History of

Old Salem (Cole's Creek) Baptist Church

 

The early Protestant settlers in the Southwest Mississippi Territory found themselves in a situation where they were forced to submit to the rule of the Spanish authorities and the Roman Catholic Church.

This group of settlers had moved to the Cole's Creek area of Jefferson County early in 1780 from the great Pee Dee River Valley of South Carolina. They traveled by wagon and then flat boats down the Holston River, the Ohio River, and finally the Mississippi River. They landed in the area where they had received British land grants about 20 miles north of Natchez on Cole's Creek (known as Boyd's Creek on arrival but the name was soon changed to Cole's Creek).

The Spanish laws of the province would not allow the settlers to gather together as a church as was their practice. Thus they would hold secret meetings at private dwellings each week while several of their number stood guard outside watching for "suspicious" persons and acting as if they were just enjoying a leisurely, friendly, neighborly visit. These meetings included exhortation, reading and expounding the Scriptures and prayer. Christians were quickened and unbelievers converted.

However, in October, 1791, these settlers organized the first Baptist church in the Southwest Mississippi Territory. They met in the home of Margaret Baird Stampley (wife of Henry Stampley) in the village of Stampley. The church was called Salem Baptist Church and was commonly referred to as Cole's Creek Baptist Church. The seven charter members included Richard Curtis, Jr. (a licensed minister), Benjamin Curtis, William Curtis, John Jones, Ealiff Lanier, William Thompson and Margaret Stampley. After Spanish rule ended in 1798 a church was built about one mile south of Stampley. A historical marker denotes the site of the church's original foundation.

Richard Curtis, Jr. was called as the first pastor. He was forced to leave the territory in 1795 and did not return until at least 1798. Curtis died 26 Oct 1811.

Salem Baptist Church was often referred to as the "mother" church for other congregations organized in the Southwest Mississippi Territory.

On the Friday before the third Sunday in August, 1798 Richard Curtis and other Salem males helped constitute the Bayou Pierre Baptist Church at the home of Thomas Hubbard. Bayou Pierre built their Meeting House a mile northwest of Port Gibson in Claiborne County, MS.

In Adams County on Second Creek New Hope Baptist Church was organized in 1800.

In Wilkinson County Bethel Baptist Church was organized at Bayou Sara near Woodville. Bethel later moved to Woodville. The "Meeting House" was built about 1815. Although remodeled, embellished and garnished, the church sanctuary is the oldest of Baptist Houses of Worship in Mississippi.

New Providence Baptist Church was constituted in Amite County on July 27, 1805.

On May 6, 1806 Ebenezer Baptist Church was constituted in Amite County.

The Covenant and Rules of Order of Salem Baptist Church excerpted below were an example that Salemís "daughter" churches could follow:

"We do fully believe the doctrines of particular redemption, personal election, effectual calling, justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, pardon of sin by the atoning blood, believers baptism by immersion, the final perseverance of the saints, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

"That Christ will return in glory to judge men and angels at the end of the world, at which time the Righteous shall enter into everlasting life and happiness; but the wicked shall be driven away into everlasting and eternal misery, which doctrines are contained at large in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

"We agree to submit ourselves to God and to each other, reprove and bear reproof, bear each others burdens, and carry on the work of the Lord as well as we can.

"Not to expose the infirmities of each other by any means when it can be carefully avoided.

"Not to be willing to live in neglect of any known duty, our neighbor or one another; but to endeavor to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless."

--Compiled and Written by Carolyn Switzer