JASPER, TX (KTRE) - The choir sang and the church swayed as the oldest slave-built African American church in Texas celebrated 160 years.
The sounds of celebration bounced off the walls of the historical Dixie Missionary Baptist Church. The community and congregation gathered to remember Dixie's rich history and celebrate the future.
Sister Dorothy Williams Beal, said, "Dixie Baptist Church serves as a beacon light to the community."
A historical marker outside signifies the importance of Dixie Church to Texas history.
"It was perhaps the most famous historical landmark in this county," said Beal.
Sunday, representatives from the city, county, state and the community filled Dixie Baptist Church as they celebrated their 160th anniversary.
The church was established during the days of slavery by Reverend Richard, "Uncle Dick" Seale, who was owner by Joshua Seale.
"In 1853, Joshua Seale built a church for the slaves," said Beal. "Dixie Missionary Baptist Church is the oldest African American slave-built church west of the Mississippi River."
In 1964, a fire destroyed all but a few bricks of the original church. And just a few feet away from the rubble, Rev. Uncle Dick and his owner, Joshua Seale are buried.
Beal read a letter from Joshua Seale's great grandson, Dr. William Seale congratulating Dixie on this milestone.
"Your church is one of the few reminders of the pioneers who crossed the continent and the ocean to build this country to what it is but while its roots lie in the past age most of its years represent freedom and progress," said a written statement from Dr. Seale.
And July 21st will now be an even more special day for Dixie Church because of a proclamation made by Jasper Mayor Mike Lout.
"With sincere congratulations, I proclaim this day in the City of Jasper, Dixie Missionary Baptist Church day," said Lout.
The community capped off the celebration with more music, prayer and a barbeque dinner with all the fixings.