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By Prof. J. Hunter League

Organization of a church by Rev. Thos. C. Stuart in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. On Sept. 12th, 1841, a congregation having previously applied to Rev. T. C. Stuart, evangelist, for organization, met and were regularly organized as "Spring Hill" Old School Presbyterian Church, to be under the care of the Tombeckbie Presbytery. The following were the first or original members:

Benjamin Godfrey, Sara A. Godfrey, John H. Miller, Sr., Jane P. Miller, Marjorie Miller, John H. Miller, Jr., Eliza Miller. Total 7.

Rev. W. V. Frierson, Sr., commenced his labors as stated supply on Jan. 1st., 1842. (The two Friersons are buried in the lot adjoining that of "Father" Stuart in the Pontotoc Cemetery.) On Nov. 25th, 1843, Rev. W. V. Frierson, Sr., was ordained pastor of Spring Hill church, by committee from Chickasaw Presbytery consisting of Rev. J. Wetherby and Rev. Thos. C. Stuart. The membership of the church was now 32. The additions as follows:

B. G. Christopher, Sarah B. Christopher, Sarah Miller, Margaret Miller, John Gray, Rebecca Gray, Loduska Gray, Ann E. Gray, Dr. John Dozier, Louisa Dozier, Josiah Fulton, Mary A. P. Fulton, James D. Brame, Mary F. F. King, Mary A. Frierson (wife of the pastor), Henry Wood, Wm. M. White, David F. Wilson, Isaac White, Jane White, Martha White, Margaret White, Robert P. Miller, Caroline Miller. Total, 32.

After some years the Spring Hill congregation decided to remove the church to a point more accessible or nearer the center of membership. In looking out for a location for the new church building, a point on the Pontotoc and Tupelo road, the present site was selected. The ground was donated by Colonel Freeman or his son, T. H. Freeman. The Colonel lived where Roscoe Simms now lives. Work was immediately begun on the house. The lumber for the building was sawed in Mubby bottom, about three miles west of the church. It was of yellow poplar. The main girders are 56 feet long, in one piece, one foot square. Just what a task it was to get such timbers to the place, and then the mortising in of sleepers, corner posts and steadying and the erection of the building.

Among the membership there were fortunately two fine carpenters, John R. and William A. Cozby, also B. L. Frierson, a cabinet maker. Besides, every plantation had its negro carpenters, and negro labor could be supplied from any farm. David A. Wilson was a deacon in the church, and was made chairman? of the building committee. He was a man of wealth, and when anything was needed on the building he furnished it immediately and managed the whole building operations.

There arose a dissension about the location of the building place of the church. This dissension was led by John Gray in the session. He with others wanted the church to remain at the old Spring Hill point. This dissension became so sharp that John Gray with 13 members of Spring Hill church, asked to be dismissed as a colony to be held as Spring Hill church. This request was refused by the session, John Gray entering his protest against the action of the session. All the dissenters asked for letters of dismission from the church, to join Pontotoc Presbyterian church, which was granted.

In about the year 1856 the church building at Spring Hill was blown down by a storm which swept through Pontotoc, known as the Mallett storm. The date of this storm was Friday, March 21st, 1855, when the Baptist church at Pontotoc was also blown down.

After this storm and the loss of the building, a colony was dismissed from Pontotoc church to organize a new church, which after so much turmoil was named Harmony. A house was built at the place where the late Charlie Pound died a few years since, about eight miles east of Pontotoc.

Esq. Joe Wiley then lived in the immediate vicinity of the church, and was one of its strongest supporters. Esq. Wiley's daughters and his son, Dr. Joe Wiley, were eminent persons. One of the daughters married Rev. J. A. Kimmons; another one, Dr. Frazier, of Tupelo, and one, Robt. Frazier. Doctor Wiley married Miss Sue Patton, daughter of the noted Dr. Patton, of Tupelo. Harmony church had for its pastors, Rev. W. V. Frierson, Rev. John H. Miller, Rev. J. H. Gaillard, and later Rev. J. D. West.

The Harmony church survived for about thirty-five years, until the removal by death and change of location the membership dwindled so much that the remaining members requested that the church be dissolved by presbytery, which was done, and the seven members were consigned to Zion church and received into fellowship Nov. 14th, 1886.

The building at Zion was completed in the spring of 1848. The church was painted pure white of the old-time whiteness of that day. It was called "the white church" by many and finally became known as White Zion, which name it has always borne. Immediately upon completion of the building, Chickasaw Presbytery convened there April 15, 1848, Rev. L. B. Gaston, of Oxford, Moderator, at which session Rev. John A. Kimmons was licensed to preach. Doctor Daniel Baker, the noted divine, remained over and held a most successful meeting.

In those good old days it was quite the custom to hold camp meetings and Zion congregation was no exception. In about the years 1852 to 1854 there were held camp meetings, when the church yard was covered with tents. The people assembled and spent some ten days living sociably and religiously in tents. These meetings were fraught with so much good. Perhaps none was better than that of 1854, when the noted L. B. Gaston of College Hill church, Lafayette county, did much of the preaching, assisting Rev. W. V. Frierson, the pastor.

Rev. W. V. Frierson was a pastor indeed, living in the Zion community, first at a place two miles northwest of the church, known as the Elliotte place. It is now owned by Mr. Hall, of Tupelo. Mr. Frierson's two youngest children were born there. He then moved one mile further northeast, where he built and settled the place known as the old League homestead. He lived there until the fall of 1860, when he sold his place to Archibald League, of Greenville, S.C. Mr. Frierson was one of the good old staunch Presbyterians. He knew fully the rules, regulations and doctrines of his church and stood by them. He was a firm, positive man, stern in his manner. He spoke the truth, lived the truth and was a Christian indeed, as firm as a rock, who made his religion felt. All who came in contact with him had the greatest respect and deference for him. No one would dare to profane the name of God in his presence, nor speak lightly of religion. By his great self-respect and decision of character he stood a man among men, a characteristic of the Friersons.

He had two daughter and five sons. M. Wilson and Thomas S. W., his two older sons, were candidates for the ministry when they enlisted in the civil war and both died in the conflict. His third son, W. V. Frierson, Jr., after his service in the war and return to us recovered from a severe wound. He became a teacher in Pontotoc and vicinity and later entered the ministry. He was so well known and so much respected and loved in the Zion church and in and around Pontotoc. The Frierson characteristics were toned down in him by the gentle and lovable nature of his mother, making his a most lovable character. The universal verdict of all who knew him was, "We have never known a purer and better man." Oh, what a father and what a son!

The whole life of W. V. Frierson, Jr., was fraught with usefulness. Volumes might be written in telling of his many acts of kindness and love. He died in Columbus, Mississippi, superintendent of the Palmer Orphanage, where perhaps he did his greatest work. His three sons, John F., W. V. Jr., and Van, with two daughters, are now filling places of usefulness and honor.

The name Frierson belongs to Zion. Boston Lee Frierson, a ruling elder from the earliest days, was one of the most useful and best men the church ever had. He was indeed a Frierson of the old firm type. He raised a family of four sons and three daughters in Zion church, who have gone out to bless the world. Col. A. A. Frierson, the great musician, might be called the "sweet singer of Zion."

The name of Miller is very prominent in the founding of this church. There is J. H. Miller, Sr., of "Fighting Parson" fame, who was cruelly murdered by the Federal troops during the war, while on his way to preach in Ripley; his son or nephew, John H. Miller; Robert P. Miller, the second sheriff of Pontotoc county, and others of this noted family, both men and women, who have had so much to do with our history and pioneer activities in all walks of life. The Millers, too, were of the South Carolina puritan stock, staunch and strong in the faith of their fathers.

J. O. Fulton was the first clerk of the session, which he served most efficiently from 1841 to 1852, eleven years. Since then the clerks of the session have been: B. L. Frierson, 1852 to 1879, 27 years; J. F. Tankersley, 1879 to 1898; J. H. League, 1898 to date (1925), 27 years.

Among the many prominent ones in the church, we do not fail to note that R. Gilderoy Porter was a member in the year 1848. The church never had a more loyal member than this splendid old Irishman.

The name Witherspoon is very prominent in the early days of Zion. Dr. Witherspoon, Mrs. Sarah A. Witherspoon and her sons, P. F. W., who was a teacher in the old Chickasaw College at Pontotoc; J. G. W. and Thomas Dwight Witherspoon, who was licensed to preach at Zion church. Very soon after this license, the call came for the loyal ones to enter the war in the great civil conflict, and Rev. T. D. Witherspoon entered as chaplain in Davis' Brigade, C. S. A. He stayed right with the boys all the time, carrying his rifle on the field of battle and comforting and cheering them, taking the hard fare of "one of the boys." He preached to them and buried the dead. After the hard struggle was over, he became the noted Doctor Witherspoon of Lexington, Ky., and St. Louis, Mo., and filled a great field of usefulness.

Another prominent preacher from old Zion church was Rev. Jas. K. P. Newton. On Sept. 7th, 1867, he was received into the membership on profession of his faith. He was at this time a candidate for the ministry; was attending the Home Institute school, taught at Zion by Prof. J. D. Anderson and P. F. Witherspoon. Mr. Newton was licensed to preach five years later and became an eminent divine, doing his greatest work in Texas.

A Remarkable Incident -- In about the year 1859 Wilson P. Murry, having removed to the state of Tennessee, requested Mr. B. L. Frierson to raise and ship the body of his wife, Elizabeth A. Murry, who had been buried in Zion cemetery, to Mr. Murry's new home. When the body was raised from the grave, it was found to be petrified. All the features were perfectly natural. Those who knew Mrs. Murry saw every feature of her face and her hair just as natural as when she was buried. Hundreds of people came to Mr. Frierson's to see the body. It was about three times the former weight and about as chalk in firmness.

In giving account of the many noted ones in Zion church as laymen, there is William Horan, one of the greatest personal workers; a man with whom the church always stood first; a man of God indeed. Who does not remember and love "Uncle Billy" Horan? Then comes the honored and much loved Benjamin Godfrey, B. G. Christopher, Dr. Miller, John Gray, Isaac White, J. W. Crumby, Dr. I. T. Suggs, Jas. D. Brame, I. N. White, Capt. N. A. Lankford, P. F. Witherspoon, Mason Anderson, Archibald League, Dr. H. A. Coleman, Prof. Jas. D. Anderson, Robert Blakely, Robt. Kirkpatrick, Dr. H. C. Orr, J. F. Tankersley, B. F. Rasberry, Washington Brandon. Just such an array of noble men founded Zion church on The Rock Jesus Christ. Can we wonder as we stand today and look upon this Great Beacon Light as a true monument to God's Eternal Truth?

Now we come to the preachers. Rev. W. V. Frierson, the founder, we have already discussed. Next comes Rev. J. H. Gaillard, the beloved pastor. He lives in Zion neighborhood, with and in the hearts of his people. He was truly the shepherd of his flock. He led them day by day; was perfectly familiar in every home. The little children loved him. Just what can be done by a true pastor was fully demonstrated by this close union, and with the preacher in the flock. He was with us during the civil war, that great conflict. Just how his people looked to him for sympathy and help in the time of so much distress, but they never looked in vain. He would go regularly to the appointments, with just a few old men, the ladies and little children. He would call special days of fasting and prayer. Brother Gaillard taught the school in the old school house at the church, and was with the young people on all occasions. He was always at the sickbed, and in case of death was the first to offer comfort and sympathy. He also attended and officiated at all of the marriages. In fact, when we want to think of a church with a pastor in the ideal way, we just think of old Zion and Brother Gaillard. Zion passed through a trying time during the civil war, but it had the blessing of this beloved pastor, who came to offer comfort when the sad news was received that husband or brother had been slain. Thus he was indeed a comforter. Brother Gaillard served as pastor from 1860 to 1871, eleven years. He moved from here to Pontotoc, and from thence in the early 80's to Baldwyn, Prentiss county, where he died. He was also a native of South Carolina.

Rev. F. Patton, having located at Tupelo, became the pastor of Zion church in the year 1871. This noted and learned divine preached the Word with credit to himself and profit to the church for six years.

The church was then under Rev. John A. Simmons, evangelist, for about one year, 1878. For the next ten years the church was supplied by Rev. J. H. Gaillard and Dr. Patton as stated supplies.

In the year 1884, Rev. W. V. Frierson, son of the founder, became our pastor. He served the church most faithfully for some fifteen years.

Then the preaching service became somewhat irregular, as for short periods the church had stated supplies W. I. Synott, F. L. Allen, George Steen, J. M. Batte, 1902; R. L. Nicholson, 1903-04; D. L. Barr, 1905; J. J. McInnis, 1906-08; John Goff, 1909; L. R. Simpson, 1909-11; W. V. Frierson, 1913-16; Geo. P. Scott, 1917-19; W. A. Downing, 1919-23; R. W. Hardy, 1923. Total 13.

In the scope of about 25 years, Zion church has had 13 preachers. This so often changing of preachers, while it seems unavoidable with us, has been detrimental to the best interests of the church. No church can fully succeed without a permanent pastor. A church will never rise above its pastor in Divine life. The pastor --the shepherd-- must lead his flock. The close union and true love which must exist between them is established after years of service together. They must know each other and be fully established in faith an confidence. It takes time to establish this love and confidence.

Beside all these good, true, noble men of God who have served us regularly for stated times in the ministration of the Word, we have had from year to year good and noted men to come during the summer season. Among these we would remember Rev. J. D. Fleming, the Presbyterial evangelist, who came with his large tent and preached for about ten days. Much lasting good was accomplished. Later we had Dr. John Goff, the greatest evangelist we have ever known. It will take an eternity to tell what great good we have received from many such meetings.

In these later years, as we retrospect the past and think of the many good, true, noble Christian men and women who were once with us, but have gone to their rich reward, it makes us sad to think that they are with us no more. But their work will live on. And now, my dear brethren of today; may their lives be an inspiration to us to labor faithfully in the vineyard of the Lord.

In closing this brief account of old Zion church and what she has been to the world, we are ready to say that no place in all this part of the world has produced more good men and women, who have been a blessing to humanity. We thank God for Zion. She has been a blessing to the world; the great Spiritual Light; the great influence for good; the many blessings flowing out from her, an influence shaping the destines of so many men --her greatest product -- the great, true and noble men. We feel that the men of our day do not measure up to that high standard attained by our fathers and grandfathers, but we can at least be true to the cause of our blessed Master.

God's blessing is with us. He will not let this good old church fail. So now let us labor on in faith and look to God for his blessing.

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