St. John's Church, Early Grove MS
[Digital copy by John W. Hoopes of a copy of an undated, unsigned, typewritten account found in Grandma [Frances Jane Franklin, 1820-1897] Abernathy's "Testament and Psalms" now in Clara Steger's possession. It was probably written by one of the sons of David and Frances Abernathy in Texas in the year 1909.] Please contact John W. Hoopes for additional information.

In the year 1850 Maxwell Wilson and wife, Margaret Wilson, resided about one-half mile west from where Early Grove was afterwards established. He had come to that home before the Chickasaw Indians were removed from that country. In 1850, Dr. Ison Bailey and family and David A. Abernathy and family moved into the neighborhood.

Mr. Maxwell Wilson and Margaret Wilson, who were earnest church people had builded a modest little log house in which they located the Rev. Mr. Lawson, they had also builded near them a log house chinked and mud plastered.

This log house served as Church house and for the school in the community. Dr. Isom Bailey was already a member of the church. On the 6th Sunday after Trinity in the year 1853 in that little log school house and church, David A. Abernathy and Frances Jane Abernathy were confirmed, the writer a child was presented and baptised that day with another brother. He has before him the Certificate of his mother's confirmation, now 56 and more years ago. Fortunes of life had caused her to move. The vandal Yankees had repeatedly ransacked her house. Her home had been burned and yet in 1897, when she died in Texas, she retained it [the certificate of confirmation] still, transmitting it as an heritage to her children. Six of them boys and one girl, and yet at her deat every singleone was a loyal subject of the Episcopal Church.

After their confirmation four, Margaret Wilson, Maxwell Wilson, David A. Abernathy, and Isom Bailey, set to work to build a brick church, a brick rectory, and a school building. The brick church, St. John's, was completed about the year 1856; its first rector was Dr. Lawson, who lived in the log cabin on Maxwell Wilson's place. Soon after the completion of the church, Dr. Harris, who resided at La Grange Tennissee, took charge of the church and ministered to the people. He was succeeded by a Rev. Mr. Sierlow, who in turn was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Shindler. The congregation had increased in the meantime by Caldwell B. Pool and his estimable daughters Nettie and Nannie, and Wiltsher and John Pool. Robert A. Baird and his wife, Cornelia, whom they called "Red Bos," and Robert Baird and wife, Laura, also united with the church and were most efficient workers. Armistead Pool had united with the church a little later on. William Parr had come over from Moscow, Tennesee, so had Jack Parr, John W. Connoly and wife had also united with the congregation. A Dr. Ryan had also joined and become a member. Joseph Abernathy, about the year 1857 or 1858, and his family had also been added. There were others who, though not members of the church, aided materially in carrying on the work and in assisting the church. Among them may be mentioned Lownes Treadwell, A.S. Connoly, a Mr. Flippen and others. In the meantime work had been progressing on the rectory, and it was completed about the year 1858, and was occupied by a Mrs. Cameron, whose husband became a martyr in the Texas struggle for independence, and Miss Merryweather.

A son of the former joined the Confederate army at the breaking out of the war, was desperately wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, was ordained a minister in the Episcopal Church after the war. He never recovered from his wounds and died at Provincal, Louisiana, a minister of the church.

Chas. A. Cameron, in his sphere of life, was an honor to the church, to the people, and to the community. Work had also gone forward on the school building, and, while it was not perfectly finished, was occupied as a school. It was named Wilson Hall in honor of Margaret Wilson, whose generosity, zeal and earnestness had carried forward this great work; to her more than any living person due the building of these enterprises.

It was a noble woman's offering. The rectory was designed as a home for the minister and also as rooms for pupils coming from a distance; and it was the intention and desire to have Wilson Hall a college removed from the temptations of city life. An ideal place to educate children.

Along with the building sites, Mrs. Wilson had donated one hundred and sixty acres of land. About the year 1858, Rev. Mr. Shindler took charge of the Parish; he was accompanied by his wife. Mr. Shindler was a very able man and an education enthusiast, but there was a pound of lead in him in his laziness. The people delighted in his erudite sermons. His wife was an authoress of distinguished ability, full of zeal and energy, and there was not a task that she was not willing to undertake. As an instance of it, she was ready and willing to teach the writer and his brothers to sing in the choir, and it was probably the only thing that she utterly failed in.

And now with the mention of three whose zeal and earnestness and sweetness brought out more for the church, though they came in at different times, I close the record up to the war; there were Mary Moore, Sallie Moore, and Mattie Moore.

I must not omit to add that prior to this the Rev. S. H. Engraham had often visited and officiated in the church. This celebrated author, if you want to read something inspiring get one of his books, was very earnest. He was also a welcome visitor.

The breaking out of the Civil War found St. John's Church with a good congregation, owning its own brick church house, the owner of a rectory, commodious and suited for boarding pupils as well as for the minister, the owner of a school building suited for college purposes, of 160 acres of land situated in a prosperous country in a populous neighborhood, the owners of plantations around them taking a pride in the church and in its ventures, sympathizing with them in the onward march, an ideal community in which one would love to live.

Now of all who used to throng this church, love to patronize its school, not a single one is left in that community. Not a worshipper now comes there, the bustle of feet that once thronged its aisles are now scattered.

On the walls of Old Blanford Church at Petersburgh, round which we thronged on our way to battle, are inscribed words which I am now tempted adding:

Thou art crumbling in the dust, old pile,

Thou art hastening to thy fall,

And 'round these in thy loneliness

Clings the ivy to thy wall.

The worshippers are scattered now

Who knelt before thy shrine,

And since silence reigns where anthems rose,

In days of "Auld Lang Syne."

Oh! could we call the many back

Who've gathered here in vain--

Who've careless roved where we do now,

Who'll never meet again;

How would our weary soul be stirred,

To meet the earnest gaze

Of the lovely and the beautiful,

The lights of other days.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Rev. Mr. Presbury was minister in charge of St. John's. How he managed to survive during those years of troublous times, I cannot imagine; like the little boy whose mother told him to leave home because he used sad words, I had trouble enough of my own in the Confederate Army.

After the war he removed, and Rev. Mr. Douglas took charge; and for a little while it was hoped that the parish could rebuild. He left in 1868, accepting a call to New Orleans. For come years, the parish was vacant, and then Rev. Mr. Gordon took charge. In the meantime changing events had scattered many of the old members and numbers of those who had grown up. Among those who left was the writer.

The church was, as I remember it, never missionary; it was organized as a parish from the beginning. Maxwell Wilson may have been one of the vestrymen, but I rather think he died early. The Wardens and Vestry were then composed of Dr. Ison Bailey, D.A. Abernathy, Caldwell P. Pool, Robert A. (Red Bos) Baird. Few men were more faithful than was the latter; he was the last to go, having died during the last year. Of those who assumed the management after the war, others may speak.

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