Marker Name: Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
Marker Dedicated: March 23, 2003, during Annual Founders’ Day ceremonies
Marker Sponsor: Antioch Church Family
Marker Location: Front lawn of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church; 2778 Billups Lane; Brusly, LA 70719
Marker Text: Antioch Missionary Baptist Church established 1865; Oldest African American Baptist Church in West Baton Rouge Parish; Luke Billups, Sr., a native of Virginia, built the church and served as first pastor. The community of “Lukeville” grew from property he purchased in 1867. A strong tradition of community support is evident to this day among residents. A vibrant church congregation worships at Antioch Church continuing the traditions of its founder.
The original church was destroyed by storm in 1911; the storm also destroyed church records. The church was rebuilt in 1911 and remodeled in 1930, 1959, 1972, 1982 and 2003.
The Reverend Luke Billups, Sr., Founder of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church (provided by Antioch Church members) Luke Billups was born about 1813 in the state of Virginia. He came to Louisiana where he eventually settled in West Baton Rouge Parish. He was a carpenter and blacksmith by trade, and a preacher by calling. He settled in what is now within the incorporated limits of Brusly, Louisiana. There he built a church in which a black community grew rapidly into the community that would subsequently become known as “Lukeville”. This black community of Lukeville has been in existence for over 100 years and is still in existence today. The date of his arrival in Louisiana and the circumstances surrounding his arrival have not been fully documented at this time. There is a strong belief that Luke Billups was a slave in Richmond, Virginia. He was freed during slavery and came from Virginia to East Baton Rouge Parish where he operated a store for fifteen years before he moved to West Baton Rouge Parish.
Luke Billups married Eliza Langley, who was born about 1820, in Louisiana bored six children: Emma, Mary, Martha, Luke Jr., Fannie and Henry. There fourth child Luke Jr., was born between 1849 and 1852. According to Louisiana law Luke Billups did not enter Louisiana a freed man after 1842, at least not legally. An act was approved on the sixteenth of March 1842, which prohibited free “Negroes” from entering the state of Louisiana. During this time it was becoming increasingly difficult to free slaves or for free persons of color to enter Louisiana. Finally in 1857, emancipation of slaves was strictly prohibited. From 1860 to 1870 in West Baton Rouge Parish, as in the rest of Louisiana and much of the South, was a very dynamic period. In 1860, West Baton Rouge Parish was dominated by white households. In the entire parish, only twenty-four households were headed by non-whites, of which twenty-one were classified as mulattos and only three heads of household were black. It was this time of great change that the community of Lukeville began to develop in West Baton Rouge Parish.
Luke Billups begins to be found in the civil records of West Baton Rouge Parish in 1867. February 9, 1867 marks the beginning of the community that would become known as Lukeville. It was on this day that Luke Billups first purchased land in West Baton Rouge Parish. On this land Mr. Billups settled his family, he built a store to serve the needs of the community. He also built a church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, of which he became first pastor. According to the history of “Antioch” the church was built in 1865 before he purchased the land in 1867. Luke Billups was a spiritual leader of his small community, but his dedicated to his people did not stop there. He also became active as a civic leader providing further guidance for his community. In gaining an appointment as Director of Schools in 1869, Luke Billups ensured a voice in the future education of the community. He established a school at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in 1887. The school not only serve the community of Lukeville, but students came from other near by areas to take advantage of the opportunity for education. The school while still housed in the church was taken over by West Baton Rouge Parish School Board and continued under the name of “Lukeville School”. From a little patch of ground, Luke Billups created an enduring community known as Lukeville, which can still be found on modern road maps. He built a store, and a church Antioch Missionary Baptist Church with such a strong tradition of community support, that it continues to be evident today in the care take of the community. The church cemetery behind the church functions today as the final resting place for some residents of Lukeville. Luke Billups departed his life in 1894 and was laid to rest behind the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in his community of “Lukeville”.
For more information:
• Brusly 1901 – 2001 A Place to Call Home; by Pamela Folse, Editor. Available at the West Baton Rouge Parish Library or for purchase at the Town of Brusly City Hall, (225) 749-2909
• West Side Journal Volume 66, Number 35, Thursday, March 20, 2003
• The Advocate, Monday, March 24, 2003
• West Side Journal Volume 66, Number 36, Thursday, March 27, 2003
• Riverside Reader Currents, August 25, 1997
• Along the River Road by Mary Ann Sternberg, pages 228-229
• Chronicles of West Baton Rouge by Elizabeth Kellough and Leona Mayeux, 1979, pages 152 – 153
• “Rev. Luke Billups and the Establishments of Lukeville” by Danelle Spillman, August 25, 1997
• State Historic marker files at the West Baton Rouge Museum
• Reference files at the West Baton Rouge Museum and Library