Church of The Yellow Fever Martyrs Museum
Church and Museum Open After Years of Restoration
The South Reporter, March 1, 2001
By Linda Jones, Staff Writer
In 1878 Yellow Fever struck the deep south, and along with many other cities and towns, Holly Springs was never the same again.
Believing itself immune to the epidemic because of the elevation, Holly Springs welcomed refugees from surrounding towns.
August 25, 1878 two refugees from Grenada died, the first of many. Only 800 of the 3,500 citizens of Holly Springs survived that awful time.
Within a week of the first deaths, an epidemic had been declared. A hospital was set up in the courthouse and the Sisters of Bethlehem Academy volunteered their services.
The Sisters were under no obligation to stay in Holly Springs, but chose to stay. The Sisters and the parish priest, Father A. Oberto, served tirelessly at the emergency hospital. Among the 1,440 to die were Father Oberto, Sister Stanislaus, Sister Stella, Sister Margaret, Sister Corinthia, Sister Victoria and Sister Laurentia.
The Yellow Fever Martyrs Church and Museum (1841) has recently opened after several years restoration to the old St. Joseph's Church building.
The building was constructed in 1841-42 and is a rare example of heavy timber frame church construction. It was originally Christ Episcopal Church and was used by the Episcopal parish until 1857.
When the new Christ Church was built, the Catholic population bought the building and moved it to its present location on College Avenue. It was the first Catholic Church in north Mississippi and served a large parish population during the construction of the railroad.
Standing empty and un-used for many years, and at one time in danger of being torn down, the church building had become very dilapidated when restoration was begun by the Historic Heritage Preservation Corporation.
Today, the Museum is a shining example of what can be done with a lot of determination, doggedness, donations and a great love of history.
“We wanted to find a good community project to serve this community, as well as honor the sisters and priest who died back then,” said Al Hamer, of the Historic Preservation Society.
The old church now stands sturdy on its foundation, displaying memorabilia of the Yellow Fever Epidemic and those who served and died here.
New to the Church of the Yellow Fever Martyrs is a room depicting how the courthouse must have looked as a hospital. Records were not well kept at that time, but the room is as close as possible. The Museum has light fixtures that were predominant at that time, the pews have been restored and the altar and nave are filled with items that could have been in use at that time.
The Society's next project is to build and furnish a little shack out back, such as a visiting priest might have stayed in. The Society has bought the house next door, as they needed more room and parking area and hope to make a wedding chapel and reception hall also.
“We want this to be a meaningful addition to the community as well as a historical site,” Hamer said.
For information or to arrange an appointment to visit the Museum, please call the Marshall County Historical Museum, Monday through Saturday at 662-252-3669.
The Seven Martyrs, Died: 1878
Fr. Anacleto Oberto, 9-1
Sr. Stanislaus Morrissey, 9-22
Sr. Stella Fitzgerald, 9-26
Sr. Margaret Kelly, 9-28
Sr. Corinthia Mahoney, 9-30
Sr. Victoria Stafford, 10-5
Sr. Laurentia Harrison, 10-12
“Preserving Their Legacy
Unselfish love of their neighbor is the legacy of those who died caring for others during the epidemic. The Church of the Yellow Fever Martyrs is a historic museum to that love. We welcome all our Friends and Travelers, hoping our Church and Museum will give you a sense of our history and heritage. . .”
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