First church for blacks rich in lore

Published on Sunday, 23 February 2014 22:42 - Written by KENNETH DEAN kdean@tylerpaper.com

The African-American history is rich in the little church on a twisting, black-topped county road 12 miles west of downtown Tyler, and an historical marker at the location shows that history began in 1872.

The County Line Missionary Baptist Church sits on County Road 4825 near the county line separating Smith County from Van Zandt County with a cemetery adjoining the church property.

It was the first church in the area for African-Americans, as stated on a historical marker at the church.

Rev. Ralph Massey said he and his wife Dianne have been at the church for 15 years and yesterday the congregation got a full dose of the history of the church and black history as a whole.

“We are going to have an old fashioned soul food Sunday with pigs feet, neck bone and all of that kind of food from the old days,” Massey, standing in front of the church under a beautiful blue sky, said.

Massey said the church will be celebrating its 142nd birthday in November.

Massey said the church the County Line Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1872 by a few Baptist believers in the Red Land Community in Van Zandt County.

Church history states that Will Manley, a concerned citizen of the community, donated two acres of land for the church which was constructed in 1872.

The name “County Line” was derived from its location on the boundary lines of Smith and Van Zandt Counties.Since its beginning in 1872, three church buildings have been constructed with the most recent being built in 1967.The first Pastor of the church was Rev. Rabb, and serving as Deacons were: Isaih Isabell, Thomas Kennedy; Jack Raibon; Henry Bell; Alford Hopper, treasurer; and Jack Isabell, secretary.

Massey said during the Sunday service several local black business owners were recognized for their efforts in the community and were encouraged to continue their businesses in Smith and Van Zandt counties.

Church Secretary Latrell Bryant said she has been with the church for more than 40 years and in that time the church has been proactive in helping the less fortunate.

“We have fed people in a pre-Thanksgiving dinner for years and we have done other programs throughout the year. I am proud to be a part of a church with such a rich history,” she said.

Services conducted at the County Line Missionary Baptist Church include Sunday school at 9:45 a.m and worship service at 11 a.m. Other Departmental meetings as called by the Presidents and or Matrons. Bible study is each Tuesday at 6 p.m.