Central Pennsylvania African American History for Everyone
              An online resource since 1997


 A teacher in the primary grades, Hygienic School, 1910.A student in the primary grades, Hygienic School, 1910.

the 20th Century

  Rev. Walker Tolliver, in his Own Hand
Research and commentary by Harryette Mullen

In His Own Hand: Rev. Walker Tolliver, Pastor of Zion Baptist Church

The following transcription is an autobiographical note by Rev. Walker Tolliver, first full-time pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Harrisburg, PA. A photocopy of his original handwritten document was found among papers of H. T. Mitchell, youngest child of Hattie Wise Tolliver and Walker Tolliver.  H. T. Mitchell turns ninety-three in November 2006. Although Walker reckoned that he was born in 1860, earlier documents indicate that he was born in 1854. He left Virginia for Pennsylvania circa 1880-1890.  The original surname of the Virginia family, Taliaferro, has been spelled variously as Toliver or Tolliver.  Nelson T. Allen was the first pastor of Third Zion Baptist Church in Woodson, Virginia.  This church was founded in 1871 by former members of St. John Baptist Church in Milford, Virginia.  In the 1870-1910 census rolls, James Wright of Caroline County is listed as a black farm laborer or farmer. Before moving to Harrisburg, Walker Tolliver also was employed as a farm laborer in Madison, Virginia. In 1897, Rev. J. Wallace was among the invited speakers at the laying of the cornerstone of Zion Primitive Baptist Church in Harrisburg, PA, now The Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

Harrisburg, Pa.
Dec. 17, 1900

Rev. Walker Toliver, the son of Mr. Walker Toliver and Mrs. Patsy Toliver, was born in Caroline County Virginia in the year of our Lord Dec. 17th 1860, and remained in the state of Virginia until the age of 24 years, and was converted at the age of 15 years, and was baptized by Rev. James Wright, pastor in charge of St. John’s Church…after two years the spirit directed me to become a member of Third Zion Baptist Church, Rev. J. A. Wallace, pastor in charge. Remaining with him for five years and after he become to know that I was a minister of the gospel, by the voice of his church he gave me license which was agreed to and signed by the pastor in charge and after remaining faithful for 3 years then I was called to take charge of Zion Primitive.

The current address of The Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church is 212 North Progress Avenue, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 17109.  Their website is

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This page was updated March 22, 2023.