Old  Spring Hill Church

Old Spring Hill ChurchPhoto courtesy of Rex Jones.

 

 

A Church in the Wildwood

By Harold Graham

It is April 2004 and you are in a remote area of southeastern  Newton County. You turn right off the public highway onto a narrow lane that  leads through oak trees and thickets. A minute later you see your  destination: first the ancient cemetery, then the simple frame church, all neatly  preserved in 1950 style as if the congregation is waiting for you.

You listen. Only silence, except for the complaint of a blue jay from a  century-old oak tree. But you expect any moment to hear a congregation of voices  break out in the hymn

Oh, come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale
No place is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

Their voices, however, have been silent for half a century now.

 

Old Spring Hill Cornerstone

 

When John and Young Edward Wall moved with their families from Perry County,  Mississippi, to the area south of Hickory in Newton County in 1836, they set  about to clear the forest and till the land. They were soon joined by many other  families along the hills and hollows of the Souinlovey watershed. Virtually all  the families were farmers and tilled the bottoms and hillsides with cotton,  corn, wheat, and other crops.

Pictured Left:  Cornerstone of Old Spring Hill Methodist Church, ca. 1838

Religion was wanting and the Wall brothers sought to build a church and to  recruit a minister to serve it. They named the church Spring Hill. According to  Browns History of Newton County, John Carstarphen and Joel C. Carstarphen were  the first ministers. John Carstarphen patented land in both Newton and Jasper  Counties on January 5, 1841. He apparently died before 1850, and John Wall took  in and cared for his widow Ann and her son Joel. Following the death of his  father, Joel Carstarphen filled the pulpit on Sundays and taught grammar school  to the children of the community during the week. WPA Records indicate that  brothers James and Joel Carstarphen preached in this church. James Cartarsphen  was an early settler of Jasper County, but it is not clear whether he was a  brother or son of the elder John Carstarphen. James patented land in Newton  County in 1859.

This church was likely the first Methodist church in the county. The first  building was constructed on land donated by Edward Young Wall and given the name  Spring Hill for the hillside that is was built on and for a nearby spring.

The first members in the church no doubt were from both Newton and Jasper  Counties. While we do not have a record of the first worshippers, the pioneer  families who lived nearby included (in addition to the Walls) Henry P. Atwood,  John and James F. Dupriest, Hopkins, Perrys, Tisdales, Dearings, and Caraways.

The first meetinghouse was a frame building measuring approximately 30 x 40  feet. A cemetery was started at the rear of the meetinghouse. This meetinghouse  and cemetery served the community for the better part of two decades, but was  poorly situated on a hillside with a marsh at the edge of the cemetery. It was  then abandoned for a new location about a mile away.

        Oh, come to the church in the wildwood,
        To the trees where the wild flowers bloom;
        Where the parting hymn will be chanted,
        We will weep by the side of the tomb.

New Spring Hill Church, as the second church was called, was likely built about  1857, as the first burials are from that date. It remained in use until the  1950s, then, because of declining membership, church services were  discontinued.

New Spring Hill Church was built on land belonging to Young Edward (Ed) Wall,  but was only donated as a church site in 1884 and after his oldest son, James  Appleton Wall, came in possession of the land.

New Spring Hill Methodist  Church with classic double doors. Although Allan Jones states that the double  doors were not used for that purpose, in early church buildings women were  expected to enter by one door and sit on that side and men were expected to  enter by the opposite door and sit on that side. No mixing was permitted.

New Spring Hill Church still stands today. Except for some natural weathering,  little has changed from its appearance in 1950, thanks in great measure to Rex Jones, who purchased the property, and to his parents, Allan and Sandra Jones, all whom  have dedicated much of their time and resources in keeping the church and nearby  cemetery in mint 1950 condition.

A record no doubt was kept of the early church members. That record, however,  has apparently been lost to the ages. The first available minute book was  published in 1888, and for the most part contains few records earlier than 1870.  Sixty-two names are listed at the beginning of this book. These are given below  with their initial date of membership:

    John F. Dearing --1870

    Oliver Hopkins --1868

    Abner Perry, n/d

    S. B. Avery 1881

    L. P. Dearing 1874

    H. V. Hopkins 1874

    W. E. Hopkins 1874

    Cora L. Hale 1888

    Edwin L. Dearing 1884

    Mary L. Dearing 1885

    Ella J. Dearing 1888

    F. M. Wall 1864

    J. E. McHenry 1881

    J. P. Wall, n/d

    W. F. Parks 1881

    Geo. W. Wall, n/d

    W. W. Cox --1870

    Julia Cox 1856

    Nancy Hopkins 1826

    B. E. Caraway 1849

    L. V. Cox 1888

    M. S. Adcock 1850

    L. C. Adcock 1888

    Zadie McHenry 1881

    Lou E. Wall 1884

    L. M. Avery 1870

    J. D. Morgan 1873

    Sallie Morgan 1873

    Leroy Hopson 1881

    S. Y. Wall, Jr. 1887

    B. A. Dennis, n/d

    S. S. Hughes 1888

    W. D. Hopkins 1887

    E. C. Wall 1888

    Thornton Williams, n/d

    H. C. Adcock, n/d

    W. N. Raines, n/d

    Sarah Perry, n/d

    Mary Wall, n/d

    Elisabeth Wall, n/d

    Susan Tucker, n/d

    Elizer Varnell, n/d

    Mary Williams1870

    S. A. E. Gibson, n/d

    M. E. McClindon, n/d

    Anna Hopson, n/d

    Nanie Hopkins, n/d

    Parillie McClinton, n/d

    R. A. E. Raines1874

    Mary E. Adcock, n/d

    Sarah McHenry, n/d

    Nannie Gibson 1883

    Henry E. Sharp, n/d

    Louie Wall, n/d

    Bulah James 1884

    Emma Gibson Hamrick 1886

    Mrs. Z. A. Dennis, n/d

    L. A. Tisdale 1886

    Sallie Parks, n/d

    Mattie Cornette 1888

    N. A. Wall Sandford 1888

    Arrina Adcock 1888

References

  1. Brown, A. J., History of Newton County, Mississippi, from 1834 to 1894,  Clarion-Ledger Company, Jackson, Mississippi, 1894
  2. Personal Knowledge of Allan and Rex Jones
  3. Spring Hill Episcopal Methodist Church Register, 1888
  4. Strebeck, Lois Tessmer, Newton County Mississippi Cemeteries, Volume II, Dogwood  Printing, Ozark, Missouri, 1993
  5. WPA Records, ca. 1936

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