A featured site on Preservation Texas’ Most Endangered Places list in 2012, the Union Missionary Baptist Church in Jefferson, Texas is not the original church that stood on the spot, but the historic building has survived its fair share of violence and turmoil.
The current church which is in dire need of repairs has been on this site since 1883. But the site has been home of the first African-American church in Jefferson since 1842. Jefferson at the time was a booming port city with daily steamboat traffic.
After the Civil War the Church was the site of some nasty events as some of the townspeople were not happy with the Reconstruction policies. Many Freedmen were assaulted and tortured at this time. At night the members of the church would guard the structure as there was a flurry of activity, including a shoot out at Union BC. At the height of these events Union soldiers occupied the town and many structures were burned down one of them being the original church, which was built out of local cypress wood.
The land was deeded to the Church in 1883 and the current structure was built. Distinguished by a bell tower the church also sports several meeting rooms as well as an outdoor sunken baptismal. Since being declared an endangered building only one side of the church has been fixed, but it appears as if just temporarily and not as to be historically preserved. In the past several years there has been some realty development in the area and new housing structures have eclipsed the Church. It’ll be interesting to see how the preservation continues. As of now not much has changed and even the striking sign has seen better days.
There is something hauntingly beautiful about the structure, and with its ties to the African-American community of Marion County one hopes that the church is preserved and many other people get to visit it and learn about it’s history.