Abstract History of the Mississippi Baptist Association
From Its Preliminary Organization in 1806 To The Centennial Session in 1906
By T. C. Schilling, 1908
[This portion has Intro, 1806-1816]
Since the republication of the Minutes of the Mississippi Baptist Association in 1849, by Elder T. M. Bond, several attempts have been made to re-publish the proceedings of the body from its organization, and have the same bound in book form. From time to time the matter has been discussed and committees have been appointed, with a view to preserving the history of the oldest Baptist Association in Mississippi. It was found, however, that to re-publish in book form the entire minutes from the beginning would be an expensive undertaking, and hence these repeated efforts all ended in failure.
In 1906 the centennial of the Association was celebrated, and for this occasion I was appointed by the Centennial Committee to prepare a paper on "Reminiscences" of the body for one hundred years. This task naturally led to a perusal of the old minutes and such other historical matter as I could obtain. This work suggested the possibility of preparing and publishing a historical sketch of the Association. At the next meeting, held at Gillsburg, Miss., in 1907, the plan was submitted for consideration. It met with approval, and being the Clerk of the body, I was accordingly authorized to prepare such a sketch and publish the same with the minutes of that session.
Having secured a complete file of the Minutes, the work of writing the "historical sketch" was begun. I soon discovered, however, that the work was much greater than I had supposed. I began to curtail here and there, leaving out many things of interest and importance because of my limited time and space. Instead of the task growing less, it grew larger day by day, until it became evident that nothing like a satisfactory historical sketch could be published in this way. I then called an advisory meeting of the officers, pastors and others interested, and laid before them a new plan, viz.: that of publishing an Abstract History of the Association in a separate book. These brethren were kind enough to again endorse my suggestions, and accordingly gave me "free access of full capacity."
With this freedom of action I have pursued the work with much interest, changing, enlarging and adding to the original plan as it has been given to me to see it for the best. And I have been much encouraged by many kind expressions from pastors and others, not only in the Mississippi Association, but from different parts of the country. When it is remembered that the "Old Mississippi" once occupied all the territory from Natchez to New Orleans, and from the Mississippi river to the Pearl, and even beyond, it is but natural that our Baptist people of this section should be interested in a history of the body covering one hundred years.
In regard to the pictures and biographies, I have felt that these are entirely appropriate, as the history of the Association is largely the history of the men who have made it. And the effort has been made, both by private correspondence and through the papers, to get the pictures and sketches of still other brethren who were once identified with the work of the body, but without success. A few pictures and biographies are given of ministers who were never in the Mississippi Association, but as they lived and labored in the territory mentioned, it seems proper to give them a place. And, indeed, it would have been a genuine pleasure to bring in still others, equally as worthy, but our limit was reached.
While no literary excellence is claimed for the book, it will be found, I hope, to be tolerably free from errors. I have sometimes used different tenses in writing of the same meeting, in order to give variety of expression, and to give, if possible, a new interest to these meetings, held in the long ago. No effort has been made to divide the book into subjects or chapters, since each meeting of the Association was usually complete within itself. It is believed that the statistical tables at the close of the book will be found valuable for reference, giving as they do the names of officers, number of baptisms and members, also the amount of contributions for each year from 1807 to 1906. A list is given of all the ministers belonging to the Association for this long period, also one of all the churches, with the date of reception. Absolute accuracy is not claimed for these tables, yet they are approximately correct.
It will be observed that I have used few titles. In this I have followed the example of abler writers, and also that of the early Baptists of this country. I have also employed the term "delegate," most commonly, though sometimes using the word "messenger," when speaking of brethren sent by the churches to the Associational meetings.
Acknowledgment is made to L. S. Foster's book, "Mississippi Baptist Preachers," to the "Complete History of Mississippi Baptists," to "Protestantism in Mississippi," and to the "Baptist Encyclopedia," for important facts and dates.
The book is sent forth with the devout hope and prayer that it may have a wide reading, and that it may be blessed of God in the promotion of His cause.
T. C. SCHILLING.
MAGNOLIA, MISS., May, 1908.
NOTE. - A coincidence: The work of republishing the minutes of the Mississippi Association in 1849, compiled by Elder Thomas M. Bond, was done by Messrs. Hinton & Company, 107 Poydras Street, New Orleans. Fifty-nine years afterwards the present Abstract History is being published in the same city and on the same street.
T. C. S.
Index to Portraits
Abstract History of the Minutes of the Mississippi Baptist Association
FIRST BAPTIST SETTLEMENT IN MISSISSIPPI
Before proceeding with the history of the Association proper, it may be well to give some account of the first Baptist settlement in Mississippi, and of the organization of the first five Baptist churches. For this purpose the following lengthy extracts are taken from the "History of Mississippi Baptists," by Leavall and Bailey, Vol. I, Chapter 1st:
"The revolt of the American colonies from British rule, together with England's complications with France, gave Spain an opportunity to seize from England all the country along the Mississippi from New Orleans up to and including the Natchez country in 1779, and in 1783, the King of England ceded the whole of West Florida (including Mississippi) to the King of Spain; and thus our commonwealth, then territory, passed under Spanish rule, and at the same time the King of England recognized the independence of the United States of America.
"As soon as Spanish rule was established in the Natchez country, Roman Catholicism was declared to be the only allowable religion in the land. The hand of persecution was then raised against everyone who dared to dissent from Romanism.
"About the year 1743 there 1ived in Dinwiddie County, near Petersburg, Virginia, a newly-married couple of Welsh descent, by the name of William and Phoebe Jones. Mr. Jones soon after died, leaving a young widow and an only son, by the name of John. Within a few years of the death of her husband, Mrs. Jones married the man who will hereafter be known in these
sketches as Richard Curtis, senior, by which marriage they had five sons and three daughters. After the marriage of Mrs. Jones to Mr. Curtis, we have no very satisfactory knowledge of the family for about thirty years. In the meantime, John Jones, the son of Mrs. Curtis by her first marriage, had grown up to manhood, and on the 28th of June, 1768, had married Miss Anna Brown, daughter of Abraham Brown. At the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, the family was found in South Carolina, on the Great Pedee river, near the mouth of Black river, and about sixty miles from Charleston. At the Declaration of Independence John Jones ardently espoused the cause of the Revolutionists -- served three campaigns against the British and Tories, under that indomitable warrior, Captain, afterwards General, Francis Marion, and was in several battles, including the siege of Charleston. His stepfather and half brothers doubtless took part in the war, but precisely what their services were can not now be ascertained. By the close of 1779, Mr. Jones and the Messrs. Curtis -- the stepfather and half brothers -- had rendered themselves so obnoxious to their Tory neighbors, by their devotion to the Colonial cause that they found their situation not only vexatious, but perilous. In the meantime, several of the leading members of the family had embraced religion and joined a Baptist church, among whom were John Jones, William, Benjamin and Richard Curtis, and their wives, John Courtney, who had married Hannah Curtis, and John Stampley, who had married Phoebe Curtis, daughters of Richard Curtis, senior. We may safely presume that the elder Richard Curtis and his wife were also members of the same church, but of this we have no certain knowledge. Richard Curtis, junior, was at the time of which we write a licensed preacher. While the family were constantly annoyed and imperiled by the horrors of the war at their very doors, their property nearly exhausted, and but little prospects of better days near at hand, and having heard much said about the salubrious climate, rich lands, exhaustless range and abundance of game in the far-off 'Natchez country'; and being oppressed in mind, as well as in their outward circumstances, they determined to seek a peaceful home far to the westward, quite beyond the vexations and dangers of the bloody war still in progress throughout the United Colonies. Accordingly, early
in the spring of 1780, they mounted their wives and small children, with their scant supply of clothing, tools and furniture, on pack-horses -- the men traveling on foot, with their hunting apparatus to kill game by the way -- and proceeded across the country to the Holston river, in the northeastern corner of the Tennessee, where they paused during the summer to build their boats and to raise a crop of corn, preparatory to their descent by water to the 'Natchez country.' When the water had attained a sufficient depth for navigation, toward the close of the year, they, with other immigrant families, embarked their all of earthly substance on three large and well-built flat boats, and committing themselves to the protection of God, started on their perilous journey. They turned their backs upon their early homes, and their faces to the setting sun, and the smiling south.
"It was, at best, a hazardous undertaking to descend the Holston, Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers in such water craft as they were able to construct; but what made it doubly hazardous, was the belligerent stand which the Cherokee Indians had taken against all immigration through their country. They often availed themselves of the narrows, shoals and sudden turns in the Holston and Tennessee rivers to attack immigrant boats. Our voyagers, being fully aware of that fact, went as well prepared for it as their limited resources would allow, and kept a constant watch for the approach of their stealthy foes.
* * *
For the sake of mutual protection these immigrants had agreed to float their three boats as near each other as they conveniently could. The foremost boat contained Richard Curtis, Sr., and his immediate family, including John Jones and family, and his own sons and daughters with their families. The second boat contained two brothers by the name of Daniel and William Ogden, and a man by the name of Perkins, with their families, most of whom were Baptists. There is no record of the names of those in the third boat. They seem to have fallen in with the other boats for the sake of protection in descending to Natchez. The voyagers in the last named boat had in some way contracted the smallpox, and, to prevent the contagion from spreading to the other boats, they were required to float a few hundred yards in the rear and to occupy a different landing at night. After floating unmolested for several days, the hostile savages espied the
boats somewhere near the mouth of Clinch river, and fixed on a short bend in the Tennessee river, near the northwestern corner of Georgia, as the place of attack. Having to float near the shore to keep in the channel, the foremost boat was violently assailed by the lurking Cherokees. All hands on board commenced a vigorous and well-directed defense. That her husband might be released to use his rifle on the assailants, Mrs. Jones put her eldest son, William, then in his twelfth year, at the oar, while she held a thick poplar stool between him and the bullets, and it was well she did, for it was pierced by one of the leaden missiles. After the danger was all over, Mrs. Jones laughingly remarked that 'their guns were very weak, as they did not make a deep impression' on her stool. Another lady heroically took the steering oar from her husband that he might use his rifle on the foe, and with unfaltering courage, guided the boat until disabled by a wound. Hannah Courtney was grazed on the head by a rifle ball, and Jonathan Curtis was slightly wounded on the wrist, but, so far as known no life was lost. While the attention of the assailants was mainly directed to the first boat, the second floated by unharmed.
"The third boat was captured and everyone on it murdered except one lady, who was held as a captive, until finally, by treaty, restored to her friends. But the Indians contracted smallpox from the infection on the boat, and a number of them died from the plague, 'which passed through their villages like the destroying angel'; and it is said that their descendants have, to this day, a traditional horror of that terrible pestilence.1
"Those who escaped in the first two boats pursued their dangerous way until they landed in safety at the mouth of Cole's creek, about twenty miles above Natchez by land. To the eastward and southward of their place of debarkation they mainly made their first settlements in the country, within ten or twenty miles of the Mississippi river. For several years they had to endure many privations and hardships incident to a new country, but poorly supplied with even the necessaries of life.
* * *
1 Protestantism in Mississippi, pp. 22-26.
"By the commencement of the year 1795, several circumstances had transpired to stir up the wrath of the Catholics against this band of primitive Baptists. Not only had William Hamberlin and other prominent citizens joined their church, but Stephen De Alvo, a Spaniard and a Catholic by birth and education, had renounced the faith of his ancestors and gone over to these heretics, as they called the Baptists. This could not be endured, in silence. They had the legal authority, as well as the power to crush out this growing brotherhood of anti-Catholics, and it must be done! Accordingly, the Spanish Commandant at Natchez, Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, wrote an expostulatory letter to Mr. Curtis (this was Richard Curtis, Jr., a licensed preacher), urging him to desist from what was considered violative of the laws of the province and against the peace and safety of the country. To this letter Mr. Curtis replied with his characteristic bluntness and severity, giving him to understand that, in the name and strength of God, he was determined to persevere in what he had deliberately conceived to be his duty."
"His immediate arrest was now ordered, and on the 6th of April, 1795, he stood a prisoner before Governor Gayoso. At the close of the investigation he was assured if he did not unequivocally promise to desist from all public preaching, he would be sent, with several of his adherents, especially Hamberlin and De Alvo, to work in the silver mines of Mexico. Whether the hitherto indomitable spirit of Curtis quailed under the menaces of Gayoso, or whether, upon a review of the whole matter, he thought it would be more Christian-like to submit to the 'powers that be,' can not be determined. Be this as it may, he did promise to refrain thereafter from what was in open violation of the laws of the province. An edict was also issued by Gayoso, 'that if nine persons were found worshipping together, except according to the forms of the Catholic church, they should suffer imprisonment.' After being discharged, Mr. Curtis felt oppressed in mind, as he thoughtfully and prayerfully returned to his home on the south fork of Cole's creek. Had he done right in promising not to preach the gospel of peace and salvation publicly in the province? What would become of the membership if their public religious meetings were discontinued? Would they not be scattered as sheep without a shepherd? Had he set
them a good example of fortitude in the face of danger? These and kindred questions which arose, one after another, in his mind were difficult of solution. He felt an assurance that be had aimed to do right, and the predominant conviction of his mind was that he had done the best he could in his circumstances. His liberty and life were worth something to his family, to the little Christian brotherhood he had gathered around him, and to the future prospects of the church. Had he proved stubborn and refractory before Gayoso -- being already a prisoner -- he might have been ordered forthwith to the calaboose preparatory to his being sent to work in the Mexican silver mines. His brethren generally approved his course, but thought some arrangement ought to be made to keep up their religious meetings. Things now went on quietly for a while, but the American population had increased by the arrival of other immigrants; and they were becoming more and more clamorous for religious, as well as civil, liberty. The members of the church had a meeting for consultation, and after patient deliberation they came to the conclusion that it was not right to give up their religious meetings entirely. It was true Mr. Curtis had promised to abstain from public preaching, but still they might hold meetings, with such as would not betray them, for Christian conference, prayer and exhortation. Accordingly they agreed to hold their meetings as secretly as possible, and conduct all their religious exercises in a low tone of voice: and in order to make things doubly secure, they appointed reliable men as sentinels on all the roads leading to their places of worship, whose duty it was to come in at any stage of the meeting and report the appearance of any suspicious persons in the distance, which should be considered the signal for an informal and immediate dismissa1 and dispersion.
* * *
"The officers of the Provincial Government, instigated by the priesthood, made diligent inquiry as to the time and place of holding their meetings for exhortation, prayer and Christian intercourse, and devised plans for the capture of Richard Curtis, William Hamberlin and Stephen De Alvo. Orders for their arrest were secretly issued on or about August 23. 1795. The 23rd of August was a quiet Sabbath, with all of its holy associations inviting the devout worshippers to assemble at the house of prayer. It was the private residence of one of their number, in
what was then and is still known as 'Stampley's Settlement,' on the south fork of Cole's Creek.
"The pickets had been properly posted on all the roads, and the little persecuted fraternity of Baptists were, in subdued tones, conducting their worship; when the sentinel on the Natchez road came in hurriedly and announced the appearance of five men, whom he took to be a Spanish officer and his posse. The religious exercises closed immediately, and Messrs. Curtis, Hamberlin and De Alvo hastened to a neighboring thicket to conceal themselves, knowing that they were peculiarly obnoxious to the hierarchy at Natchez. The others adjusted themselves with apparent carelessness about the house and yard, when the unwelcome visitors rode up, and with characteristic self-importance, inquired, 'What are you doing here?' They replied, 'We are not harming anybody; we always suspend our secular avocations on the Sabbath, and either rest at home or spend our time in such intercourse with each other as suits us.' 'We wish to see Dick Curtis, Bill Hamberlin and Steve De Alvo -- either one or all of them. Where are they to be found this morning?, authoritatively inquired this embodiment of Papal intolerance, to which, an evasive answer was given, such as, 'We don't exactly know; somewhere in the neighborhood, we suppose.' The officer then announced the fact that he had come with orders from Governor Gayoso to arrest those three rebels, preparatory to their being sent to work in the silver mines in Mexico for the remainder of their lives, and if any man should be found aiding or abetting either their concealment or escape, he should suffer the like penalty."
* * *
This long quotation, so full of interest and bearing upon our subject, has been taken from "Protestantism in Mississippi and the Southwest," by Rev. John G. Jones, before quoted, who belonged to the family of the Joneses and Curtises. He further says: "It now became the settled conviction of the most reliable men in the community that it was worse than useless for Mr. Curtis and his two faithful adherents, Hamberlin and De Alvo, to think of breasting that storm any further; that their only safety was in a precipitate flight from the country, and, consequently, from all that was dear to them on earth. 'But whither
shall they fly?' was the next question, and the ready answer was, 'To South Carolina, the former home of Mr. Curtis.'
"Here on the Great Pedee, they could support themselves by the labor of their own hands, while among congenial associates they could enjoy their Christian privileges with none to molest or make them afraid. Accordingly, as soon as suitable horses could be procured, and amidst the tears of wives and children, and weeping relatives, they clandestinely left the settlement with the understanding that they were to conceal themselves at the house of a friend on Little Bayou Pierre, near where Port Gibson now stands, until they could be supplied with suitable provision, in clothes, food and money, for their journey through the wilderness to South Carolina.
* * *
"When all the necessary preparations had been made for their journey, such as a supply of food and clothing, 'a new and unexpected difficulty arose,' says Mr. Jones. Not a man could be found willing, to risk the penalty of 'aiding and abetting' in the escape of the refugees. Their absence from home a single day or night might throw suspicion on them and lead to disastrous consequences; and the question was asked with increasing anxiety. 'Who will take their supplies to their place of concealment on Bayou Pierre?' The question was soon answered. There lived in the vicinity a noble-hearted and daring woman by the name of Chloe Holt, who acted in the capacity of accoucheress for the settlement, and was in every way suitable for such an adventure as was now on hand. Aunt Chloe had a kind and sympathetic heart, but an iron will, was determined and bold, and withal was a little eccentric. While she was all aglow to have the pleasure and honor of conveying the needed supplies to the exiles, she wished to hit a backhanded lick at what she considered the cowardice of the men in the neighborhood. 'If the men in the neighborhood,' said she, 'are so faint-hearted that not one of them can be prevailed upon to take Dick Curtis and his companions in exile their promised supplies, in order to secure their escape from the clutches of these gospel-hating Catholics, if they will furnish me with a good horse, surmounted with a man's saddle, I will go in spite of the Spaniards, and they may catch me if they can.' The families and refugees were glad to avail themselves of her generous offer, and a suitable horse
was accordingly brought and saddled as she desired. All things being ready, she made her appearance, dressed cap-a-pie, in gentleman's clothes; and mounting the horse in cavalier style, boldly dashed off. The journey was hastily and successfully made. She took the last farewell of the loved ones at home to the sorrow-stricken exiles, delivered them their supplies, gave them her blessing, and returned as she went. No one molested Aunt Chloe, and that adventure was her boast to the close of her life. It is supposed she died and was buried in Warren County, somewhere about the headwaters of Big Bayou Pierre. Could we find her grave we would make the effort to have a suitable monument placed upon it to perpetuate her name and noble deed to generations yet unborn. Whoever may, in future, write the History of Baptist Churches in Mississippi, let them not forget to make honorable mention of Chloe Holt. 'Peace to your ashes,' old friend, wherever they may rest."
The foregoing incident is a beautiful and touching one, and shows how the Lord always has someone, even though it be a woman, for a time of great emergency. Think of a woman going alone through dismal swamps, exposed to wild animals and hiding Indians, to perform a service for God's glory and the extension of his kingdom. Such devotion deserves to be honored, as suggested by Mr. Jones, by a suitable monument, could we find the place where Aunt Chloe waits her Lord's second coming.
"Soon after receiving their supplies from the hands of Mrs. Holt, the exiles began to move northward, threading their way along the old Natchez and Cumberland trace, fording or swimming the smaller streams, making rafts of logs to ferry themselves over the larger rivers, sleeping on the ground at night, with the sky for a covering, until they arrived in the white settlements northeast of the Indian country. In process of time they reached the former home of Mr. Curtis, on the Great Pedee, in South Carolina, where they remained over two years and a half.
"Mr. Curtis was active and acceptable as a preacher, and during his sojourn in South Carolina was regularly ordained by Benjamin Mosely and Matthew McCullens, and was duly empowered, whenever he should return to the Natchez country, to constitute a Baptist church.
"On the return of Richard Curtis to his home in the Natchez country, the voice of the oppressor had ceased in the land. The Stars and Stripes had been thrown to the balmy breezes that fanned old Fort Rosalie, and liberty of conscience was proclaimed to all. The hitherto oppressed and downtrodden Baptist community met in conference, and, under the superintendence of their beloved Richard Curtis, who presided as moderator, they completed their organization, in due and ancient form, as a regular Baptist church. This was probably in the summer of 1798. Their first church was called Salem -- that is, peace -- and stood among the upper branches of the South Fork of Cole's creek, in Jefferson county, on what is still known as the 'Salem road.'"
This account of the first Baptist community in Mississippi is full of interest, and it shows under what difficulties the Baptist cause was established in this country.
THE FIVE ORIGINAL CHURCHES.
Salem, as we have already seen, was the first Baptist church constituted in the State of Mississippi. Its location was on the South Fork of Cole's creek in Jefferson county, some eighteen miles northeast of the present City of Natchez. There is some conflict as to the exact date, but it seems evident that the organization was completed in 1798, after Richard Curtis and his friends had returned from their exile in South Carolina.
The next churches to be constituted were New Hope, in Adams county, and Bethel, in Wilkinson county, about the year 1800. The two others were New Providence and Ebenezer, in Amite county, constituted in 1805 and 1806, respectively.
Salem was to the north, while Ebenezer was to the south, the latter being near the Louisiana line.
ORGANIZATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI ASSOCIATION.
The minutes of Ebenezer church for July, 1806, show that Ezra Courtney, Mark Cole, Batson Morgan, James Mumford and Reese Perkins were appointed to attend a conference at Cole's
Creek, or Salem, on Friday before the first Sabbath in August. While the object of this conference is not stated, it is presumed that it looked to the forming of this Association. And Elder Thomas M. Bond, in his "Re-publication of the Minutes," in 1849, says they did organize in 1806, but did not publish their proceedings. So it was in this first Baptist community and with this first Baptist church in Mississippi that we find the beginning of the Association whose history we are now to trace for one hundred Years.
The first Minute, therefore, dates from 1807, making the meeting in 1906 the one hundredth annual session. Very little is known of the early history of the Association, since the minutes give only brief accounts of its meetings. But when we remember that the facilities for writing and preserving history were meager, and especially when we consider the difficulties attending the first settlements in Mississippi, we may well congratulate ourselves that we have any history at all.
The meeting in 1807 was held with the Bethel church, Bayou Sara, Mississippi Territory, "from which," says Mr. Jones, "we infer that Bethel church was southwest of Woodville, on a small stream of that name, which afterward gave name to the town of Bayou Sara, at its mouth on the Mississippi river."
It may be of interest to give an exact copy of the first Minute, which is as follows:
"The Mississippi Baptist Association convened at Bethel church, Bayou Sara, M. T., September 26-29, 1807. The two first days were spent in public worship, concluding with the administration of the Lord's supper.
"On Monday, at ten o'clock a. m., the Association sermon was delivered from Ps. xciii, 5, by Bro. Hadley. Letters from five churches were read, and the state of each, with the names of their delegates, minuted.
"Bro. Hadley was chosen moderator, and Bro. Tanner clerk. Ministering brethren present, not delegated, were invited to seats. Agreed that it is advisable for the churches in this body to send three delegates to each session and no more. Bro. John
Coulter was nominated treasurer, and authorized to purchase a blank book for that purpose.
"Bro. Thomas Mercer appointed to write the circular letter for the ensuing year. Bro. D. Cooper appointed to preach the Association sermon at our next session; and, in case of failure, Bro. Hadley.
"Agreed to meet on Waggoner's Creek, at New Providence, the Saturday before the third Lord's day in October, 1808. Bro. Hadley was requested to superintend the printing and distributing of the minutes.
Concluded by singing and prayer."ROBERT TANNER, MOSES HADLEY, Clerk. Moderator.
NAMES OF CHURCHES AND MESSENGERS.
Salem -- John Stampley, Wilson Bolls.
New Hope -- Moses Hadley, John Erwin.
Bethel -- John Coulter, Reuben Jackson.
New Providence -- Cornelius Whittington, Wm. Causey.
Ebenezer -- Ezra Courtney, Hardy Brian.
Thus it will be seen that the Association was composed of ten members this year. The Clerk's name does not appear in the list of messengers, though he comes as a delegate next year from Bethel church.
The statistical report shows three baptisms, eighteen received by letter, one exclusion, three deaths, and a total membership of one hundred and ninety-six. No contribution of money is mentioned.
This was a small beginning. The old Mississippi was then in her infancy. Her growth, however, has been steady and vigorous, and, after sending out a number of colonies to form other bodies, she has entered upon the second century of her pi1grimage.
The second annual meeting was held with New Providence church, embracing the first Lord's day in October. This was not the time agreed on a year ago, but no reason is given for the change. David Cooper preached the introductory sermon from I Peter, 5:2. Two new churches, Bayou Pierre and Morgan's Fork, were received. The body was organized by the election of David Cooper as moderator and David Snodgrass as clerk. Richard Curtis was in attendance as a delegate from New Hope church. Whether he had removed from the Salem community does not appear, except that his membership was at New Hope.
The appointments for preaching on the Sabbath were David Snodgrass, Moses Hadley and David Cooper. The first "circular letter" to be published in the minutes was written by Thomas Mercer, his subject being the "Barren Fig Tree."
The matter of abusive treatment of slaves received attention at this meeting, and the Association recommended the churches to take notice of any improper treatment of slaves by their members, and deal with them in brotherly love, according to the rules of the gospel. It was also recommended that heads of families should keep up family worship, and in cases where they did not, that gospel steps should be taken in order that they might be reclaimed. Two baptisms are reported this year.
Salem church was the place of meeting this year, and the time October 13th, six churches being represented. Moses Hadley preached the opening sermon from I Cor. 1:10. David Cooper was re-elected moderator, and William Snodgrass was chosen clerk. Sabbath services were conducted by Lawrence Scarborough, Ezra Courtney and Moses Hadley. Notice was taken of the "base and wicked conduct" of one James Garnett, who had been passing himself as a Baptist minister, and the churches were warned against him.
This query was proposed and answered in the affirmative: "Is it consistent with gospel order to receive testimony from persons of good character, not of our connection, against a church member?"
New Hope church sent a letter to this meeting, but no delegates. And it was discovered from the reading of the letter, that there were some internal troubles in the church. Whereupon, Moses Hadley, Lawrence Scarborough and David Cooper were appointed to visit New Hope with a view to adjusting the difficulties. Fifteen baptisms and 251 members are reported.
The Association met with Ebenezer church, Friday, October 19th, seven churches sending letters and delegates. Thomas Mercer preached the sermon from Isaiah, 62:6. David Cooper was again chosen moderator, and Moses Hadley was made clerk. Two new churches were received -- viz., East Fork and Middle Fork, their messengers being J. Keith and L. Scarborough, respectively. The African church is mentioned as having no delegation. When this African church was received, or where it was located, is not clear.
The committee appointed a year ago to inquire into the difficulties existing in New Hope church, reported that the same had been removed.
This query, "Is the washing of the saints' feet a Christian duty or not?" was answered in the affirmative.
It was agreed to hold four union meetings during the next year, as follows: First, at Salem, in December; second, at New Providence, in March; third, at East Fork (called the New Constitution on the east fork of the Amite), in June; and fourth, at Bayou Sara, in September. These were not union meetings in the sense that they were interdenominational, but seemed to be held in those early times for the mutual profit of the churches.
On the Lord's day a "numerous and respectable congregation" attended divine service, but who, did the preaching is not stated.
The amount contributed by the churches this year was $24.87.
The place of meeting is New Hope, Adams county, and the time October 19th. John Atkins is the preacher of the introductory sermon, whose text is Jude, 1:3. Nine churches are represented. Thomas Mercer is moderator, and David Cooper clerk. Three new churches asked for admission -- viz., Tangipahoa (spelled Tancipiho), Shiloh and Zion Hill, the delegates being David Edwards from Tangipahoa, Thomas Carson from Shiloh, and C. Whittington and Isham Nettles from Zion Hill.
Moses Hadley, David Cooper and Thomas Mercer were appointed to preach on the Lord's day.
A letter of correspondence was received from the Cumberland Association, Jesse Brown being the messenger. And the minutes say: "Bro. Willis, from the Opelousas was invited to a seat with us."
It seems that the name of Middle Fork church had been changed to Sarepta, since Lawrence Scarborough represented the former last year and the latter this year, and the name "Middle Fork" disappears from the minutes.
Richard Curtis was present for the last time, as he died a few days after, October 28, in the 56th year of his age. Mr. Curtis never held office in the Association, nor was he appointed to preach at any of its meetings. It is probable that he was in declining health for a number of years, since he is said to have died from cancer. He had laid the foundation, had blazed the way in this new country, and now, at God's call, he lays aside his armor, while the work is carried on by other hands. His grave is near Ebenezer church, Amite county.
The following touching incident is related of Mr. Curtis on his return home from South Carolina:"It was Saturday night, and Messrs. Curtis, Hamberlin and De Alvo were within half a day's ride of home. At early dawn they resumed their journey, thinking it no harm to travel a little on Sunday under such circumstances. They separated, and each was making for his home, when Mr. Curtis fell in with cheerful companions of former acquaintance on their way to 'the house of prayer.' They assured him that he would not find his wife and children at home, for by that hour they were certainly on their way to church, so he turned with the company to the house of God. When they arrived at the church, Mrs. Curtis, with her household, had not yet made their appearance, but he was assured that all were well, and that they certainly would soon be there; and as the hour for preaching had come, the brethren insisted on his going immediately into the pulpit and preaching them a sermon. He submitted, and while, with head depressed below the book board, he was turning to his hymn and text, his wife came in, unobserved by him, and quietly took her usual place by the wall. The congregation being mostly within doors -- and waiting one for another -- no one gave her an intimation of the presence of her long-exiled husband. When he rose up she looked at the pulpit to see who was going to officiate, and seeing it was her own beloved, long-lost, but now restored husband, it was more than her womanly heart could endure in silence. She shrieked and swooned away, and was borne from the house in an unconscious state. Cold ablutions were resorted to, and consciousness soon restored; and the cordial greeting and soothing words of her husband soon quieted her nerves. All returned to the church, and Elder Curtis -- as we shall henceforth call him -- preached an appropriate and feeling sermon." -- Protestantism in Mississippi, pp. 46, 47.
Mr. Curtis is described as "a plain, honest, unsophisticated man, a sincere and spiritual Christian, and an uncompromising and zealous preacher of the gospel.
* * *
His wife, Aunt Pattie, as she was familiarly called by the connection, survived as a hale old lady until about 1819. She died in Jefferson county, and is buried on the plantation of Mrs. Samuel Bolls, two or three miles east of Fayette." -- History of Mississippi Baptists, Vol. I, p. 36.
The Mississippi Association has on hand at the present time (1908) the matter of erecting a suitable and enduring monument at the grave of Mr. Curtis, thus to mark the resting place of the first Baptist preacher in this State.
Zion Hill, Amite county, gets the meeting,. beginning October 17th. The Associational sermon is by Lawrence Scarborough, his text being Romans, 6:23. Letters from twelve churches are received and read, and the body organized by electing Moses Hadley moderator and Joseph J. Lawton clerk. Two more churches are received -- viz., Half-Moon Bluff and Jerusalem, the former being on Bogue Chitto river, in Louisiana, and the latter in Amite county. The delegates from Half-Moon Bluff were Joseph Lewis and Joseph Erwin, and those from Jerusalem Howell Wall, Joseph Robertson and Jacob Cobb.
Elders Hadley, Scarborough and Smith were selected for the Sabbath services. Mr. Smith's initials are not given.
A letter of correspondence was received from the Georgia Association, together with the Minutes of 1811.
The Circular Letter this year is by Moses Hadley, his subject being "Union of the Churches."
The Association meets at Bayou Pierre, October 17th. Ezra Courtney preaches the introductory sermon from John, 10:16. Moses Hadley is again the moderator, while Geo. King is selected to do the writing. It will be observed that the treasurer was not elected every year, but held the office for an indefinite time. At this meeting the second treasurer was chosen -- viz., William Causey, of New Providence church.
Fourteen churches are represented and five others received as follows: Clear Creek, in Adams county; Pierce's Creek, in Wilkinson county; Bogue Chitto, in Marion county; Mt. Nebo and Peniel, in Louisiana. The messengers of these new churches were: Abraham Galtney and Joel Pate, from Clear Creek; Henry Irvine and James Crow, from Pierce's Creek; Thomas Hill and Elisha McGraw, from Bogue Chitto; Jacob Ott and Peter Bankston, from Mt. Nebo. There was no delegation from Peniel.
Correspondence was discontinued with the Georgia and Hepzibah Associations, "owing to the prohibition of conveyance." This disturbance was occasioned by the war with England, which was going on at that time. The Circular Letter of this year has "The War" for its subject, and, although anonymous, is a remarkably fine document.
The Minute says, concerning the deaths of two prominent members: "The Association have to lament the death of their beloved brethren, John Atkins and Wilson Bolls, who, they have every reason to hope, have entered into the joys of their Lord." John Atkins was a preacher, and Wilson Bolls was one of the delegates from Salem in 1807. Nothing further is said of their lives.
The Association has made decided progress during these seven years, viz: From five to nineteen churches; from three to 246 baptisms, and from 196 to 914 members.
Taking into consideration the scattered condition of the churches at this time, it was agreed that in future the meetings should be held within the following bounds: Salem on the north, Hepzibah on the south, Tangipahoa on the east and Bethel to the west. Hepzibah is here anticipated, coming in next year.
The following interesting biographical sketch of William Ca11sey, the second treasurer, is furnished by W. I. Causey, a grandson, and, the present treasurer of the Association: William Causey was born in Ireland in 1744 and came to America about the year 1760. He settled in Maryland and lived there until the Revolutionary War, serving through the conflict under General Marion. After the war he moved with his family to South Carolina and remained there until his children were all grown, of whom there were eleven. His wife dying in South Carolina, Mr. Causey came to Mississippi and married again, his second wife being Miss Susannah Jackson. To them were born eight children, the late Ransom J. Causey being one of this number.
Mr. Causey was too old for military service during the war of 1812, but was a member of what was known as the "Silver Grey Reserves." He was one of the founders of New Providence Church and of the Mississippi Association, being one of the ten delegates in 1807. He was treasurer of the body until 1819. His death occurred in 1828, and he was buried where W. I. Causey now lives, Berwick, Amite county.
The meeting was with Shiloh church, Wilkinson county, beginning October 15th. The introductory sermon was preached by Howell Wall from John, 3:36. Ezra Courtney was elected moderator, and William Snodgrass clerk. The preachers for Sunday were Geo. W. King, James Smylie, William Cooper and Thomas Mercer.
Three churches asked for admission into the Association, viz: Hepzibah (La.), Hopewel1 and Antioch, their delegates being Josiah Knighton, Thomas Jackson and Lewis Yarborough, from Hepzibah; John Lee, David Williams and John Hutchins, from Hopewell, and David Sumrall, Reese Perkins and Davis Jenkins, from Antioch.
A letter from the African church was received and considered, it being admitted that the slaves labored under many difficulties in maintaining their worship. And they were urged to diligence in obeying their masters. The Association also advised them to get written permission from their masters or overseers prior to their assembling for worship.
The church at Half-Moon Bluff notified the Association that they had excluded Robert Smith, a preacher, for un-Christian conduct, giving an account or the case; and after "due deliberation," the church's action was approved.
A committee of three, consisting of Jacob Cobb, Josiah Flowers and B. E. Chaney, was appointed to name six days in the year to be kept as days of fasting, humiliation and prayer, and to be continued during the war in which the country was then involved. The committee named Christmas and the Fourth or July, and left the churches to select the other days.
The following extracts from the anonymous letters already mentioned, will be read with interest:"Our country is now engaged in war! Not a war of avarice, aggrandizement, or of ambitious domination! No, blessed be God! this government wages war from better motives and more correct principles. It leaves such to actuate the pride and lust of kings. This is, on the part of the United States, a war of just and necessary defense; justifiable on every sound political and moral principle.
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War, it is readily conceded, is one of the greatest of human calamities. It should never be entered into but upon principles, and from motives, that, there is the clearest evidence the God of love and peace will approve. Then, indeed, it should be met with alacrity, and prosecuted with energy as a means of speedily restoring the blessings of peace.
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"Your progenitors, brethren, from the commencement of the Christian era, during the darkest, as well as the most luminous ages of antiquity, and in all modern times, have been the asserters, the constant and uniform asserters, of civil and religious liberty, and, very generally, the most conspicuous sufferers for it. Do you, then, whose fathers have suffered so much for you, who have been so highly favored with its enjoyment, now deem it worth defending?
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"The empire of freedom, reason, religion and of laws, is again in America, under God, to be sustained by a few hands -- the true, consistent republicans -- the friends of liberty and law. May we escape the execrations of posterity by handing down, unimpaired to them, the rich inheritance or freedom we possess.
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"We pray you bear in mind continually, that here you have 'no abiding city.' Let us through the merits of the dear Redeemer, 'seek one to come' in that land of pure delight, 'where the wicked cease from troubling,' and where the inhabitants shall learn war no more.'"
1815 Sarepta church, Jefferson county, is the place of meeting on the, 14th of October. William Cooper preaches the opening sermon, his text being John, 6:68, 69. Twenty-one churches are represented, and two others received -- viz., Pearl River and Union -- but the location is not given. The delegates from Pearl River church were G. W. King and Harmon Runnels; those from Union, John O'Quin and Drewry Stovall. The moderator is Moses Hadley, and the clerk William Snodgrass. Elders Carter Tarrant, Ezra Courtney, Thomas Mercer and Nathan Morris were selected for the Lord's day services.
A letter was received from the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions for the United States (location not given), soliciting the co-operation of the Association in sending missionaries to the heathen nations, to which favorable response was made. The wish was expressed that the churches might contribute as liberally as convenient and forward their offerings to the next meeting of the Association.
Salem church, the first to be formed in Mississippi, is torn asunder by internal divisions, two letters being sent to the Association this year. A committee of five was appointed, which, after investigation, reported that the letter presented by John Burch was the proper one to receive. Accordingly, he and James Bolls were recognized as the right messengers. "Salem" means "peace," but Satan disregards all names and places, and gets in his work of discord even among the saints.
1816 Clear Creek, Adams county, is where the saints gather this year on the 19th of October. "Worship God" (Rev. 19: 10) is the text of the introductory sermon, preached by Nathan Morris. Twenty-five churches are represented, and the body is organized by choosing Nathan Morris moderator and William Snodgrass clerk. Six new churches asked for admittance and were received, as fo1lows: Mars Hill, Fair River, Elim, Beulah, Fellowship and Bayou Chitto. Their messengers were: Jesse Young and A. Arnol, from Mars Hill; Ebenezer Clapp and Perry Kees, from Fair River; L. Fairchilds and J. Thompson, from Elim; Ezekiel O'Quin, from Beulah; C. Brandon and W. McDonald, from Fellowship, and Joseph Willis, from Bayou Chitto. These names are given with the hope that some of their descendants may be able to locate these old churches, many of which, of course, have long since ceased to exist. In many cases no intimation is given in the minutes as to the location of the churches.
Those appointed to preach on the Sabbath were Josiah Flower, David Cooper, Robert Smith, and William Cooper, Mr. Smith having been reinstated by his church.
The churches were requested to signify their wishes at the next meeting respecting a division of the Association. The total membership last year was 1408, while this year, with more churches, it is reported at 695. It is difficult to account for this heavy loss, and it is probable that there is an error in the figures. General statistics will be found at the close of this book, and while they are not perfect, yet they will indicate something of the conditions and work of the body for this long period.
A query from Beulah church, asking whether conferences should be held in public or in private; was answered in favor of public meetings.
The resolution passed some years ago, naming certain limits for the Associational meetings, was rescinded.
William Snodgrass presented a letter from the Corresponding Secretary of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, also a receipt for $83.93, contributed by the Association and a few individuals. One of these contributions to missions ($2.00) had been made by Elder Bailey E. Chaney, whose death occurred this year. The following sketch of Mr. Chaney's life is taken from L. S. Foster's book, "Mississippi Baptist Preachers," pp. 131, 132: "BAILEY E. CHANEY, a pioneer Baptist preacher of Mississippi, removed from South Carolina about 1790 and settled near Natchez. During the persecution against Curtis and his companions, Chaney concealed himself. When the territory was transferred to the United States, the people assembled in large numbers, a brush arbor was constructed, and Rev. Bailey E. Chaney was sent for; and while the flag of the United States floated over him he preached the gospel of Christ unawed by the minions of Rome. In 1798 he visited the American settlement near Baton Rouge, in Louisiana, and preached; but being arrested, he obtained release by promising to preach no more. After this he returned to Mississippi and labored there until his death, which occurred about 1816." -- Baptist Encyclopedia, p. 200.
Mr. John G. Jones, in Protestantism in Mississippi and the Southwest, has this interesting note of this early preacher: "Bailey E. Chaney was a licensed preacher, and probably preached the first sermon in Natchez after the Spanish government was superseded by that of the United States. Soon after the Spaniards left, the Americans erected a large brush arbor and supplied it with a temporary pulpit and seats, and invited Rev. Mr. Chaney to preach them a sermon under the 'Stars and Stripes,' which he did to an immense congregation. While we can not accord to our Baptist brethren the honor of establishing the first Protestant church in the Natchez country -- that having been done, as we have seen in a previous chapter, by the Congregationalists -- we cheerfully accord them the honor of establishing the second, and of preaching the first Sermon here under the United States government." -- Page 50.
[From T. C. Schilling, Abstract History of the Mississippi Baptist Association From Its Preliminary Organization in 1806, To The Centennial Session in 1906, 1908, pp. 3-31. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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