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W. P. A. History of Pontotoc County, Mississippi


Old Settlements

          Reverend Joseph Bullen was sent out March 26, 1799 as a missionary to the Chickasaw Indians, in the settlement known as ZION; here his son established a school in July of the same yearAcross the road stood an Indian Council House. From notes contained in Bullen's diary historians say the site of the school and primitive church is the house of Topulkah, where the treaty of Pontotoc was made.

           Richard Hyde, one of Blackbeard's men, Christopher Osborne, and James Gunn lived at this time in the Zion Community. A log church and schoolhouse were used by  later settlers and a tract of land for a cemetery was given by the Osborne family in 1830.  The present Baptist Church site was deeded in 1831 by W. B. Fuqua. A large two story frame structure was erected, the lower floor for church services and the upper as a Masonic lodge.  The building was unpainted and blackened with age--hence the name Black Zion
           The casual traveler on the Valley road between Pontotoc and Verona will notice the large cemetery across from Zion church.  A close observer who enters this silent city of the dead will read with interest the dates and names engraved on tombs showing it to be one of the oldest in the country.  An appropriate inscription is:

Beneath these rugged trees, these cedars shade,

Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
The dear forefathers of Zion sleep."

Photograph,  "Col. R Bolton's Drug Store"

            George Moreland, Commercial Appeal Columnist, (see Chapter 23, Professional and Civic Leaders) writes the following reminiscent article on Zion:

            "I was born January 26, 1881, a quarter of a mile  southeast of  Black Zion on what is known as the Bryant Place.  At that time the community was known as Oak Ridge. (I lived) there until I was five years old and I remember distinctly the Lowrey family in the Oakridge Community.  They were fine pioneer people.  The "George" in my name is for the head of the great family, George Lowrey; the Matthew is for the most loveable man I ever knew, Matthew E. Gilmer, who is buried at White Zion.  Children have ideals they worship - mine was this man.  My first schooling was in a log building in this community, taught by George Johnson.  He was related to the Johnsons who operated Plymouth School.  The Barr family were also prominent citizens of the community, in a beautiful home northwest of the old church."

          "The Joe Hesters, with two children, lived in the community.  Their first names were Boss and Eva.  Boss married John Oglesby, who was the sheriff of Lee County. After the death of Boss, John Oglesby married Eva.  My first memory of church was at Black Zion - a two story building.  The second story was used for a Masonic lodge, where father was worshipful master, and mother was prominent in Eastern Star.  Once mother thought she could take me to a meeting because I was too young to remember.  I watched the secret conclaves and as soon as the meeting was over, told the proceedings, to the surprise and chagrin of my parents."

          "Joshua Pitts was the pioneer preacher of our community.  The Baptizing Hole was in Chiwapa bottom.  Once Jeff McCoy got on a limb to watch a baptizing.  In the middle of the service the limb broke and Jeff was precipitated in the water among the supplicants.  My old home was destroyed in the Tupelo Storm, nothing now where it stood, but the old vermillion hills of Sargent Prentiss fame. " (1)

(1)George M. Moreland , columnist, Commercial Appeal, Memphis Tennessee           


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