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Camp Ground Church of Pontotoc County, Mississippi

The following is from a book entitled "Story of Pontotoc" published in 1931 by Pontotoc Progress Print. The book was edited by E.T. Winston and the particular Chapter (XII) Camp Ground Church is in the section entitled ';The Pioneers' and was written by Professor John A. Donaldson. In assuming the task of trying to give a record of the history of this church and community, I knew it would be a difficult task, but I did not fully appreciate the enormity of it until I got into it. However, it has been a work of love, and here I wish to make grateful acknowledgements to Mrs. Julika Price, Mr. W.W. Woods, Mr. B.D. Anderson, Mr. Robert A. Calloway, and others without whose help this paper would have been much less accurate that it is.

In 1836 in an Indian hut that stood just south of the present church building the Mount Pleasant church was organized with perhaps the following members and maybe others. C.W. Martin, James R. Calloway, Bracket Owen, Robert H. Bonner, William P. Chatham, a Mr. McEwin, Stephen Daggett, William Wilks, Wiley Hubbard and wife, a family by the name of Jeames, and one by the name of Rhodes. Of course, the female members of these families were members too.

When you and I used to read in our histories how the early Puritans had to go to church and carry their guns to protect them from the Indians, we were filled with awe, especially when we gazed on the picture that accompanied this historical statement, but when it is told us that those who founded this church and first worshipped here had to guard their meetings with guns against the Indians, who lived in this neighborhood and still claimed this as their country, we think of it as a matter of fact occurrence and pass it without a second thought. But we are told by those who know that not only the first attempts to worship had to be guarded with guns, but for several years it was necessary to have armed guards around this place at each time of worship.

The first house of worship was built of logs and was built by James R. Calloway and his sons. If I have been correctly informed, this is the fourth house of worship that has been built here, besides at least two school houses. Two of them having been blown away by cyclones.

Some of you may wonder why the writer speaks of this as Mount Pleasant and not as Camp Ground. Soon after the organization of the church, there was a camp meeting held here. If my memory serves me right, Aunt Martha Hubbard, one of the first members of this church, told me that the first quarterly conference, following a camp meeting, was held here in 1839 and I find on record in the Chancery Clerk's office in the town of Pontotoc, where James R. Calloway, a Methodist preacher and the grandfather of Robert A. Calloway, deeded to seven trustees, Robert H. Bonner, Cicero M. Calloway, William P. Chatham, C.W. martin, O.C. Thorpe, C.M McDonald and Bracket Owen, eight acres of land in the form of a square as the Campt Ground of the Mount Pleasant church. This plot of ground is the South East corner of the North West quarter of Section 28, T. !0, R. # East and was given September 14, 1841.

At the fourth quarterly conference of the Pontotoc circuit in the year 1856, Stephen Daggett was elected recording steward and received from his predecessor, James C. Reed, two books contained the records of the minutes of the quarterly conferences for Pontotoc circuit from the year 1836, probably the first meeting of the circuit. Brother Daggett served as recording steward until 1864. Then he was succeeded by Brother R.C. Cunningham. During that stormy period there was much confusion, and one of the books was lost. Brother Daggett was reelected recording steward the following year, and received back into his possession only one of the books. From this book he transcribed the names of the Presiding Elders and preachers in charge from 1836 to 1881. Here follows there names:

This writer does not deem it necessary to extend this list of names of presiding elders and preachers further. Through the courtesy of Mr. Robert A. Calloway, the writer has had access to his father's class book that covers a period of twenty years, from 1850 to 1870. Mr. Calloway's father, Cicero M. Calloway, was class leader of this church during that period. This book was so well kept and contained so much valuable information concerning the Camp Ground church that I have taken the liberty to copy from it. I did not feel justified in copying all of it but I have copied the names of this church in 1850, and some others that were added during the twenty years following. Male members in 1850:

Female members in 1850:

Bracket Owen's name does not occur among the names of the members listed in this book until in 1851, and yet he was one of the charter members and one of the trustees of the Camp Ground in 1841. In 1851 are the names of:

and later on we find the names of others who have been well known in the community, and whose descendants, some of them are here today, as:

and many others which I regret space does not permit me to copy. I find also in this class book church letters of Lemuel Roye and family and a church letter of John Whitten given by his army chaplain. During the war of the sixties there are records of "killed in the army" written opposite the names of several of the members. The C.W. Martin, mentioned as one of the first members of the church and one of the members of the CampGround was a resident of Pontotoc in the recollection of many who are living today, and a member of the mercantile firm of Duke & Martin. O.C. Thorpe, another trustee was a citizen of Pontotoc also, and the father-in-law of the late I.P. Carr and the grandfather of Miss Martha Carr, Miss Ellen Carr and Mrs. W. M. Huntington. I have been unable to find definitely who C. McDonald was unless he was a local Methodist preacher who lived somewhere north of the town of Pototoc. William P. Chatham settled was later known as the Sam Pinso place.

Of course, old and middle-aged people remember who Bracket Owen, Cicero M. Calloway, and Robert Bonner were. Bracket Owen settled about a mile south of here, raised a large family all boys but one who was married to Neal S. Smith. Bracket Owen has many grandchildren, etc., in this county, among them H.B. Owen of the H.B. Owen Tie Company of Pontotoc. Cicero M. Calloway lived just west of this church and was the father of Robert A. Calloway who still lives in this neighborhood, and among other children (all of whom except Robert are dead) was one son Reuben Calloway who was the Methodist preacher who died in the service of his Master. And last but not least of these trustees, was the sainted Robert H. Bonner, a local Methodist preacher, one of the first members of this church, who settled about a mile east of this church where he erected a water grist mill that served a patronage extending over a large part of this country. There are many men living today who as boys used to go to Bonner's mill. In my boyhood days this mill was operated by Mr. Rufus N. Price. Mr. Price was for many years one of the leading members of this church. James R. Calloway, the man who deeded the land for the Camp Ground, was a local Methodist preacher, charter member of this church, and one of the leading citizens of this community. He lies buried in the old family burying ground about a mile west of this church.

William B. Wilks was a pioneer in this community. He came here in 1832 or 1833, built a log cabin on what is now known as the Lidsey Brooks place, and brought his family in 1834. He was followed a year or two later by his brother-in-law, Billy Cooper and Wiley Hubbard and his father-in-law Dempey Hubbard. Billy Wilks had one son, Minor Wilks, and two daughters that I know of, Mrs. Amanda Euterberg and Mrs. Ann Brooks. Mr. Wiley Hubbard lived for several years on what is now known as the Bill Montgomery place, and later settled on land about a mile and a half north of this church adjoining his brothers-in law Billy Wilks and Billy Cooper. Uncle Billy Cooper, as he was familiarly called, settled on what we know as the Frank Webster old place. He was a brick mason by trade and the brick work of Chickasaw College stands as a monument of this skill and effiency as a workman. He and his brothers-in-law, Wiley Hubbard and Billy Wilks worked together. Hubbard and his boys burned the brick and did the hauling, Wilks did the carpenter work, and Cooper and his son Mark did the brick work. Nearly all the early brick buildings in Pontotoc, including the old court house and the old Baptist church were built by them.

Uncle Billy had a daughter, Mrs. Zulika Price who died at Algoma since this first appeared in print. Mrs. Price was in her ninety-third year. She remembered readily many of the early happenings of this community, and the writer of this paper is indebted to her for many of the facts contained herein. She came to this country with her parents when a small child, and attended the early schools taught at this place and the early services of this church. She remembered distinctly the early camp meetings which were held here and which gave this church the name Camp Ground. Nearly all the Methodist families in the town of Pontotoc and in other parts of the county had "tents" here and came every year to spend a while in the old-fashion camp meetings that meant so much to the spiritual life of the country. If you and I could today roll back the scroll of time and look for a while on some of the scenes that have been enacted on the grounds, it would be a revelation to many of us. How many people living and dead have learned to know Jesus as their professional Savior on these grounds none of us can even guess!

Besides these first members of this church there have been and are many now living, to whom this church is sacred. In addition to Bonner's, the Owens, the Calloways, the Daggetts, the Wilkses, and the Hubbards, there were the Woodses, the Johnsons, the Johnstons, the Browns, the Jones, the Royes, the Prices, the Teters, the Wilsons, the Jacksons, the Mathises, the Brookses, the Websters, the Mathewsons, and many others that neither time not space will me to mention.

Aside from the church this is historic ground. Only a few hundred yards east of this building runs the famous Natchez Trace. Evidences of this historic highway may be seen today by everyone interested enough to look for it. This writer has been told by old settlers, among them Mr. Allison Calloway, Mrs. Martha Hubbard, old Uncle Abe Duke, and Uncle Jeff Hancock (the last two negroes) that the council house of the Chickasaw Indians where the treaty was consumated between the United States government and these Indians, was just up on the hill on the north side of the road that leads east from here. There is still another reason for believing this council house was here. The Natchez Trace runs almost straight from Houston to this point and makes an abrupt turn. It is hardly probably that anyone would run even a trail straight for some distance and then make an abrupt turn in it unless there was some objective to run to or some physical obstruction to cause this turn. There is not physical obstruction, and I take it that the council house was the objective.

This place has not only been a religious center but an educational center. Mrs. Price tells me that there was a school here when she was a very small girl, and that directly after she came here, eighty-eight years ago, she attended school at this place to a Mr. Godfrey. Other teachers who taught here were William Kilpatrick, A Mr. Floe, Summerfield Pearson, Mr. Edmund Winston, the grandfather of our Mr. E.T. Winston, W. B. Montgomery, Miss Nettie Montgomery before she was married and afterwards as Mrs. Goode, James Bonner, Bob Sadler, and many others. There are many still living who attended school here.

I am sure you will pardon me if I shall tell you some of the persons and happenings that come within my own recollection. I remember to have come to church here with my widowed mother along with the other small children left to her care. We climbed down out of the wagon, followed her into the house, and all sat down on the same seat. When the congregation was called to pray, we all knelt reverently with her, and neither of us dared to look back to see who was coming in. Among those who attended this church and took an active part were S.H. Woods, R.N. Price, L.R. Brooks, the Roye family, Marion Combs, old Mr. Collier, the Owens, Mr. Allison Calloway, Dr. and Mrs. Mathewson, the Joneses, the Hubbards, John C. Johnston and wife, and among the then young men were Tom Webster, John and Henry Wilson, the Johnson boys, the Woods boys, Cain Hubbard, John Ritchey, Neely Jones, Frank Jackson, Will White, Dick Brown, Robert Calloway, my own older brothers and Uncle Higgins boys, and many others. Among the preachers that stand out in my memory more than others were James R. Roberson, N.G. Augustus, and A.W. Gibson. I have a very fond place in my memory for all of these, especially A.W. Gibson under whose preaching I was led to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Well do I remember his earnestness, zeal and enthusiasm, and the fervor with which he preached the Word of God and I feel sure that there are others here who have the same feeling for him that I have. For him and such preachers the Lord has a crown of righteousness.

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