From its earliest days, Mt. Zion has been proudly defined by an independent, can-do spirit.
Mt. Zion's Early History
In 1892, many local families had to travel a long way to worship at surrounding Lutheran churches in Conover, Newton, and Hickory. Many traveled on foot, buggy, or wagon to other churches.
As a result, several local families met to discuss having worship services in their own community. They contacted Rev. J.H. Rexrode, who was serving nearby churches, and he agreed to serve if a suitable meeting place could be found.
The old Charity School house, which was located in the northwest corner of the current Ned Sipe property, was secured, and Rev. Rexrode held services there for interested families. Some say they were held once a month, and some were held outdoors under the trees when weather permitted.
Soon a building committee was elected, consisting of William Dellinger, Freeman Huffman, William (Billy) Killian, and Titus Sipe (chairman). Plans were submitted and accepted. Pastor Rexrode officiated at the cornerstone laying. It was a 30' x 50' frame structure. Members cut logs and hauled them to the sawmill. After ten months of toil, they had a place of worship, constructed chiefly with their own hands. It had a good location (where the bus garage is now) and a very churchly appearance.
The church was dedicated on June 3, 1894, by Rev. Rexrode, assisted by Rev. C.D. Beach and Rev. W.E. Tressel of Hickory Seminary. The following thirteen families made up the charter membership:
William Dellinger, Lee Hefner, William E. (Billy) Killan, Jerome Simmons, Jacob Sipe, John Sipe, Will Sipe, George Hefner, Freeman Huffman, Emmanuel Shook, Elkanah Sipe, Eli Kaylor, and Titus Sipe.
Undoubtedly there were others, including women and children, but in 1893 women's suffrage in the church was unheard of, and only the husband signed the constitution for himself and his spouse.
The group chose the name Mt. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and sought synodical membership in the old joint Synod of Ohio and Tennessee. Some members of the first confirmation class were Cordie and Alice Dellinger, Ida Killian, Vance Sipe, Tom Sipe, and Hattie Shook. Communion was received by the common cup. Men sat on one side, while women and children sat on the other. No organ or piano was available, so hymns were started by Eli Kaylor with a pitch
Rev. Rexrode was pastor from 1892 until 1895, when he had to relinquish his leadership at Mt. Zion because of his other duties. Rev. Lawrence Propst was called and served until 1911. In 1929, a new brick church was built with much of the construction done by members. A two-story educational building was begun in 1941 and a parish hall in 1948. After it was finished, services were held there while the brick church was renovated to add a balcony. In 1956, another Sunday School unit was added. The renovated sanctuary was crowded, and plans were made to build a larger one. The present house of worship was dedicated in 1963.
In 1911, a parsonage was built on land purchased from William E. Killian and owned by Mt. Zion, St. John's, and Old St. Paul's. It was sold to W. E. Killian in 1911, and in 1924 a parsonage was bought in Conover from J. A. Rice and deeded to Mt. Zion and Old St. Paul's. It was sold at public auction in 1937.
A new brick parsonage was built on church property around 1939 after Rev. L.C. Pretty was called. This building was later sold and moved to Sipe's Orchard Home. Some pastors received a housing allowance and lived other places, while supply pastors lived at other churches.