The Early History of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church I


Religion; community; St. Marks


This is a collection of articles about the early history of St. Mark MB Church. According to Florence historian Lee Freeman, the documented history begins with John Portlock: "John A. Portlock (1802-1878) was a North Carolina native who ran a blacksmith shop in Florence. Married, with several children, the value of Portlock's real estate in the 1850 federal population census was assessed at $1200, which by 1860 had increased to $2000; by 1870 his real estate was still valued at $2000 while his personal estate was valued at $5000. Portlock was also a slave-owner: by 1850 he had three slaves, one 52 year-old male, an 18 year-old male, and a 28 year-old female. By 1860 Portlock had five slaves, three males, aged 45, 44, 17 and 17 respectively, and one female aged 9. Unfortunately, at present we don't know any of their names.

In March of 1859 John A. Portlock, "as trusty [trustee] of the Colored members of the Missionary Baptist Church," purchased lot no. 185, on the corner of Market (now Wood Avenue) and Alabama Streets, for the sum of $15 from WH Wade. We don't know Portlock's religious affiliation, only that he was "a truly pious man" who "pursued the straitforward [sic], honorable course in all transactions with his fellowmen and by universal good humor and gentle courtesy gained their admiration as well as respect." Presumably Portlock's slaves formed the nucleus of this new Missionary Baptist congregation.

According to tradition, the church initially assembled in a brush arbor; by 1872 a building had been constructed which was enlarged in June of that year. The foundation for a new meeting house was laid in July of 1884.

The first pastor of which we have record is the Rev. Ephraim Cordie “Cordie” White (ca. 1840-1899) who pastored the church from 1881 until his death. In 1901 under the pastorate of White’s successor, Sumter Co., AL native Rev. Lawson John "LJ" Green (1864-1944) the present structure was built. "


(1) Florence Gazette
(2) Lauderdale County Deed Record 17, 1861-1868, p 161
(3) Lauderdale County Deed Record, Vol. 21 1871-1874, pp. 594-595
(4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10) Florence Times-Journal
(8) Florence Republican
(10) North Alabamian (Tuscumbia, AL)
(11, 15, 16) Florence Gazette
(14) Florence Banner
(17) Florence Wave
(18) The Watcher (Florence, AL, African-American)




Lee Freeman


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Still Image


(1) John_A._Portlock_Obit.jpg
(2) Deed1859a.jpg
(3) WadeDeed1.jpg
(4) Amusing.jpg
(5) PoneyIrvine.jpg
(6) Editorial_Brevities_Cropped.jpg

Original Format



John A. Portlock Obit.jpg
Editorial Brevities Cropped.jpg
Sisters of Zion Dance.jpg
Stokes and Simpson at Sisters of Zion Dance Supper FT-J Wed Mar 18 1874 p 3.jpg
Murder at the Colored Baptist Church.jpg
A Man Killed.jpg
Simon Jackson Held for Trial and Jailed in Tuscumbia.jpg
Muscle Shoals Colored Baptist Association FG Wed Oct 15 1879 p 3.jpg
Colored Baptist Supper at Morrison's Hall Laud News Wed Jul 13 1881 p 3.jpg
Foundation Laid for New Colored Baptist Church.jpg
Eleven Converts Baptized.jpg
A Protracted Meeting at the Colored Baptist Church.jpg
William Grady Accidentally Killed.jpg
Rev. White Baptizes Seven.jpg



“The Early History of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church I,” Shoals Black History, accessed February 29, 2024,