Stephen F. Austin State University

Jefferson's Union Mission Baptist Church (November 2012)

Jefferson's union Mission Baptist Church
By Jeff Campbell

In 1842 a successful Jefferson businessman donated land for a church. Someone donating
land for a church is commonplace in our nation's history but in this case the land was donated
to slaves, an odd occurrence in pre Civil War, East Texas. The businessman, Captain William
Perry, was a shipping magnate and one of the first settlers of Jefferson, Texas.

The first building was erected in on the site in 1847, using lumber from local Cypress trees.
The original congregation was non denominational and would remain that way until after the
Civil War, when the Union Missionary Baptist Church was established on the site in 1868.

1868 would be a pivotal year for the church, due to the rampant violence of Reconstruction.
In the fall of 1868 the original structure was burned to the ground. The burning was part of a
larger backlash, from local white citizens, against the policies of the United States government
after the Civil War. The Church served as the regional headquarters for the Freedmen's
Bureau, the Radical Republicans and the Loyal League, which made it a natural target for local
disenfranchised whites.

It would be 15 years, in 1883, before the Church was rebuilt and it remained a focal point for
Jefferson's African American community for the next 100 years. As older generations passed on
and younger generations moved away, the congregation dwindled and the structure began to

The Church structure features a main sanctuary with a bell tower, and also has a few smaller
meeting rooms behind it. Separate from the structure, on the east side, is an outdoor sunken
brick baptismal. The cornerstone of the building was added during the rededication of the
Church, which was led by Reverend J.H. Patterson, it reads "Union Baptist Church Jefferson,
Texas Organized 1868 - Rebuilt 1888 Rev. Patterson Trustees-Jordan Tice- Henry Bayley-Don

In the fall of 2003 the Texas Historical Commission's Medallion magazine happened to publish
a photograph of the Church. The photograph was part of an article, "Help Needed: The THC
Introduces The Endangered Landmarks Program." The article brought a new awareness of the
Church, it's historical significance and a strong desire to save the structure. In 2006 a non-profit
organization was formed with the goal of restoring time's damage and preserving the Church for
future generations. The organization is made up of members of the Church congregation, local
historic preservationists and the Collins Academy. In the fall of 2011 a Restoration Celebration
and Capital Campaign Launch was held to preserve and restore this piece of history that not only
belongs to Jefferson and Texas but also to the South and to the United States.

From slavery through reconstruction to the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, the Union
Missionary Baptist Church is a physical connection to the African American experience in
East Texas. As I have traveled around Texas I have seen many historical markers of where a
building once stood. The Union Missionary Baptist Church is still standing, let's hope it does so
for many more generations.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help save Union Missionary Baptist
Church, please send your gift to: Union Missionary Baptist Church P.O. Box 266703 Houston,
Texas 77207.