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      Historical marker unveiled at early black church in Columbia

      Members of the oldest black church in the Columbia area gathered Monday to unveil a historical marker on the church property.

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Members of one of the oldest black churches in the Columbia area gathered Monday to unveil a historical marker on the church property.

      The statement on the marker at Zion Chapel Baptist Church No. 1 reads:

      "This African-American church was organized ca. 1865 when four men left Sandy Level Baptist Church, founded before the Revolution with both white and black members, to form their own congregation. They elected Rev. Joe Taylor as their first pastor and held early services in a brush arbor nearby. The first permanent church here, a log building, was replaced by a frame church 1907-1922, during the pastorate of Rev. T. H. McNeal. It was covered in brick veneer in 1941, then extensively renovated 1964-1978, during the pastorate of Rev. A.J. Grove, Sr. The historic church cemetery dates to the 1880s."

      The church sponsored the research and dedication of the marker. According to the church pastor, it is the oldest black church in the Columbia area.

      "As you know it was a different time in South Carolina, and churches were not integrated at the time," said Rev. Jesse Washington, Jr., pastor of Zion Chapel Baptist Church No. 1. "And these four men pulled away to establish this church. It was started in a house. It was started by a small amount of people, and it grew, and it grew to the size that it is today, and it has made history in that regard."

      More than 1,300 historical markers have been erected in South Carolina since the South Carolina Historical Marker Program began in 1905. They are all sponsored by citizens without state funding.