as far as three miles, so their mules and horses could rest on Sunday.

Names given here, as well as many others served the church for a number of years, Records show 25 persons named Scarborough. Others moved on. Rubin Morgan Hargrove married the widow Vealle, who owned the Vealle farm near Chatham, Louisiana. He sold all his property and moved to Texas. One family of Scarboroughs moved to Natchitoches and established a school there which ended when the Civil War came about. W.T. Willis moved to the high plains of Texas and drilled the first artesian well there. Others continued to live in the Mt. Zion community and their descendants continued in North Louisiana.

Cemetery records show names of families who lived there in the early years as Blaylock, Bents, Johnson, Posey, Stewart, Cavanaugh, Jones, Bond, Thrift, Terrell, Edmonds, Ledford, Sims, Bernard,. These and others were founders of that area of North Louisiana. This church still stands today, with the same foundation and same tall columns.