A Kaleidoscope of History
Raymond's Early Churches
The history of the old churches in Raymond is almost as colorful as the history of Raymond itself. During the Civil War three of the churches, the Episcopal, the Methodist and the Baptist helped to house and treat wounded soldiers. Articles printed in old editions of the Gazette, as well as church records, show the importance of the church in the early community. May 13, 1868 the Hinds County Gazette featured the following editorial... "We had the pleasure on yesterday evening of attending the celebration of the 34th anniversary of the Raymond Sunday School, which took place in the Methodist Church in this town. The members of the school, scholars and teachers, assembled at 6:00 on the evening in question, at the beautiful residence of Major George Harper, on the south side of town. (At present it is the home of Mayor and Mrs. Jack Jackson). Here, they were speedily formed in a procession by Major Harper, Superintendent, when the whole body, just as the sun was sinking in the west, with banner flying, and the utmost delight depicted on every countenance, passed through our streets to the FEMALE INSTITUTE (located then on the hill next to Bob Ferguson's home), in the northern part of the village."
The first church built in Raymond - 1837 - was called THE RAYMOND CHURCH and was a place of worship for all denominations. The building, located on the present site of the Methodist Church, consisted of a two-story building with two large rooms. The upper room was used by the town as a place for clubs to meet. The lower room was used as a place of worship. The Methodist and Baptist united in starting a library. In order to gain access to the library a person had to memorize a required number of Bible verses. Books were a precious item back in those days!
By 1844 the Methodist purchased the lower portion of the "Raymond Church" and organized their Sunday school and church. In the same year the Baptist built their first structure. According to the History of Raymond by Jane Brent, this first church was located on the same site as Raymond Baptist today. An interesting story, concerning the first church, is recorded in the History of Raymond by Mrs. H.B. Gillespie... "The original Baptist Church was built of brick and was peculiarly constructed. The builder was William Little, the same man who had built the first court house. Soon after making some changes to the interior, a pillar was removed, and without warning to the half dozen persons within the church, the whole building fell with a tremendous crash! None were killed were wounded!"
It is also recorded, in this same history by Mrs. Gillespie, that during the Battle of Raymond the good women of the town had prepared food and drinks for the Confederate soldiers. The event was held on tables in front of the Baptist Church. While eating their dinner everyone was forced to flee because the Yankee troops had entered town. The meal was later finished by Union soldiers!
St. Mark's Episcopal, the oldest church structure in town, was organized as a congregation in 1837. However, the church was not built until 1854. The National Register of Historic Places makes reference to St. Mark's... "the church dates from the same time as most of the antebellum homes in the town. The church utilizes both Greek and Gothic Revival motifs." During the Civil War the church suffered a great deal of damage while being used as a hospital for Union soldiers. In 1866 Bishop Green stated... "the church was robbed of its benches during the time it was used as a hospital." Blood stains are still visible on the old pine floors.
The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1842. However, it was in the autumn of 1868 before a lot was purchased and a church building erected. The site of the church was, at one time, a large and well appointed livery stable owned by A.J. Johnson.
The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was built in 1885. In terms of architecture it represents the late Federal period in Mississippi. The church was dedicated Sept. 6, 1885 and the Bishop, Francis Janssens, named it the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It retained this named until 1923 when it was changed to Immaculate Conception. This church is well known for its architectural beauty and is mentioned in the National Register of Historic Places.
Many interesting stories, concerning all of the old churches in Raymond, have been recorded. The original Methodist Church of 1837 added a balcony for the slaves so that they could worship with their "master" and his -family. One of these beloved slaves was Eveline Shearer (slave of the Shearer family). Eveline kept her membership in the Raymond Methodist church as long as she lived. (Brent, History of Raymond)It is also recorded that in 1843 Roda Saulsburg, servant to Dr. Daughtery, became a member of Raymond Presbyterian. (Scrapbook of Raymond, Library).
In keeping with history it is often assumed - when a church or old building is no longer on the original site - that the building burned or was torn down. Such is the case with the Raymond Methodist Church that was built in 1885 and used through 1939. When the new Methodist Church was erected the old church (lumber) was given to the colored Methodist of Raymond. This congregation used the lumber and reconstructed the old church very much like it was originally. The church still stands and is located on Dry Grove Road - one block from Raymond High - in the city limits of Raymond. Take a walk by the church and see for yourself. It sits there quietly on the side of the road - an old historic church that managed to survive 'the times' and retain its place in Raymond's history.
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