In 1868, a group of former slaves joined together to establish the 2nd Methodist Church of Butler (colored) aka Mt. Zion. This was in Bates County, Missouri – a county that was completely evacuated and then everything burned to the ground by Union troops during the Civil War. In 1868, the county was just beginning to recover, and Butler was rising from the ashes.
Despite hardships, poverty, and segregation, these individuals prospered and in 1897 built the brick church that proudly stands today. It nearly didn’t happen as they were unable to make a final loan payment. They organized a Home Coming and asked the white churches’ members to contribute $1.00 each to help pay off the $200 they owed. It was a success.
Mt. Zion became a home that gave members a sense of value, belonging and worthiness. When you step inside you can almost hear the voices of our ancestors and their dignity and courage supports us still.
Today, the congregation has greatly diminished as older members died, younger members moved away or like many no longer attended services. Once again, the Church needs help. Fundraising has installed a new roof and repairs to the stain glass windows. There is still work to be done to repair water damage to the back wall and plaster. A permanent pastor is needed. We are reaching out to our community to “Come Home”.
Next year with be the 125th anniversary of the building of the brick Mt. Zion and the 155th anniversary of the church’s founding. Congregants want to preserve this great legacy. Not only through church services, but also by creating a collection of African-American artifacts, photos, family stories of the lives of their ancestors who lived in Bates County – the 2nd Kansas Colored who “fought like tigers” at the Civil War battle of Island Mound, of runaway slaves seeking sanctuary in Kansas, the coal miners brought from Alabama to break the white strikers at the Rich Hill Coal mines, the business men and women who opened restaurants, barbershops, laundry, taverns, and built Douglas School to educate – through 8th grade – our children.
Mt. Zion is hosting an Open House and Homecoming on October 2 at 2:00 pm. There will be a brief church service, followed by music by the Butler Community Choir, the Brass Quartet and the Burton girls. Everyone is invited to hear the story of Mt. Zion and learn more about preserving Mt. Zion 1868.
To jump start these coming anniversaries, Mt. Zion is hosting an Open House & Homecoming on October 2.