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Church Hill


Jefferson County Tidbits # 26 & # 27

From the WPA Records)

By Ann Brown


   The Church Hill community came into being about 1800. Prior to that time (about 1776) a small group of Virginia pioneers traveling by flatboat, landed between Cole's Creek and Fairchild's Creek in Jefferson County. Leaving the swamps behind that were close to the river, they made their homes on the hills overlooking the river. The first settlement was very appropriately known as Forty Hills. This little band was composed of several families. Among them were the Jones group .. probably the Nobles, Donahoes, Hamberlins and Fletchers. The settlement developed to embody the present location of Church Hill and beyond.
   There are two stories as to how Fairchild's Creek got it's name. One legend is that a small child of the Jones family, much beloved by the neighborhood Indians, was drowned in the waters of the creek and the Indians gave the stream it's name from that incident.

(Anebec's note: The other legend was not given)
     Isaac Noble settled a large estate near the present Church Hill. When his daughter, Maria, married Charles Donoho ( 28 Jan 1823) he built for her the Donahoe home now known as Lochiel. (not to be confused with the Shackleford or Stewart homes near Fayette) The house was still standing in the 1930's although parts have been added and repairs made.

     About the same time, Captain Magruder, a Marine Commander, came to the Natchez District and settled between Selsertown and Villa Gayosa. He named his plantation Mount Ararat. The original house was later destroyed but the family cemetery is still to be seen near the site of the house. The property is still retained by the descendants of Capt. Magruder, the Drake family, long prominent in the annal of Mississippi Methodism.
     About 1799 or 1800  other settlers moved into this neighborhood. Among them were the Baker brothers from New Jersey, James G. Wood from Maryland, James Payne and William Brooks.
     The Baker family were shipbuilders of Philadelphia. During the Revolution, their shipyard was burned and they removed to Trenton, New Jersey.  In 1800 three brothers and their sister came to the Natchez District settling on or near the Green holdings. One of the Baker brothers became very wealthy in a short time and returned to New Jersey. They sister married Henry Turner, a relative of Judge Edward Turner, and their daughter married Gen. John A. Quitman.
     Francis Baker went into business in the Natchez District. In 1801, when returning home from a trading expedition in Natchez, he was waylaid and robbed by members of the Mason gang. A year later he was robbed again and when the robbers were put on trail, he came into court and identified them. He was killed when traveling through Kentucky by a member of a prominent family there.

     Thomas Baker settled the Pecan Grove or the Bluffs place adjoining the Green holdings. He married a daughter of John Brooks who owned the Miskell place near Church Hill and was the first sheriff of Pickering County. After her death, he married a daughter of Everard Green of Gayosa. He left two sons, Thos F. Baker and Everard Green Baker. Descendants of the Baker family resided at Pecan Grove.
(Anebec's notes: Jefferson Co. marriage records show Thomas Baker married Emily Green 1 Jan 1818, Thomas F. Baker married Martha Y. Payne 31 May 1849 Adams Marriage records: Everard G. Baker married Laura Alexander 7 Sep 1849 and remarried to Sallie Fleming on 21 June 1862)
     Col. James G. Wood settled a large tract of land where Church Hill is now.  His property extended to the Selsertown settlement. He had a large family of children and built homes for each of them. Jane, one of his daughters married (30 Jan 1828) to James Payne, a native of Fredericksburg, Va.   Col. Wood built for her the Oak Grove house. Woodburn, since destroyed by fire, was built for Watt (?) Wood. The Cedars, which adjoins Oak Grove, was built for Maria who married Thomas Elam (28 April 1835). Woodland was built for Robert Y. Wood
who married Virginia Smith (13 Jun 1839) Edgar, another son, married Mary A. Walton Hunt (23 Aug 1855) of Calviton and they lived on that plantation. She was the widow of Abijah Hunt. For his daughter Eliza who married James H. Blanchard (16 Mar 1843) Col Wood erected Lagonia which is across the road from Oak Grove. This home later became the home of Dr. B\island Shields, a descendant of Col. Wood.

     In 1802, Judge Wm. B. Shields of Delaware was appointed to the Mississippi Territory and arrived at Rodney or "Petit Gulph" in the company of Judge Thomas Rodney, who was also of Delaware. Judge Shields settled on a plantation near Fairchild's creek which he named Rodeby. He married Victoire Benoit on 12 February 1807. Judge Shields was prominent in early County,
Territorial and State history. In the company of George Poindexter, he met and parleyed with Aaron Burr when the latter landed his fleet at Bruinsburg. The two escorted Burr, after his arrest, to Washington and Judge Shields, defended him in the trial there. Claiborne says of Judge Shields "He was an educated and talented man, ardent, energetic, warm in his friendships and very popular., He was a leading member of the Legislature. He served as an attorney, Judge of the United States Court in this District and recognized as a leader of the
Democratic Party. As a judge he was patient, laborious, discriminating and wholly impartial." Judge Shields died at Rokeby on 18 April 1823 and was buried there. After his death, Mrs. Shields, having the need of a tutor for her young children( Joseph Dunbar, Thomas Rodney, Gabriel Benoit , Francina and Wm. Bayard) and employed a young school teacher, Sargent Smith Prentiss, who had just arrived in the Natchez District from Maine. After teaching in her home for some time, he removed to Natchez where he began his famous career as a lawyer.
(Anebec's notes: A powerful tornado, after cutting a path through Concordia Parish and Adams county did extensive damage to the Rokeby Plantation which included near destruction of the cemetery. The wrought iron fence was twisted and flatten in places, fallen trees had shattered monuments. Some time later, some of the monuments were removed and placed in the Christ Church Cemetery) Church Hill was also known as the Maryland Settlement. The population
of Church Hill in 1900 was 107.


See also: Foxhunt

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