New Zion Baptist Church
When Black families moved to Beloit for work with Fairbanks Morse, they wanted a place to have religious services as well. New Zion Baptist Church began as an outdoor meeting on the hill outside Fairbanks-Morse. Members later offered up their homes for services, with the congregation also gathering in a room situated over a garage overlooking the east bank of the Rock River, south of St. Paul Catholic Church. On April 8th, 1917, Rev. Shed Barksdale became the first pastor. After eight years, a new pastor, Rev. W. Bowens, came to Wisconsin and bought a two-story frame house and a vacant lot on the corner of Merrill St. and Third St., creating the first church building for New Zion in December 1925. Later, the church bought a small building from Branigan’s Coal and Ice Company for $50, moving it to the vacant lot.
In 1929, Rev. Ogiss Dillon, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church, became pastor of New Zion Baptist, where he served for 28 years until his death January 25th, 1957. He helped New Zion to join the Wisconsin General Conference, the Wisconsin Baptist Association, The Federated Churches of Beloit, and the Janesville Association.
By 1945, the mortgages on the church properties were paid off, but church leaders soon realized, in 1952, that the church office was no longer adequate for their needs. A year later the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Wisconsin laid the cornerstone for a new building, and in May 1954 the new building was dedicated.
Following the passing of Rev. Dillon, Rev. U.S. Pride of Pilgrim Baptist in Rockford joined New Zion Baptist as the new pastor. Soon after, in 1960, a property on Third St. was bought for a parsonage, and a fund for an educational building began in 1962.
[This information was found in the Souvenir Book produced by New Zion Baptist Church celebrating their 50th anniversary.]
Beverly Johnson Bond said in an oral history in March, 2019 that many people in the Beloit community remembered her because of her parents’ involvement in the church. Beverly's parents were Philip and Christabel Johnson. Her mother had taught Bible Study classes at New Zion and her father was a trustee and treasurer of the church who was instrumental in moving the church to the Waterman School, its present location, in 1994. Beverly Bond currently serves as the financial secretary for New Zion Baptist Church.