(pictured above: The new marker stands near New Bethel Baptist Church on Trade Street.)
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.
The New Bethel Baptist congregation was organized in 1890 by 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.