Churches


Bethel Church 

15 miles west of Port Gibson on SH-552. One of the few remaining landmarks associated with the battle of Port Gibson. Late afternoon of April 30, 1863 the vanguard of the Union army passed by Bethel Church in route to Port Gibson. While marching by, some of the trigger-happy soldiers shot at the steeple. Site Marker: Bethel Church C. 1845. Greek Revival. The original congregation of the Bethel Presbyterian Church organized in 1826 under the direction of Dr. Jeremiah Chamberlain, constructed this building in the mid 1840s. On the interior, ornamentation is completely lacking. The use of pilasters on the exterior is an interesting feature as are the simplified hood molds, normally found only on Gothic Revival buildings. Renovations have occurred over the years and the original slave gallery has been removed. A tornado (1943) destroyed the sharply pointed steeple.


The First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson
 
The First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson has its origins in a church founded at Bayou Pierre, approximately three miles southwest of the present town of Port Gibson in Claiborne County, Mississippi. In 1800, three Presbyterian missionaries dispatched by the Synod of the Carolinas, the Reverends James Hall, James H. Bowman, and William Montgomery, arrived at Bayou Pierre and established a preaching station in a log building. In 1807, the Reverends Joseph Bullen and James Smylie organized the Bayou Pierre Church on the site of that preaching station. The Bayou Pierre Church remained active until the 1820s. By this time, the development of the neighboring communities of Port Gibson and Fayette, in Jefferson County, offered more convenient sites for worship. Some members joined the Bethel Church, established near Fayette in 1826. The rest of the congregation chose to relocate the church in Port Gibson.

As early as 1824, subscribers for the building of a new church in Port Gibson were sought. By 1826, a list of subscriptions and promised donations was developed. This subscription drive may well have involved more members of the Port Gibson community than the Presbyterians, since the list specified the new church would be open to services for other denominations as well. The following year, the Mississippi legislature approved the incorporation of the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson and designated trustees to receive the funds and land donated for the church; the land for the new church was deeded to the trustees in 1829. Leadership for the new church was provided through the recruitment in 1827 of Zebulon Butler, who was ordained as minister of the Bayou Pierre Church in 1828. By the end of that year, Butler was presenting a petition from a church elder to the Mississippi Presbytery requesting a new church name: the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson. Initially meeting in a courthouse, the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson possessed a fine enough church by 1834 that it could host the meeting of the Synod of Mississippi and South Alabama.

By 1859, the congregation had grown to the extent that a new church was required. The present brick building housing the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson was completed in 1860. The Romanesque Revival church was created by James Jones, apparently a local architect, and bears a distinctive 165-foot high steeple crowned by an upwardly pointing gilded hand. First carved of wood by Daniel Foley in 1859, the original hand was replaced by one of sheet metal about 1901.

 
Sarepta Methodist Church
Sarepta Methodist Church History
From letter on file in Millsaps College archives ((File courtesy of Debra McIntosh, College Archivist at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi). Mrs. I Z McKay of Bogalusa, La., who is now 93 years of age, informs me that the first Sarepta Church was built this side of Barland Post Office and next was built between the present Church and the Cemetery. The first Church was built before she was born and she said it seemed that her father, M J Marble and step - grandfather, Armsted P Poole and two sons built this Church. When I first knew this Church, it was about 1887. I went to school in this Church. It was a rough old country Church and it seems to me it had wooden shutters. In less than a year, it was torn down and they built a new Church. The first preacher I remember was Reverend W P Jones. He married a cousin of Mrs. Tom Trim. We were always on the Hermanville Charge and had the same pastors. I will always remember Reverend A D Miller, a fine, beloved old man. He performed the ceremony when Mr. Nesmith and I were Married on January 26th, 1899. This Church was torn down and sold during or right after World War I. Old Pisgah had closed her doors, so we bought Pisgah Church and moved it here. Mr. Adams Winters, who at that time owned the Fritz Martin place, deeded the land for the Church. Mrs. McKay thinks it was fifteen acres. About forty years ago, ( 1910?) there was a live Sunday School with regular attendance of over one hundred members and Mr. I Z McKay was the superintendent of the Sunday School for forty - five years of more. It seems that it was sixty years of more for he was the only superintendent I ever knew at Sarepta Church, except one year when Mrs. Will Nobles served. Mr. I Z McKay was a grand old man - always faithful to old Sarepta Church until his health failed and he had to give up and lived with his devoted daughter, Mrs. Ray Starnes. The Church has been going down ever since. Mrs. I Z McKay is the oldest living member, a grand old lady, who has always given of her means to the Church and loved the old Church. Mrs. Ellen Boren of Burnell, Mississippi, and Mrs. J A Higgins of Vicksburg, are the next oldest members of Sarepta Church. It seemed for a time that old Pisgah (Note: The Pisgah Church building was now relocated at Sarepta) would have to close her doors again, but thanks to Brother and Mrs. Carl Jackson, and mother, for the money and work they have put out to keep the doors open and hold services twice a month. Thanks to Brother Prewitt for what he has done for the Church. (Note: Rev. Tom Prewitt was the District Superintendent, Vicksburg District in 1950.) It seems as if this is five Churches that have been built in this community. We have just given the Church a new coat of paint inside and out, and floor also, and varnished up everything inside, but the people won’t come to Church like they did in the old days when it seemed that people came from everywhere.
I feel like if the old Church could sing, it would sing that beautiful song Come to the Church in the Wildwood, Come to the Church in the Vale. I am sorry I do not know any dates of when these Churches were built.
(Signed) Mrs. Edd Nesmith, Burnell, Mississippi, February, 1950.
 
Webmaster's note: There is a Sarepta page on this site with much more information including a cemetery listing.

 

 

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