About three miles east of the town of Rodney and before 1824, was
located the first building of public worship erected by what was known
as the Bethel Congregation. Standing on the rear of the plantations of
Smith Hubbard and James M. Bachelor “The Little Church Down Hubbards
Lane” proved to be a means of Growth in grace to men who learned to
give their thousands in the cause of Christ.
The prominent men in this new venture were: David Hunt, John Bolls,
Smith Hubbard, Dr. Rush Nutt, John Murdock, M. McClutchy and Mathew
Bolls, son of John. Mathews account of the first meeting to discuss
the building of the church was rather ludicrous. According to him one
man thought it would come to naught; another, that it would break up
the races at Greenville, the county seat at that time; another that it
might help to keep the women and children straight.
Nevertheless they concluded to try it and subscribed a dollar! In a
short time “The little church around the corner” became inconvenient
and efforts were made to erect two houses, one in the then thriving
town of Rodney and the other at Bethel Crossroads two miles from the
site of Oakland College (now Alcorn).
In the year 1828, the Legislature of Mississippi granted a charter to
that portion of Bethel Congregation worshipping in Rodney and they
were known as the Presbyterian Congregation of Petit Gulf. In the same
act a charter was granted to the Presbyterian Congregation of Bethel
two miles from the site of Oakland College.
The first stated minister of the churches was Reverend Samuel Hunter,
a native of Ireland, who preached at other places as well. In 1828 he
retired from the charge of Bethel and Rodney and the Rev. Zebulon
Butler took charge in conjunction with the Presbyterian Church of Port
Gibson for one year.
Then in November Rev. J. R. Hutchinson of Princeton preached at Rodney
as stated supply for a few months. At this time there were but two
members of the Presbyterian Church living in Rodney, but the heads of
families formed themselves into a Bible Class and were instructed in
the Scriptures. The first worship was the bar-room of a house of
entertainment. On Sunday morning the landlord would ring the dinner
wipe off the stains of bottles from the table, bring out an old Bible
and the people would come trooping in.
Steps to erect the present brick church in Rodney were taken in 1829.
It was dedicated on January 1, 1832 by the preaching of a sermon by
Rev. Dr. Chamberlain from Exodus 20:24. “In all places where I record
my name. I will come unto thee and I will bless the.” A debt of $1500
on the edifice was quietly paid by David Hunt.
The members of this congregation subscribed $12,000 toward the
building of Oakland College, which was located near the little city of
Rodney in 1830. Rev. Jeremiah Chamberlain served in the double
capacity of president of the college and pastor of Rodney and Bethel
Churches alternately for seven years. During that time the people
contributed $1000 annually to the different causes of the church in
addition to the pastor’s salary.
Rev. J. T. Russell was installed as pastor in 1837 and served five
years being succeeded by Rev. J. R. Hutchinson, who was professor of
ancient languages at Oakland College and pastor of the church.
Over a period of 30 years the congregation continued to grow. In the
year 1845, alone, 50 persons became communicants. The Board of the
Church, the American Colonization Society, the Salvation of Slave, and
the Natchez Orphan Asylum received large contributions from the
On January 17, 1852 at a meeting of the Presbytery of Mississippi held
in New Orleans the members of Bethel Church residing in and near and
usually worshipping at Rodney requested that they organize a church
separate from Bethel Church under the name of the “Presbyterian Church
The request was granted and Rev. J. R. Hutchinson was appointed a
committee to organize the Rodney Church. About 18 members constituted
the congregation. Rev. Edward Wurts was pastor. Two ruling elders were
elected namely; Thomas W. Beck and William Murdock. The Lord’s Supper
was observed once in six months, the hour for worship was changed from
11:a.m. to 10:a.m. A collection was taken on the first Sunday of each
month for repairs of the church and incidental expenses.
Mr. Wurts didn’t remain with them long for at a meeting on May 15,
1852 he had an oral communication delivered saying that, “the wants of
the church are so pressing and his inability to discharge pastoral
duty so complete and absolute as to aggravate his illness by
superadding mental distress to physical disease.” His resignation was
The Rev. Robert Price was then called, the congregation agreeing to
pay him $1000 per year payable semi-annually. Mr. Price served the
congregation until October 1862, presumably, for after that date his
name appears no more in the minute book.
The turbulent days of the War Between the States evidently put a
quietus on church affairs for the next mention we find of a meeting of
the session was in April of 1866, after hostilities had ceased. The
purpose of that meeting was to call Rev. J. E. Wheeler as pastor.
From a letter written by an eyewitness we have an interesting account
of the part the Presbyterian Church of Rodney played during the war:
During the summer of 1863, Mr. Baker, pastor of the Presbyterian
Church at Red Lick, Jefferson County, Mississippi, came to Rodney
seeking transportation to the north. He was a Union man at heart and
resigned his pastorate to go north. While waiting a north-bound boat
he was the guest of acting master W. W. H. Fentress in the U. S.
gunboat “Rattler”, lying off Rodney on the morning of September 12,
Rev. Robert Price of the Rodney Presbyterian Church, invited Mr. Baker
to fill his pulpit this day, Mr. Baker accepted and extended his
invitation to Capt. Fentress and Ensign Strunk, with 18 or 20 seamen,
came to service in the church. Under cover of the organ and choir
music, Lieutenant Allen (Confederate Service), with 15 scouts,
surrounded the church. Lieutenant Allen, standing in the church door ,
commanded their quiet surrender. Immediately Ensign Strunk fired at
the Lieutenant. Lieutenant Allen fired at the ceiling of the building
and ordered “no more firing”, however the firing continued until about
30 shots were heard. But as it seems, only one man was injured, a
seaman was slightly wounded in the arm by Ensign Strunk’s ball.
Captain Fentress, the ensign and 15 or 17 seamen were captured.
Captain Fentress raised his hand as he stood outside the church door
and requested permission to speak, Lieutenant Allen bowed courteously.
Captain Fentress asked that a message be sent his boat for clothing,
etc., for his men. The message was sent and properly answered.
The officers were placed in some of the carriages still standing at
the church gate; the seamen fell into file and all were marched out of
town. The congregation, mostly women and childr4en, had scarcely
dispersed when the “Rattler” began to shell the church and town and
the town was fired in several places. Lieutenant Allen hearing this,
sent a message to say that if shelling did not cease and order
prevail, he would hang every prisoner in his charge. Hence lives were
saved and property preserved.
One seaman boasted that a lady saved his life. This was a natural
happening. The lady, aged and infirm, Mrs. I. D. G., kept her seat in
a high back pew, the seaman, quick to embrace opportunity, crawled
under the lady’s skirts. It may be related that in 1933 a man from a
Northern city came to St. Joseph, Tensas Parish, Louisiana, searching,
he said, for a girl (?) who saved his life under her hoop skirt during
a church fight in the Civil War. The man wore a gray beard, of course,
and the lady was long since laid to rest.
During the firing on the town, the church walls were penetrated by the
shells and the scars are perceptible today.
Rev. J. E. Wheeler accepted the call but the church records from 1866
to 1869 were destroyed by fire in the office of Dr. Bemiss in April of
1869, therefore the next session minutes mention Rev. Bartlett as
pastor. The usual routine was continued, marriages, baptisms, causes,
elections of delegates to Presbytery, and increase in membership. It
was decided to hold regular communion and administer the Lord’s Supper
every three months.
The following ministers have filled the pulpit of this historic old
church: Rev, John S. Shaw 1877-1881. In 1881 Rev. Scott was called
there is no mention of his acceptance, however. Rev. George Woodbridge
served from 1885-1888. In 1888 Rev. Mr. Hyland was called, but he
evidently didn’t accept as we note in the minutes of September 1889,
the presence of Rev. A. Newton. He served until 1893, at which time
Rev. W. B. Bingham assumed the duties of pastor until 1897, when his
name disappears from the record and that of Rev. J. L. Stitt takes his
place as moderator of the meeting of the session until 1903.
The church then was without a minister, but the pulpit was filled by
Rev. E. M. Stewart of Fayette, Rev. H. H. Brownlee of Port Gibson,
Rev. J. F. Eddins, and Rev. W. H. Hill. Rev. A. W. Duck was called in
1916, the congregation obligating themselves to pay him $200 per year
for his services on the 4th Sunday only. He resided at Red Lick and
filled the pulpit there also. Finally, in 1923, when Mr. Duck tendered
his resignation, the Rodney Church was included in the Fayette-Pine
Ridge-Red Lick group of churches and is served by the pastor Rev. J.
W. Currie, who makes his home at Fayette.
In 1884 extensive repairs were made on the old church, but the bullet
holes were left intact, grim remainders of that lamentable conflict of
1861-1865. Frequently mention was in the minutes of a series of
meetings. One in 1877 and again in 1884 by Rev. D. A. Planck. Many
were added to the communion of the church on profession of faith and
by letter. Godly parents presented their children for baptism.
As the years have rolled by many changes have taken place. Eve the
river changed its course and left the sleepy little village, but this
old brick church still stands upon the hillside, and the bell molded
of silver dollars contributed by the congregation of yesterday, still
rings out in clear sweet tones, to remind the villagers that there is
a God who says, “Forsake not the assemblying of yourselves.”