Religion, in this case, churches, has played an integral part in US history. As you well know, one of the reasons America fought for its independence was for religious liberties. That history became the backbone for other freedoms Americans sought, namely the equality of all Americans; this included the liberation and abolition of slavery in America. Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church was key to helping many slaves during one of the most difficult times in our country’s history.
The History of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
Burlington is about as far south in Ohio as one can go. On the border with what is now West Virginia, it was a sanctuary for abolitionists and runaway or freed slaves. In 1799, two Baptist abolitionist preachers convinced another to free his slaves. He did and provided two areas of land in Burlington that paved the way for the Underground Railroad.
Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church was formed around 1810, the result of freed slaves and Christians settling into the Burlington area. As the town grew, members were meeting in their homes. By 1816, as the movement expanded, two additional churches joined with Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church to form the Providence Anti-Slavery Missionary Baptist Association. This association grew through other churches started up through MMBC.
- James Twyman and The Burlington 37 – James Twyman was a slave owner. However, upon his death in 1846, a stipulation in his will gave the 37 slaves he owned freedom. He also left each of them the money to purchase land in Burlington. When arriving, they joined up with the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church and aided them in building a permanent structure for their church.
- Eli Thayer – Eli Thayer used his influence as a member of the House of Representatives to represent the enslaved. He also wanted to establish an anti-slavery colony in Virginia. Eli eventually found an area to build; he named it Ceredo. This colony was located across the Ohio River from Burlington.
The Ministry of Macedonia
Churches like Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church were a funnel for runaway and freed slaves to get further north, or even in Canada. The safe haven of Burlington and the ministry of the churches provided for the well-being of slaves on the move. This process became the Underground Railroad movement.
- The Underground Railroad – Many events led up to the Underground Railroad establishment. The overall movement aimed to assist blacks who were fighting slavery to gain their freedom through traveling to areas where slavery did not exist. Macedonia Baptist was the first black church established in Ohio. It was also one of the churches active at the beginning of the Underground Railroad. Paired with the Ceredo colony, men, women, and children made their way across the river, and safely moved north.
- Mother of the Black Baptist Church Movement – Being the first black church established in Ohio, the church was the springboard to the planting of other churches throughout the area. Macedonia Baptist had a hand in starting eight other churches throughout Virginia and Ohio.
If it were not for the commitment and sacrifice of the Burlington 37, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church could not have succeeded in supporting the Underground Railroad. The church was the first and primary location for those seeking their own “Promised Land.” The safe house, as well as the church built in 1849, still stand today as a proud reminder of the determination of those seeking, and providing freedom.
In 1978, the church was named a historic site by the National Registry of Historic Places. A historical marker now rests on the church grounds, paying tribute to those responsible for founding the church. The marker also expresses the impact the church had on the area not only for the furtherance of the abolition movement, but for spreading the Gospel across America.