Historic Resources Commission - June 6, 2014
A local historic marker was unveiled May 31 in front of New Bethel Baptist Church, which has been a fixture on North Trade Street for about 100 years. [video below]
The New Bethel Baptist congregation was organized in 1890 by the Rev. George Holland, who was from Danville, Virginia. Holland had organized other African-American churches in Winston-Salem, such as First Baptist, Mount Zion Baptist, and Shiloh Baptist, all before 1900. New Bethel began in the home of John Lee and his wife, Alice Snow Lee, who lived across the street from the present-day church building.
When the congregation grew to approximately 25 members, a lot was purchased for $960, and in 1904-1906 plans were made to begin construction of a church. New Bethel was constructed in a predominantly African-American neighborhood known as “The Pond” that had been devastated in 1904 when the city’s water reservoir collapsed and flooded. Soon the membership grew into the thousands; church history states that 4,096 members were taken into the church between 1915 and 1931.
Over its long history, there have been several ministers who served New Bethel Baptist Church. In 1944, the Rev. Jerry Drayton became pastor of the church and served until his retirement in 2006. Drayton was the longest-tenured pastor in Winston-Salem, with over 62 years of service to New Bethel. He was an effective and vocal leader in the community, championing racial equality, education, and homes for the homeless. Drayton passed away in 2012 at the age of 96.
In 1890, New Bethel Baptist Church was organized by the Reverend George Holland, a minister from Danville, Virginia. The congregation first met in the Trade Street home of John Lee and his wife, Alice Snow Lee. The 25-member congregation later purchased property across from the Lee’s house and built the church between 1904 and 1906. Soon the membership grew into the thousands, with over 4,000 members joining between 1915 and 1931. In 1944, the Reverend Jerry Drayton, Sr. became church pastor, where he remained for 62 years. Reverend Drayton was a champion for racial equality and served on many local and statewide boards. He was instrumental in improving education for the illiterate and housing for the homeless.