“The Zion Baptist Church was organized in the year 1896 under a cherry tree at its present location by a group of 13 baptized Christians who had migrated to Newport News from other areas of Virginia and the Carolinas and who had not affiliated with any local congregation.
In 1896, when the City of Newport News was in its infancy, a section of town now known as the East End was better known as “Blood Field” for its street violence. There were houses of prostitution, bars, dance halls, a saloon on every corner and gambling was a way of life.
It was after several meetings from house-to-house that the thirteen Christians concluded that there was a need for some type of religious worship in the immediate area and so 107 years later, Zion Baptist Church in the East End was set.
The first pastor called to lead the group was Rev. Moses Tynes and in 1897, the first tiny structure was built under his leadership. Most of the materials were donated by whites in the community and the labor was donated by men in the community.
In 1899, under the leadership of Rev. C. J. Crudup, the sanctuary was destroyed by fire. But despite this setback along with other difficulties, the congregation continued to grow. Rev. C. E. Jones was called to assume the responsibility of leadership in 1901 and for eleven years, Zion experienced tremendous growth, encouraging men and women to turn to Christ. Both Rev. and Mrs. Jones were actively involved in the work of the National Baptist Convention and the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. In 1941, Rev. Jones’ pastorate ended as a result of a car accident after 39 years of leadership to the congregation. Rev. Joseph B. Reid became his successor and he served the church for fourteen years.” Excerpt from “About Us,” http://www.zionbaptistonline.org/about.html
John C. Allen Sr. was illiterate when he arrived in Newport News about 1899. Before long, he made his way to Zion Baptist where, under the tutelage of Rev. Charles E. Jones, he learned to read. John reared his children in the church, and his funeral service was held there in the first days of 1954.
He was a smart man, but he was not an educated man. If he had had an education to go along with his wit, he would have been a bad boy. I’m telling you, ‘cause he was just as smart as he could be.
Interview of Margaret Colvert Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson, 8 August 1998; all rights reserved.