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The following is a chapter from “A History of Jefferson County”, a thesis by Nancy L. Norton prepared in 1960 for her Master of Arts in the Department of History at Mississippi College. Her notes for this chapter appear at the end of this article. Contributed for publication on the Jefferson County MSGenWeb by Toni Stewart of Chicago, IL.
The Way of Life
by Nancy L. Norton
The way of life in a county is dependent upon many social and economic factors which are always interwoven.
One of the factors and one of the first establishments in a new territory was the church. The church seems to follow the opening up of a new land. Often times it was a struggle for survival. It would take a man of great strength to hold out, particularly in territorial days. But a few of these staunch “soldiers of the faith” found their way into Jefferson County, while it was yet known as the county of Pickering, and there they established churches. Most of the early denominations established are still in existence in the county. The Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptist were pioneer churches in the early days of the county.1
As early as 1799 Tobias Gibson was sent by Bishop Francis Asbury into the Mississippi Territory. Gibson organized churches at Washington, Greenville and on the Bayou Pierre.2 As is to be expected the churches grew up in the areas of settlements. Spring Hill community, located near Greenville, at the beginning of the Methodist Church in the Natchez District, was considered the headquarters for the Methodists in that region.3 This community was the meeting place for the year 1814. The preachers from Louisiana and Mississippi were requested to convene at the home of Newitt Vick in Jefferson County.4
The Methodist Church seemed to grow into the new country. Churches were established from the south to the north of the county. The Beech Hill Methodist Church was organized in the first decade of the 1800’s. The church was located between what was known as the Dennis Crossroads, east of Red Lick and Red Lick. This congregation dissolved and moved to Cane Ridge Methodist Church located northwest of Lorman.5
Cane Ridge was one of the leading churches in the county after its organization shortly after Mississippi became a state. In 1830, it had a membership of 173. This included 80 white persons and 93 colored members. It was the custom until after the Civil War to have Negro and white persons members of the same church. The church burned in 1864. After the war, a church building was moved from near Red Lick to its present site in Lorman.6
J. B. Cain relates, “The contribution of this one church to the Methodist ministry during the first century of its history probably surpasses that of any other church in the Mississippi Conference.”7 Cane Ridge still stands today serving the Methodists in the Lorman area. It is the largest church on a three-church charge.
Most of the Methodist churches that serve Jefferson county today were organized in the nineteenth century. Methodism was very strong in Jefferson county for the ten years preceding the Civil War.8 Most churches were reached for services by traveling minister at least twice a month. The schedule of the Coles Creek Circuit in 1857 gives some idea of the work.
Fayette-first and third Sabbaths each month
Cane Ridge-second and fourth Sabbaths each month
Pleasant Grove-first and third Sabbaths each month.
Mount Carmel-second and fourth Sabbaths each month.
Bethel-first and third Sabbaths, three o’clock p.m.
Belle Grove-second and fourth Sabbaths, three o’clock p.m.9
This would indicate that a minister had to preach twice each Sunday with a number of miles to be covered on horseback or buggy between each service.
The Methodist are still one of the leading churches in the county. There are a number of smaller churches throughout the rural area. Jefferson county Methodist are constituent parts of the Brookhaven and Vicksburg Districts, in the Mississippi conference and the Southeastern Jurisdiction.10
The Baptist came to Mississippi Territory as early as 1791. Rev. Richard Curtis, Jr. established the first Baptist Church on South Fork Cole’s Creek. The First church was called Salem and served that area for a number of years. A church building was later built on the creek. The usual place for baptizing was in Harper’s Fork, a little south of the church.11 The Mississippi Baptist Association was organized at Salem Church in 1806.12
The Baptist did not organize churches as rapidly in the early years of the county as the Methodist. Today they are one of the leading denominations. The Baptist churches in the county were originally associated with the Mississippi Baptist Association. By 1842 the name had changed to the Union Baptist Association which is the association today.13
The Fellowship Baptist church, which was later moved to Lorman, was one of the earliest organized churches. This church still serves the Lorman community. The Bethesda Baptist Church is another one of the oldest churches in the county that is active. The Baptist organized churches all around Fayette, but it was not until 1913 that a church was organized in Fayette. In 1846, there were three churches in Jefferson county in the Union Association and in 1956, there were eight churches in the association.14 Most of these churches are part-time serving the thinning white population of the county.
Adam Cloud was the first Episcopal minister to settle in Jefferson County. He settled near Greenville. In 1792, Rev. Cloud introduced the services of the Episcopal Church at Church Hill. The territory was under the rule of the Spanish and all public religious services except Roman Catholic were forbidden. Cloud was arrested and sent to New Orleans, but when Mississippi became the territory of the United States, he returned to Jefferson county.15
In 1820, Christ Church was established at Church Hill.16 The present structure was built in 1857. This is one of the few churches in the county that has its slave gallery intact. This is the only Episcopal Church in the county. It is still active, having services once a month. The church connection is with the Diocese of Mississippi.17
The Presbyterians came to Jefferson county the year the name of the county was changed, 1802. Rev. William Montgomery, a missionary, was the first Presbyterian in the county.18 There is no record of a church being organized during his stay in the county. It wasn’t until Joseph Bullen came that a church was organized. He organized the first Presbyterian church near Uniontown. In 1817, he organized Union Church in the eastern sector of the county. Reference has been made to this church in the preceding chapters.19
In January, 1928, the State Legislature granted a charter to Presbyterians in Rodney for a church to be known as the Petit Gulf Presbyterian Church.20 This church is still standing today. It still has the bell which called the congregation to worship. This bell was made of gifts from members and one hundred silver dollars given by David Hunt. During a skirmish in 1864, a Union gunboat fired a cannon hitting the church. The cannon ball is in the entrance.21 The slave gallery is still in this church. The church stands as a reminder of the once thriving town of Rodney.
The Presbyterian church seemed to grow rather rapidly in the early years. Churches were organized throughout the county. One of the earliest organized was the Red Lick Presbyterian Church, 1846.22 The church was known as the “Brick Church”. It could well be called the church with the lighted window. For several years a lamp has burned in the window both night and day. This church still has services. Its membership is small, but it serves the Presbyterians in the Red Lick area. There are several active Presbyterian churches in the county, one at Union Church and one in Fayette. The Presbyterians have not maintained their early growth in the county as have the Methodists and Baptists.
The Roman Catholic Church has grown in the county. There is a church located in Red Lick and the St. Anne’s church in Fayette. The Fayette church is a new building.23
Negroes were members of their master’s church until 1865. Following this period numerous Negro Churches were built throughout the county.24 Today there are still a number of Negro churches in the county. Catholic, Christian, Methodist, Church of God and Baptist are represented.
The Baptist denomination among the Negro churches is the largest. There are thirty-six Baptist Churches affiliated with the Bethlehem Baptist Association of Jefferson County.25
In 1879, the Missionary Baptist Convention sent a missionary to the county. The following year a Jefferson county Negro, G. D. Stewart was elected the State Sunday School Superintendent of the Missionary Baptist Convention.26
The Hollywood Baptist Church, located about one-half mile south of Fayette, and the Bethlehem Baptist Church, where the county association was founded, are the two largest Negro churches in the county. The churches at Red Lick, Church Hill and Fellowship church, between Lorman and Alcorn are the next in size.27
Most of the Negro Baptist churches have preaching service once a month, which is known as Communion Sunday, with an active Sunday School that meets each Sunday. The white Fayette Baptist Church in 1960, supplied the money to have Vacation Bible School in each Negro Baptist Church in the county.28
The Negro Catholic Church, St. Anthony’s is located about three miles east of Harriston. This church, organized in 1909, is a mission of the Holy Family Parish in Natchez. 29
Methodism among Negroes in Jefferson county was not very strong after 1865. 30
The Methodist churches did not grow proportionately with the Baptist. The Christian church is comparable to the Methodist. There is only one Negro Church of God in the county. It is located in the Red Lick Community.
The churches of Jefferson County served not only to meet the spiritual needs of the people, but also to provide for social gatherings. The camp meeting in the early days was a means of gathering all the recent events. With improved transportation came the “dinner on the grounds” occasions. Cooks took this opportunity to see who could bake the best chicken pot-pie and the best cake. Friends of years gone by were reunited at these meetings. Today a few of the churches have “dinner on the grounds” to mark the beginning of their revival. 31
The revival, formerly known as the “protracted meeting”, was a time when all rejoiced by singing loud and praying long. It was the usual custom for the men to stand outside the church and talk of farming until the first hymn started. Upon entering the church, the men were seated on one side and the women on the other. These meetings were held in the middle of summer when the heat was almost unbearable. Added to the natural heat was the heat given off from the kerosene lamps. The only method of keeping cool was the use of hand fans given to the church by the local funeral parlor. 32
There were other facets of social life for the citizens of Jefferson County. In the early days of the county when there were a number of plantations, the planter’s life was so designed to have gaiety in his home. There was always plenty of activity on the plantation. It was most unusual not to have a Negro fiddler on the plantation who provided the music for the times of entertainment at the master’s house.33 Not only was there entertainment at the local plantations, but the hotel in Rodney provided a ball room for dancing and a Negro fiddler to provide the music.34
Citizens of the county found other things to occupy their minds, in the form of organizations, There were shooting matches, the races held by the Jockey Club and activities of the various lodges. In 1857, there were lodges in Fayette and Rodney. The Thomas Hinds Lodge was located in Fayette. Others were the Jefferson Lodge, Rodney Lodge and the Mississippi Lodge which was located at Rodney.35
Citizens also enjoyed the county fairs and the competition for prizes. Those who were interested in sobriety could become members of the Rodney Temperance Society.36 Special days afforded a great deal of entertainment, especially on the Fourth of July. Usually a picnic was held in the county such as in 1856. This was a big occasion. The Declaration of independence was read for the serious side. Then there was dancing, feasting and interchanging of friendly conversation.37
A means of socializing that lingered on until the 1930’s was the quilting bee. Women would work for weeks on quilts exchanging patterns and scraps as well as conversation.38
When planters opened their homes for entertainment, they took pride in their mansions. Many of these antebellum structures stand today. One such home is Springfield, the old Green mansion. Some of the furniture that was there in the 1800’s is still to be found on the second floor of this home. Another such home is Laurel Hill, the home of Dr. Rush Nutt. This home is still in use today, having come from generation to generation. Rosswood is another pre-Civil War mansion located between Lorman and Red Lick. This home has passed out of the hands of the original family and now serves as a family residence. In the county were many such mansions that were built before the Civil War.39
The way of life in the early days would have been incomplete without the militia drills. The militia saw action many times. The first test of strength came in 1805, with the fight over the boundary between Mexico and the United States. Jefferson county furnished a body of cavalry, known as the Jefferson Troop. This group was under the command of Captain Thomas Hinds. The Jefferson Troop joined a company of cavalry from Adams county. They were dispatched to Natchitoches, This same group were used again in 1807 when Cowles Mead called on the militia to capture Aaron Burr.40
As previously disclosed, one of the first companies to be organized at the outbreak of the Civil War was the Charley Clark Rifles from Union Church. In fact, Jefferson County men have proudly served their county in all military conflicts in which the county has been involved.41
After the Civil War the entertainment in the county was not so active. It was a period of clearing the destruction. During the twentieth century entertainment has changed with the county. For a number of years Fayette had a movie theatre until television found a place in most homes. Today there is a drive-in movie located about three miles north of Lorman. The American Legion sponsors the Fourth of July picnics. The legion post at Lorman frequently sponsors dances. The various organizations of Masonic Lodge, Eastern Star, garden clubs, Home Demonstration Club, Lions Club and various church organizations provide social life for citizens in the county.42
Jefferson county citizens have always been interested in health in the county, The yellow fever epidemic in Rodney in 1843, was one of the greatest crisis the county ever faced. In a effort to stamp out the disease the county made effort to clear land where weeds and water would breed mosquitoes. The county has had a county health officer for years. Today there is a county health center located in Fayette.
Early planters as well as present day citizens evidenced an interest in local happenings. Many of the planters received the Mississippi Messenger which was published in Natchez as early as 1805. Jefferson county has had a county paper since 1830. This was the Rodney Gazette, a Whig newspaper published in Rodney.44 Following this paper there has been a weekly publication to this present date. The newspaper offices were located in Rodney and Fayette. The papers were directed to the interest of the county. In their early histories the papers changed names frequently. After the Gazette came the Southern Telegraph which was later known as the Rodney Standard and the Rodney Telegraph. The Jefferson Whig was founded in 1839. In that year the paper was moved to Fayette. In 1855, the name of the paper was Fayette Watch-Tower, which was edited by Henry Bakar. This paper continued until 1857, when it became known as the Jefferson Journal. W. A. Marschalk became the editor of the Fayette Chronicle in 1865. The name Fayette Chronicle exists today. The paper was bought by B. C. Knapp un 1918, who was the editor until his death some years ago. The paper has changed hands several times since Mr. Knapp’s death.45
The papers have always dealt with political news on the national as well as international scene. The Rodney papers, in the 1830’s and 1840’s, were more political minded than the later Fayette paper. A great deal of space was given over to advertisements. The Watch-Tower devoted much time to local happenings. This has been the trend to the present day. The terms for advertising were quite different from today’s. The rate was per square of ten lines or less, the first insertion would cost one dollar. This was the rate of the Rodney Telegraph. Most of the early papers had mottoes, such as the one of the Fayette Watch-Tower, “We give each hydra in his den to know—We buy no favor, for we fear no foe.” The Fayette Chronicle today devotes much space to local news from all areas of the county. The paper supports with great interest the projects which will better the county.46
The life of Jefferson county has not differed from other southwest Mississippi counties in the varied interests.
1. P. K. Montgomery, “Sketches of Jefferson County” from the Manuscript of F. H. Claiborne, in the MSDH, Jackson, MS
3. John G. Jones, History of Methodism, 1799-1817, I (Nashville Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1867) p. 80
4. Ibid., p. 302
5. “W. P. A. Papers on Jefferson County”, p.15
6. Cain, Methodism in Mississippi Conference, pp. 359-360
7. Ibid. , p. 359
9. Fayette Watch Tower, 1857
10. Journal of the Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Church, 1957, (Meridian: Cower Printing, Company, 1957.
11. John G. Jones, Introduction of Protestantism into Mississippi and the Southwest (St. Louis: P. M. Pinckard, 1866), p. 48
12. Bettersworth, Mississippi: A History, p. 156
13. “Minutes of the Mississippi Baptist Association,” 1820-1890. See also the “Minutes of the Union Baptist Association”, 1825-1958. The date and publishers of these minutes vary. On file at Mississippi Baptist Historical Society Offices, Clinton, MS
15. Fayette Chronicle, June 18, 1958
16. Journal of the Diocese of Mississippi, Protestant Episcopal Church, 1958.
18. Montgomery, “Sketch of Jefferson County”, p. 20
19. “W. P. A. Papers of Jefferson County”, p. 20
20. Rena Humphreys and Mamie Owens, Index of Mississippi Sessions Acts, 1817-1865 (Jackson: Tucker Printing House, 1937) p. 143
21. “Some Historic Facts and Points of Interest in Fayette and Jefferson County’. Obtained from Mr. E. H. Reber, Fayette, MS (N.D.)
22. “W. P. A. Papers of Jefferson County”, p. 35
23. Fayette Chronicle, 1959
24. “W. P. A. Papers of Jefferson County”, p. 57
25. Interview with Rev. J. P. Lewis, Moderator of the Bethlehem Baptist Association of Jefferson County, July 15, 1960.
26. Patrick Thompson, The History of Negro Baptist in Mississippi, (Jackson: The R. W. Bailey Printing Co., 1898) pp. 158-159, 161
27. Interview with Rev. Lewis
28. Diocese of Natchez-Jackson. Official Catholic Directory for Mississippi, 1960.
30. “Proceedings of the Ninth Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference of African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1877” (Vicksburg: Rogers and Groom, 1877)
31. Information obtained through conversation with the writer’s grandmother, Mrs. W. K. Rushing, Lorman, MS
33. Frank A. Montgomery, Reminisces of a Mississippian in Peace and War (Cincinnati: The Robert Clark Company, 1901) p. 20
34. Fulkerson, Early Days in Mississippi, p. 11
35. Fayette Watch-Tower, 1857. Notices of the meetings of the various lodges are to be found in different dated papers.
36. Rodney Standard, 1838
37. Fayette Watch-Tower, July, 1856
38. Montgomery, Reminisces, p. 20
39. Fayette Chronicle, March, 1960
40. Rowland, Encyclopedia, I, p. 968
41. “W. P. A. Papers of Jefferson County”, pp. 185, 231.
42. Fayette Chronicle, April 23, 1959.
43. Fulkerson, Early Days in Mississippi, p. 37
44. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, I, p. 177.
45. Ibid. See also Mississippi Messenger, (Natchez), 1805.1808 and Southern Telegraph, 1837-38, Rodney Standard, 1837-38, Rodney Telegraph, 1838-40, Jefferson Whig, 1839-41, Fayette Watch-Tower, 1855-57, Jefferson Journal, 1857-58, Fayette Chronicle, 1896, 1957-1960.