The History of Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church
This record is a compilation of facts and information gleaned from church conference records, deacon board minutes, church clerk minutes, county and city government records.
In the year of 1920, Elder Emanuel High, as a result of a conversation with the presiding priest of the district of Ensley, organized the Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church to serve those persons of Ensley and other surrounding areas. The church was located on the “ditch” on 19th Street, which is in Ensley and was contagious to the Holy Family Diocese.
Elder High was assisted by Deacon J. Reese, Deacon Jesse Muse, and Deacon Tommie Thompson. There were other Deacons who served under Elder High, and they were: Deacon Joe Hill, Deacon Willie Harris, and Deacon Robert B. Davis.
Elder Emanuel High tenure of service culminated in 1945. He served Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist church faithfully, courageously, and humbly.
Elder Robert B. Davis was elected pastor of Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church in the year of 1945. He was a visionary and elevated Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church to greater heights which continued the legacy of Elder Emanuel High. Elder Davis charted a course that would enhance the destiny of Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church.
Elder Davis’ vision was to increase the ministries and auxiliaries of the church. The Deacons who served under Elder Davis were: Deacon Jesse Muse (Chairman of the Deacon Board), Deacon Willie Harris, Deacon Joe Hill, Deacon Felix Major, Deacon Ernest Hatcher, Deacon George Sanders Deacon Henry Sanders, Deacon John Henry Ray, Deacon Garfield Griffin, Deacon Jeff Duncan, Deacon Walter Waller, Deacon Richard High, Deacon Tom Danner, Deacon Charlie McCall, Deacon Daniel Gardener, Deacon Wash Wilson, Deacon John Wilson, Deacon Darnell Gardener, Deacon James Franklin, Deacon Lawrence Finley, Deacon Arthur Young, Sr., Deacon William Hood, and Deacon Cleveland Grace.
The Mothers were: Sister Tenner Davis, Sister Eliza Muse, Sister Hattie Sanders Sister Willie Major, Sister Mary Griffin, Sister Rosie Skinner, Sister Mary L. Sanders, Sister Sallie Smith, Sister Virginia Burden, Sister Hattie Gilchrist, Sister Bessie Hatcher, Sister Mamie Reese, Sister Mary A. Hill, Sister Elizabeth Harris, Sister Carrie Waller, Sister Rosa Wilson, Sister Mildred High, Sister Hettie Danner, Sister Birdie Finley, Sister Johnnie Young, Sister Edgie Davis, Sister Sherry Hood, Sister Lynn Gardener, and Sister Annie Franklin.
Elder Davis was also instrumental in organizing the Trustee Board with Deacon John Wilson serving as chairman. Deacon Wilson served as chairman for several years, and because of his failing health, he relinquished the chairmanship and faithfully served as a member until the Lord called him home in 1995.
There were other auxiliaries organized under the Leadership of Elder Robert B. Davis, such as, Usher Boards I & II, Davis Youth Choir, Missionary Society, Nurses Guild, and the Men Fellowship Club.
In 1953, Elder Davis organized the first Sunday School with its officers being Deacon George Sanders, Superintendent, Sister Rachel Payton, Secretary, and Sister Catherine Bracy, Assistant Secretary. The teachers were Sister Tenner Davis, Sister Hattie Sanders, Sister Hattie Harvey, Sister Pearly Sledge, Sister Lois Jones, and Sister Ruth Sanders. Other members serving as superintendents are: Deacon Willie Harris, Deacon Arthur Young, Sr., Deacon Lawrence Finley, Deacon James Franklin, Sister Maxine Young, and Brother Frank E. Green, who currently holds that position.
As a result of Elder Davis’s achievements with the Sunday School he was recognized by the Pilgrim Rest Association and was elected as Vice Moderator of the Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association and Dean of Pilgrim Rest District Sunday School Convention.
As a part of the glorious history of the Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church, Elder Davis ordained the following ministers during his tenure of service who were: Elder Calvin Danner, Elder John H. Ray, Elder James Gibson, Elder Allen Johnson, Elder Halloway, and Elder James Franklin. Elder Davis was at the helm when Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church moved from the little church on the “ditch” to sharing a fellowship with Little True Vine Primitive Baptist Church, under the leadership of Elder A. J. Calvin.
Elder Davis and his congregation marched from the “ditch” to the church site on 19th Street.
In 1983, Elder Davis’ health started declining and he was still serving as Pastor to two churches (Mount Olive in Livingston and Zion Travelers). He requested that, particularly, Zion Travelers render him some assistance with his pastoral duties. Hence, Zion Travelers appointed Elder Dexter Rice as his Assistant Pastor.
Elder Davis’ health continued to decline and he announced his retirement at the March Conference to be effective in June 1990.
The church granted Elder Davis his request and appointed Elder Davis as Pastor Emeritus. The church also appointed Elder James Franklin as Interim Pastor. The church appointed a committee to search for another pastor. The committee was chaired by Deacon Darnell Gardner with Deacon John Wilson and Brother Frank Green as members.
The committee ended its search after interviewing several candidates. The committee recommended three preachers for the position.
The church selected Elder Melvin Robinson, Jr., the pastor to Little Canaan Primitive Baptist Church of Selma, Alabama as its pastor.
During Elder Robinson’s period of service, Deacon Archie Young joined the church and in 1992 was elected President of the Usher Board. Sister Alice Young and Sister Georgia Robinson joined the Mothers Board. During Elder Robinson’ tenure, the membership increased and the church purchased a van and a computer. Elder Robinson resigned September 30, 1993.
The church began a search for a pastor and appointed Elder James Franklin as interim pastor while the search was being conducted. After almost a year, the committee recommended three preachers for the position and the Church elected Elder Elijah Weatherspoon to serve as pastor on April 28, 1994.
In less than two years, Elder Weatherspoon effectuated a most profound change upon Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church. This impact has resulted in the purchasing of five and one-half acres of land with a large sanctuary capable of seating three hundred and a fellowship hall capable of seating two hundred and fifty to three hundred and fifty people. In addition, there are five classrooms and a pastor’s study. The parking space is unlimited. Elder Weatherspoon has proposed, as a part of the ministries, a number of programs that the church should undertake.
Under Elder Weatherspoon’s leadership the following brothers were added to the Gospel Ministry: Brothers Naymond Clark (September 1998), Percy Smiley (September 2000) and Thomas Crawford (April 2004). Also, the following brothers were added to the Deacon Board: in August 1996, Brothers Frank Green, Willie Payton, and Jesse Gardner; in August 2000, Brothers Theodore Cheatham, Darrell Jackson and Jamal Pugh; Brother Andrew Smith (August 2010); and Brother LaDerian Pickens (August 2013),. Sisters Gwenevere A. Weatherspoon (1994), Catherine Green (1997), Dorothy Castor (2006), and Precilla Shuler (2006) were added to the Mothers Board. A building expansion adding Men and Women Restroom facilities and two classrooms was completed and dedicated in May 2002. Through the witness of Deacon Wash Wilson, approximately $115,000 was donated to the Church from the estate of Ms. Ruth Hill Baddeau which helped to defray building expansion costs. Since July 2002, the sisters of Zion have annually held a Women’s Retreat at Conference Centers/Resorts away from the Church coordinated by the Mission Society. A Male Chorus was organized in 2004 serving every 1st Sunday; Deacon Darrell Jackson served as its first President. Also, in September 2004 the brethren of Zion held our first annual Men’s Conference here at the Church. In February 2005 the church voted and undertook a total renovation to the complex. The total complex was renovated from front to back, from carpet and floor tiles to ceiling insulation and tiles, inside and out including two central air systems. A new Church Van was purchased.
Also under Elder Weatherspoon’s leadership in the fulfillment of one of our adopted “Church Mission Package” goals, the church authorized the establishment of a childcare ministry in 1996. In a total step of faith with no children and one Lead Teachermo/Assistant Director, Zion Travelers Christian Academy (ZTCA) Childcare Ministry was born. ZTCA opened her doors in January 1997 through the sacrificial services of retired senior members. The Pastor took on the responsibility of Chairman of the ZTCA Board of Directors. Deacon Frank Green, a retired High School Principal, gratuitously volunteered his services as Director for about eight years. Other members who volunteered their services to the childcare ministry include Sis. Rosie Wilson, Sis. Laura Fultz, Sis. Julia Crawford, Sis. Mary Gray, Sis. Eleanor Robinson, Sis. Precilla Shuler, and Bro. Authur Young, Jr. Deacon Jesse Gardner volunteered his administrative services to the ministry. During his leadership tenure Deacon Green infectiously invested himself into Bro. Edgar Allen. Following Dea. Green’s demise in 2005, his wife, Sis. Catherine Green accepted the Director’s responsibility and Bro. Edgar Allen took on the day-to-day operations as Assistant Director, and they are currently serving in these capacities. After one month of operation, Dea. Darrell and Sis. Shakitha Jackson desiring to see the ministry succeed brought ZTCA our first child, little Ms. Camille Jackson. The ministry has endured many strenuous and nearly fatal challenges but by the grace of God the ministry is flourishing today. Still undergirded with volunteer services from our membership the ministry has at one time surpassed forty children. It is very noteworthy that within the first six months of operation, the church experienced a conversion of one accepting Christ and was baptized as direct result of this childcare ministry.
Elder High served Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church for twenty-three years and laid the foundation.
Elder Davis served Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church for forty-six years and introduced many programs to enhance its growth. He is a “visionary.”
Elder Melvin Robinson served Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church for three years and continued the growth.
Elder Elijah Weatherspoon, our present astute, esteemed, dynamic, and illustrious pastor, has presented the most ambitious program for Zion’s Family. The church must embrace this program enthusiastically and relevantly in order to move into the twenty-first century.
The present church officers are: Deacon Theodore Cheatham- Deacon Board Chairman, Sister Catherine Green- Mothers Board Chairman, Sister Loretta Cheatham- Church Clerk, Sister Theatrice Benson- Assistant Church Clerk, Sister Sherryln Castor- Financial Secretary, Sister LaVerne Pugh- Assistant Financial Secretary, Brother Kenneth Gentry, Sr. - Treasurer, Deacon Darrell Jackson, Sr.- Trustee Board Chairman, Brother Derrick Sanders- Trustee Board Vice Chariman, and Sister Elizabeth Pettway- Janitor.