The History of Little Union Baptist Church
In order to relate the development of Little Union Baptist Church, one must delve into the history of the surrounding community and into the life-story of one of its outstanding matriarchs.
The Church, which is more than 100 years old, moved into its third sanctuary in 1997—all on Mine (Batestown) Road in the Dumfries District of Prince William County, Virginia. Batestown Road derives its name from a remarkable Black woman to whom many generations of local Blacks trace their roots. Her name was Mary Bates. Mary, fondly referred to as Granny Mary, was born into slavery during plantation days in Northern Virginia. She was an unusual slave in that she gained favor with her owners and enjoyed many privileges denied other slaves. Of foremost importance is the fact that Mary was taught to read and write. She also enjoyed homemaking duties in the “Big House.” Along with other Blacks on the Graham plantation, she received religious instruction in Sunday afternoon classes conducted by the mistress. A stronger faith was developed, however, when these same Graham plantation slaves held their own camp meetings. It was there that hard-working men and women, through songs and prayer, gave vent to the frustrations and joys that characterized their lives. They had an unwavering belief in the mercies of God and in His divine concern for their personal welfare.
Shortly before the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves, Mary was permitted to marry a young slave from an adjoining plantation. His name was John (Jack) Thomas. Following emancipation, Mary and John became stalwart members of the Black community that formed around Cabin Branch Run. Early freedom years presented many problems for former slaves. The inhabitants of Cabin Branch (later referred to as Batestown) found comfort and assistance when they visited the small general store operated by the Thomas’s. There Black men gathered to discuss crops, share ideas, and plan. The marvelous matriarch, Mary Bates Thomas was a letter writer for many illiterates of both races; she administered strange medications that proved remarkably effective; and, as a midwife, she delivered a major percentage of the babies born during that era, especially those whose parents could not afford the services of a doctor. During the last quarter of the 19th Century, two Baptist Churches for Blacks were erected in the area. One was the Neabsco Baptist, presently on Cardinal Drive in Woodbridge and the other was the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, located near Joplin Road in Quantico, Virginia. To these sanctuaries traveled the inhabitants of Cabin Branch, some by foot and some in horse and wagon.
Mary reflected on the need that she and her neighbors had for a church of their own; and, with gentle persuasion, she finally convinced John that they should donate the needed land. Records on file at the courthouse in Manassas, Virginia, show a deed dated September 9, 1901 from John Thomas and Mary Thomas, his wife, to Daniel Reid, Buck Griffin and Tazwell Bates, all church trustees. Within the deed was the statement that the property was given for the exclusive use of the New School Baptist Church. When the building was completed in 1903, it was given its present name, Little Union Baptist Church.
Early pastors of the Church were mostly evangelists, who came infrequently to deliver impassioned messages on the good life and the wages of sin. Membership in the church for many years embraced only two or three large families. These devout Christians supported the pastor and contributed of their talents and limited funds toward the maintenance of the small sanctuary, which to them was a source of pride as well as comfort.
Pastors who were called to the church were: Rev. Horace Crutcher, Rev. Henry Jackson, Rev. Anthony Lane, Rev. William Stokes, Rev. Peter Carter, Rev. A. A. Booker, Rev. W. Ervin Green, Rev. Leonard Lacey, and Rev. James R. Green. The Church does not have records concerning the tenure of the first four pastors. It is known, however, that Rev. Carter served from December 1937 until his death in February 1954. Rev. Booker succeeded Rev. Carter and served until May 1960, when he accepted the pastorship of the Beulah Baptist Church of Markham, VA. Rev. W. Ervin Green served from December 1960 until his death in January of 1992.
Rev. Leonard B. Lacey accepted the pastorship in 1993, where he served until March 2001. Rev. James R. Green, was called to preach under the tutelage of Rev. W. Ervin Green, served as pastor from May 2002 through June 2012.
The Bible tells us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” As we look back over the last 100 years, the growth of the little church in Batestown makes it abundantly clear that the prayers of the Little Union members have been and are continuing to be answered. We thank God for the three sanctuaries He has built. We thank God also for the pastors He has sent, and for the fellowship He has ordained. Most of all, we thank God for the gentle persuasion of Mary Bates Thomas.