Hollins University has partnered with First Baptist Church Hollins to erect a new marquee for the church, which has had an enduring connection to the campus community.
The new display was installed at First Baptist Hollins in May. The project was made possible by financial support from Hollins’ Student Government Association as well as institutional and general funding from the university. The sign was produced by Time Technologies, Inc., of Roanoke.
First Baptist Hollins had its beginnings in the 19th century through another local spiritual center. Enon Baptist Church featured Hollins University founder Charles Lewis Cocke as a prominent member. He was instrumental in providing a place at Enon for African American community members to worship.
Around 1867, Enon’s African American parishioners established Greenridge Baptist Church on Plantation Road in Roanoke. While the church no longer exists, a cemetery with over 120 graves is still there, including the burial sites of Clem Bolden (1846-1929), a long-time Hollins employee, and his wife, Rebekah.
Sometime between 1881 and 1883, Greenridge decided to separate into two, different churches so that members could worship closer to home: Ebenezer Baptist in the Kingstown community, and Lovely Zion in the Hollins (formerly Oldfields) community. Destroyed by fire in 1905, Lovely Zion was rebuilt the following year, and in 1951 was renamed First Baptist Hollins.
Several prominent former Hollins employees are buried in the First Baptist Hollins cemetery, including Mary Emma Bruce (1910-2010), Caesar Morton (1848/50-1929), and Lewis Hunt (1885-1954). The Bolden, Bruce, Morton, and Hunt families have provided many years of service to Hollins; remarkably, several descendants are currently employed at the university.
A special dedication ceremony will be held at a later date, and a plaque will be added to the main church marquee that acknowledges the relationship between First Baptist Hollins and Hollins University.