Zion Church History

Zion Church at Corinth was one of the earliest in the county. Richard Ratcliff settled in the neighborhood in 1812, though he sold his improvements to John Roberts in 1817. William Burns, a local preacher who lived near Squat Church, organized a Methodist class that met in the homes, usually at Ratcliff’s, because it was the more centrally located.

Ten years after Mr. Ratcliff arrived there were fifteen or twenty families in the neighborhood, and they built a log church. They named it Zion, in loving memory of the little church in Wilson County, Tennessee where some of them had been members. A class leader, John Sutton Roberts, gave the land for church and cemetery. His first wife and his father were buried soon after in the churchyard, where the entire generation of Corinth settlers now lie.

Services were held as preachers came to the isolated community. One of the early ones was Dr. James M. Fowler whose home is now part of Fowler school district.

The log church burned, and the circuit riders held their services in the log schoolhouse nearby until it too burned. In 1838 John Shepherd came from Springfield, Illinois to be the resident preacher. The Rev. Mr. Shepherd rode horse back to serve five churches on a circuit.

These churches built a log parsonage for the Shepherd family in the spring of 1840. John Sutton Roberts and his second wife, Sarah Johnson Roberts, gave the land. The trustees included Henry and Wesley Yost and John Sutton Roberts of Zion Church, and Alexander McCreery and Sum Hunt Mitchell from Liberty Church in Franklin County.

The Shepherd family lived in this parsonage until 1846 when Mr. Shepherd was transferred to Carmi. His daughter Elizabeth Ann had become bride, wife, and widow of William Rufus Roberts, a son of the church member who donated land for church, cemetery, and parsonage. This couple lived in Roberts prairie during their short marriage.

Camp meetings were a custom at Zion Church in the earliest days. A large brush arbor was built for services, and people came for miles to stay a week or more. Some slept in their wagons, others built small lean-to shelters. Braxton Parrish often came from Franklin County to preach at these services. He was the state senator who helped pass the law establishing Williamson County in 1839.

The congregation was able to build a new frame church in 1867, and in 1914 it was replaced by the present building. In its cornerstone was sealed a history written by Elizabeth Ann Shepherd (1825-916), daughter of the Rev. John Shepherd, and wife of William Rufus Roberts and later of Charles Chadwell. Her memories of Zion Church began in 1839 when she came to the Roberts settlement from her birthplace near Springfield.

On three sides of Zion churchyard sleep the pioneers of the neighborhood, some of them undisturbed for more than one hundred years. Among them lies Dr. Thomas Roberts, the first citizen of the county elected to represent its people at the state capital, then Kaskaskia.

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(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939 which is on sale at the Williamson County Museum)