Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church

Mother Zion
Missionary Baptist Church

Bay City, Texas


2709 Avenue B

28°58'34.34"N       95°58'27.35"W


The Rev. Basil Tolson, an African American farmer in Eastern Matagorda County, joined with his neighbors in 1887 to form a Baptist congregation which they named Mount Zion Baptist Church. Tolson was elected pastor, and served the congregation until he moved to Bay City in 1905.

In 1906 Tolson led a small group of people in organizing Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Bay City. Charter members of the church included Isaac Wiggins, Manuel Mills, Simon White, Martin Hardin, Allen Frazier, John Tolson, Birdie Tolson, Harriet Peters, Nellie White, George Edward McNeel, and Amanda Tolson. The Rev. Basil Tolson served as first pastor of the congregation, and his brother, John Tolson, was elected superintendent of the Sunday school.

The congregation’s first sanctuary, built in 1907 by the Alamo Lumber Company, was destroyed in a 1909 hurricane. The members quickly rebuilt, however, and eventually erected larger structures to house church programs. Throughout its history, the church has been active in community and foreign outreach programs, including aid to the poor and educational programs for youth. The church continues to play an integral role in the religious life of Bay City citizens.  (1994)


Marker photo courtesy of Jerrilyn Capers



By Rosa Lee Brown & Kathleen Tatum

While Bay City was still very young, a group of ten baptized believers organized a Colored Baptist Church. They held all of their first services in a small one-room building which had been given to them by some white friends.

In 1906, the group elected Rev. Basil Tolson for their first pastor and named their church group the Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church and laid out plans to buy land and build a larger house of worship.

December 27, 1906, they purchased land in the original townsite of Bay City. This plot of ground was sold to Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church by G. M. Magill Et. Al: the said G. M. Magill for himself and for the consideration of $50.00 paid by Trustees of Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church. All that certain piece of land known and described as: Lot #4, Block #29, fronting 50 feet on Avenue B and running back between parallel lines 140 ft. to a 20 ft. alley.

On February 20, 1907 the trustees of Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church signed a Deed of Trust with Alamo Lumber Company, for building material to erect a frame church house on their land. The building was complete June 19, 1907 when Rev. Basil Tolson held the first services in the new building.

A terrible hurricane destroyed the church, July 21, 1909. The destruction caused the group (with Rev. H. C. Cashaw), to go again into an all out building project and again they borrowed money to rebuild. The debt was secured by trustees Alex Riley, Aaron Martin, Jim Wilson and George Edison, which was paid in full by May 24, 1921.

This building faced the west on Avenue B. It had a bell tower on the left front section of the roof. This remained the basic pattern of Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church for many years. The interior of this building was changed several times, but the exterior walls remained the same.

The church went back into debt when they bought lot #5 in Block #29, May 24, 1921 from A. J. Jones. This lot of land was next to Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

In 1929, under the leadership of Rev. C. H. Brown, Sr., the building was again remodeled and enlarged. At this time the church was constructed with a tower on each side of the front section of the roof. Better windows, and more space (80x100 ft), were included in the frame structure. The exterior walls were covered with imitation brick siding. The construction job was done by A. J. Henderson, a carpenter from Kendleton, Texas. The imitation brick siding on the north side had been badly scorched by lightning and the tower on the right had been partially ripped off by the storm. The building served the congregation during the 1930's and into the latter part of the 1940's.

In 1949, the congregation along with pastor Rev. C. H. Brown, Sr., decided that they needed a brick building to shelter them. So they went to work preparing for the new church house.

On March 30, 1950, the Groundbreaking Ceremony was held. On March 31, 1950, the construction of the brick building was begun by Joe Birkner and Sons, Contractors of Bay City, Texas. On the 5th Sunday in July, 1950, the entrance service of the church was held in the new brick sanctuary. On the Second Sunday in August, 1950, the cornerstone was laid. The church was changed from a frame structure to the present brick sanctuary with its matching Education Building designed and attached to the south east side of the main edifice.

The congregation finished paying for the new church on September 28, 1952, exactly 7 years and 11 months before the maturity of the note. On December 7, 1952, the Dedication service of Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church with the Education Building was held. A Note-burning ceremony was conducted by the Trustees, Deacons, and Pastor.

The last addition to the church was October 26, 1979 for $45,000.00 and the note was fully paid March 21, 1983. The addition was for the Community Outreach Center for the Economic Action Committee, consisting of 2,415 feet of space.


Copyright 2010 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Jun. 20, 2010
Aug. 4, 2012