Historical marker dedicatedPublished 9:41pm Friday, August 2, 2013
By William Scott
After years of preparation, the rich community surrounding Mt. Sinai Baptist Church dedicated a historic highway marker to the church on Sunday.
The ceremony was held at 12:30 p.m. in front of the church. Rev. William L. Lang opened the event with a prayer. Guests Col. Wardell Baker, who came up with the idea, and Delegate Algie Howell delivered speeches at the ceremony.
“I hope that our children and our grandchildren take something away from this sign. Read it and you can see what our forefathers went through,” Baker said. “I want them to come away from here with a faith in other people and a faith in a benevolent God. It will remind our children of the people’s struggle.”
Virginia’s historic highway marker program began in 1927, with the first marker erected at U.S. 1. It is the oldest program of its kind in the nation. There are currently more than 2,200 markers in the state that honor people, places or events of local or national significance.
Mt. Sinai Baptist Church was founded by the Rev. Israel Cross in 1869. Cross was a former slave who grew up in the area. After receiving an education, he returned to Suffolk, where he established the church in a log building. Cross is said to have always closed his sermons by urging the congregation to buy land, build a home and get an education.
More than 150 people attended the dedication of the highway marker, including several descendents of Cross. Rose Valentine, great-great-granddaughter of Cross, was “very happy” about the sign.
“It’s very historical,” she said.
Baker has worked since 2006 to have the church listed in Virginia’s Historical Register.
“We’ve got to preserve our history,” he said. “We’ve got to protect the present. Let them (future generations) know what’s going on. I want to prepare them for the future.”
The log building of the original church was replaced with a wood-framed building in 1871. This building was given additional remodeling in 1908 and 1911. In 1921, the current building was constructed.
“I can’t think of a church in the city of Suffolk, Franklin or anywhere in this neighborhood that is more deserving of this than Mt. Sinai Baptist Church,” Howell said. “I look around here, and I see familiar faces. Many people I’ve known over the years have been members of this church. I belonged to Corinth Chapel United Church of Christ for a number of years, but I don’t think anyone would argue that there’s no church in this neighborhood or this community that’s had the kind of leaders that this church here has produced.”