Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, located at the top of Macedonia Hill in South Point, Ohio, was built in 1849 and is believed to be the first African-American church established in Ohio. The church was started by the "Burlington 37," slaves who were freed by James Twyman from Virginia and then traveled North to Ohio. The congregation was also involved in assisting other slaves through the Underground Railroad. The 165-year-old building is not currently in use and is in desperate need of restoration, though it still has the original outhouses used by its congregation.
Backstory and Context
In Madison, Virginia, plantation-owner James Twyman freed thirty-seven of his slaves when he died. Although they were happy to be free, their future was uncertain. The will stated that they had to "go away" to a free state, but didn't say where they should go. The closest free state was two hundred miles away in Pennsylvania, and the next closest was four hundred miles away in Ohio. The thirty-seven ex-slaves chose to make the journey to Ohio.
Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Burlington, Ohio was built in 1849 by the thirty-seven ex-slaves who became known as the “Burlington 37.” Before the church was built, Baptists of the area, who organized a congregation from 1811-1813, had church in their homes. Macedonia Church became the "Mother Church" for the surrounding Baptist churches in the community. Martha Kounse writes in her article that "Eli Thayer of Massachusetts was an abolitionist congressman and founder of Ceredo, WV who supplied lumber for the church. The former slaves and their white neighbors carried the lumber across the Ohio River in rowboats, transported it up Macedonia Ridge, and erected the present structure."
The Baptist Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 but has long remained dormant. The church windows are boarded up, and a padlock secures the door. Still, in 2012, the church was vandalized, marked by graffiti on its walls and pews. The historical site is also located three-tenths of a mile from the Burlington 37 Cemetery, where the group of Twyman’s former slaves was buried. Monetary donations can be made to preserve the church by contacting the Ohio Historical Society.