History of the First Zion Missionary Baptist Church


On the second Sunday in October 1862, while the country was still under the bonds of slavery, nine men, who accepted Christ as their supreme Lord and Lawgiver, founded our Church. They were: Chance Mitchell, Jacob McKenzie, Ansley Smalls, Gabriel Jenkins, Jackie Riley, Prince Fuller, Adam Bruin, Jack Bush and Sam Frazier. This group of baptized believers were led by the Rev. Abraham Merchison, a freed slave from Savannah, GA. Together these men answered the call to provide a place where we could all worship God in Spirit and in Truth. A place dedicated for His Service and His death. At this time the church was named “FIRST AFRICAN BAPTIST CHURCH” today it is known as First Zion Missionary Baptist Church. We are not sure when the name was changed but verbal accounts revealed it was called First Zion in the late 30’s and 40’s.

Many great organizations have been created in the history of mankind; but none as prevailing or lasting as the Church. And so today, we are proud to let you know that our church is built on a solid foundation. The word of God says in Matthew 16:18 “Upon this rock I build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

God has been amazingly good to us during these past 153 years. To reflect on the memory of our ancestors during this time of celebration is truly a blessing. For it brings out both the historical and cultural being of our existence. When we consider the wonders of our miraculous journey over these past years we are moved to celebrate the grace of God who showed us His kindness by allowing us all to be here. At this time we will share a few historical points on our pastoral leadership as we look at our past, our present and our future.


Our church was organized in 1862 under the name of First African Baptist Church. We are members of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Association located in Ridgeland, SC, which was organized in 1895.

Our first pastor was Rev. Abraham Merchison. We have learned over years that Rev. Merchison‘s history as a minister and a soldier was instrumental in the founding of the historical Mitchellville Community of Hilton Head Island. Our research will continue on this great leader. Following Rev. Merchison, we were led by : Rev. E.P. Hamilton; Rev B.W. Williams; Rev W.M. Williams and Rev. J.H. Smalls.

In the early 50’s, we were led by: Rev. A. O. Mitchell of Savannah, Ga. Rev. Mitchell played an active role in replacing our 97 year old church with a new sanctuary in 1959. Additionally, he baptized over 300 members in the May River. Members who still serve First Zion today. He was followed by: Rev. Rance Marion (R.M) Youmans, Rev. Henry (H.B) Youmans, of Allendale, SC and Rev. Tyrone B. Beckett, of Estill, SC

Today we are led by Rev. Bennie L. Jenkins, Jr., who celebrated his second Pastoral Anniversary on September 28, 2015.

At this time I will share highlights of our history according to verbal and written accounts: 1862-2014

  • In 1862, our church was founded by nine men who as the first Board of Deacons. They were: Chance Mitchell, Jacob McKenzie, Ansley Smalls, Gabriel Jenkins, Jack Riley, Prince Fuller, Adam Bruin and Sam Frazier
  • 1930, The Usher Board was organized
  • 1959, we moved into our new sanctuary. Moving out of the two story structure that stood for 97 years. The foundation of that sanctuary is where our present church sits today.
  • In 1966, we opened the first Church Day Care Center in the community.
  • In 1966, Rev. A.O.Mitchell was call home to rest. We were without a pastor for several months and Rev. Louis Graham, a member and Lay Minister provided service.
  • In 1967, Rev. R.M.Youman was installed as pastor. He served until 1991.
  • In 1972, Christian Family Homecoming Week was organized.
  • In 1974, The Ladies Auxiliary was organized.
  • In 1979, First Zion installed Rev. Henry B. Youmans as the first Associate Pastor.
  • In 1983, the Scholarship Fund of First Zion was organized.
  • In 1988, we purchased property in front of our church extending our boundary to Wharf Street.
  • In 1988, March 13th the first Son of Zion was ordained into the Ministry, Rev. Joe L. Jordon.
  • In 1991, Rev. R.M.Youmans retired due to ill health and his son Rev. Henry B. Youmans was installed as Pastor.
  • In 1995, March 20th we ordained a second Son of Zion into the Ministry, Rev. Renty E. Kitty,
  • In 1998, the Women’s Ministry was organized and held its first Women’s Day Celebration. This ministry replaced the Ladies Auxiliary organized in 1974.
  • In 1999, April 9th we ordained a third Son of Zion into the Ministry, Rev. Julius Pinckney.
  • In 2000, August 9th we ordained the fourth Son of Zion into the ministry, Rev. Charles Hamilton, Sr. Rev. Hamilton also served as church musician at this time.
  • On February 2, 2000, the Youth Department was organized. It was named Zion Young People Department or ZYPD. It was named by Deaconess Carolyn F. Brown.
  • In 2000, Rev. Tyrone B. Beckett was invited to take charge of our first Sunday Youth Service.
  • In September 2001, we broke ground for the remodeling of our present sanctuary. During remodeling we held services at Bluffton Town Hall Auditorium on Bridge Street.
  • In 2003, Rev. Henry B. Youmans relinquished his pastoral position here at First Zion.
  • In April 2004, Rev. Tyrone B. Beckett was installed as Pastor.
  • In July 2004, Vacation Bible School was organized.
  • In 2009, the Women’s Ministry held their first Three Night Revival
  • In 2010, The Men’s Ministry held their first three night Revival.
  • In 2012, “The Learning Place” an eight weeks Summer Academic and Enrichment Program for children in the community was started.
  • In 2012, Deacon Bennie L. Jenkins, Jr. was called into the Ministry and preached his Trial Sermon at First Zion on June3, 2012.
  • In March 2013, Rev. Bennie. L. Jenkins the fifth Son of Zion was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel, on March 2013 by the Mt. Carmel Baptist Association
  • In December 2013, Rev. Tyrone B. Beckett relinquished his pastoral position here at first Zion.
  • On January 25, 2014, First Zion appointed Rev. Bennie L. Jenkins as Interim Pastor.
  • On September 28, 2014, Rev. Bennie L. Jenkins was installed as pastor of First Zion Missionary Baptist Church, by the Mt. Carmel Baptist Association.


We are led today by Rev. Bennie l. Jenkins, Jr. Rev. Jenkins celebrated his first Pastoral Anniversary on September 27, 2015.

Under Rev. Jenkins, we continue to affirm that the battle is not ours, it’s the Lord’s. Under his leadership we have grown physically but more importantly we are growing spiritually. Under his leadership we: We met as a congregation and developed our Mission Statement, Our Vision and identified and defined the various Ministries at First Zion. A church brochure was created from this effort.

  • In June 2014, we organized a New Converts Class, for all baptized and restored members. In June 2014, we open for the first time a “FOOD PANTRY” open to all in need.
  • In June 2015, the Hospitality Committee was organized.
  • In September 2015, the Food Pantry Ministry in collaboration with the Food Lion Corporation, held a community-wide food distribution feeding over 200 families.
  • From January 2014 to October 2015, under Rev. Jenkins leadership we baptized (36) members; received by restoration (28); accepted under Christian Experience (16) Watch Care (3) and seven (7) members went home to glory.


Today, First Zion has approximately 200 members. Of this flock, 10 serve on the Board of Deacons; 6 serve on the Deaconess Board; 14 serve on the Senior Choir; 10 serve on the Male Chorus;24 serve on the Voices of Zion; 18 serve on the Missionary Society, 40 serve on the Sunbeam and Junior Choir; 7 serve on the Pastor’s Aide Board; 9 serve on the Hospitality Committee; 18 serve on the Usher Board Ministry; and more than 90% of the Women of First Zion participates in the Women’s Day Celebration. The Scholarship Fund, Trustee Board and Program and Planning Committee each have 9 members.

As we prepare for our 154th year, First Zion will continue to serve the spiritual needs of its members. With the help of God, we will faithfully administer to those who seek guidance and provide strength to those in need. In our future we will continue our plans to expand and improve our facilities, the additional space is needed to continue the work of several of our ministries. This additional space will allow us to initiate programs to enhance the spiritual, social and physical needs of our members especially our youth. It is our hope and prayer to move from planning to construction and ultimately to consecration and celebration.

We close our history with a reminder of our Mission Statement which reads: “We are the voice and the hands that encourage people to change their lives through faith, love, hope, comfort, joy and peace." Taken from Isiah 51:16

At First Zion, we will continue to walk in faith, love, hope, peace and harmony. For we are reminded, that we must use these gifts from God wisely, as we grow toward spiritual maturity. To be the great church He is looking for, we must be ready to respond to His call for a greater commitment to His service. Great churches follow Christ wholeheartedly, love each other unconditionally, and serve each other sacrificially. For we are Kingdom builders, we are the assembled believers known as First Zion Missionary Baptist Church. And for this we give all the honor and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.



List of Former Pastors and Deacons

  • Rev. Abraham Merchison
  • Rev. B.W. Williams
  • Rev. J. H. Smalls
  • Rev. A .P. Hamilton
  • Rev. W. M. Williams
  • Rev. A. O. Mitchell
  • Rev. Rance Marvin (RM) Youmans

  • Rev. Henry Bernard (HB) Youmans
  • Rev. Tyrone Bernard Beckett

  • Chance Mitchell
  • Abraham Purchase
  • Gabriel Jenkins
  • James Haynes
  • Prince Fuller
  • Adam Bruin
  • Ansley Smalls
  • Compsey Brown
  • Jack Bush
  • Jacob McKenzie
  • Tom Dopson
  • Jackie Riley
  • Sam Frazier
  • B.B. Ferguson
  • Daniel Hamilton
  • Tom Richardson
  • Samuel Pursell
  • Vary Hamilton
  • P.J. Fuller
  • Prince Riley
  • *Richard Gadson
  • Enoch Habersham
  • Paul Fields
  • *Martin Alston
  • *Charlie Wilson
  • Renty Kitty, Sr.
  • *Rueben Gadson
  • Michael Riley
  • Albert Green
  • Albert Brown
  • Eddie Brown
  • Leroy Brown
  • Abraham Gadson
  • Elliott Pinckney
  • **George Bush, III
  • Earnest Mitchell
  • Clarence Oriage
  • Joseph Hamilton, Sr.
  • Oscar Frazier, Sr.
  • Matthew Stoney
  • Melvin Hamilton, Sr.
  • Theodore Washington
  • William Mitchell, Sr.
  • Joe L. Green
  • Raymond Mitchell

*Chairman Deacon
**Chairman Deacon over 20 years


Rev. Bennie L. Jenkins, Jr. Pastor

  • Deacon James C. Fraser, Chairman
  • Deacon Emmett Mitchell, Sr., Vice Chairman
  • Deacon Oliver S. Brown, Trustee Board Chairman
  • Deacon Leon Bush, Sr., Chairman Emeritus
  • Deacon Benjamin Frazier
  • Deacon Melvin Hamilton, Jr.
  • Deacon Joe Jenkins
  • Deacon Lee H. Mitchell, Sr.
  • Deacon Kenneth Prioleau
  • Deacon Charles Stoney