Excerpts from “History of FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Hazlehurst, Mississippi”
by John T. Armstrong, Jr.
In 1832 evangelists organized a Presbyterian Church in Gallatin, a community located four miles west of what is now Hazlehurst. The Gallatin Church prospered until 1858, when the railroad was constructed to the east, and Hazlehurst was settled and later incorporated. On July 29, 1860, Reverend D. A. Campbell of the Presbytery of Clinton (Mississippi) founded the Hazlehurst Presbyterian Church. With the advent of the railroad Gallatin declined, and by order of Presbytery the Gallatin Presbyterian Church was dissolved on March 11, 1866; the congregation of approximately twenty-five adults joined the Hazlehurst Church.
The initial entry in the Session Book of the Hazlehurst Church is as follows: “At a congregational meeting held on the fourth Sabbath of July, A.D. 1860 in the town of Hazlehurst, Reverend D. A. Campbell of the Presbytery of Clinton, of the Synod of Mississippi, proceeded to organize a church, to be received under the care of said Presbytery. The following persons were enrolled as members: M.W.Trawick, Elijah Peyton, A. W. Griffing, Mrs. Elizabeth Griffing, Mrs. Phebe I. Griffing, Mrs. Lucy M. Campbell, Mrs. Matilda Peyton.”
The house of worship was completed in 1867. Although the structure has been enlarged and remodeled several times, the original building remains almost intact. The first building consisted of what is now solely the sanctuary. Exterior brick were added in 1941, and the educational annex, to the rear of the Church, was dedicated in 1959.
The steeple bell was cast especially for the Church in 1867, a gift from Miss Isabella Faler. In 1901, the Ladies Aid Society purchased the sanctuary chandelier. The fixture originally burned acetylene gas, but in 1920 was wired for electricity. The pulpit furniture was donated to the Church in the early 1870s by the A. Mangold family.
When the Church was remodeled in 1941, the present sanctuary pews were installed. They are of walnut and are the third set of pews to be used in the Church. At the end of each pew is a small plate bearing the name of the donor.
The sanctuary windows were presented to the Church in 1964 as a memorial to the ministry of Samuel Craighead Caldwell, D.D., long time minister of this Church. The three stained glass windows in the Fellowship Hall today were in the sanctuary behind the pulpit from 1901 until 1964.
A memorial tablet in the vestibule was dedicated to the memory of Reverend Martin W. Trawick, the first minister of the Church, 1864-1874. A second memorial tablet was placed in remembrance of Samuel Craighead Caldwell, D.D., who served as minister for forty-two years, 1888-1930.
Sixteen regularly installed ministers have nurtured the spiritual growth of the congregation over these one hundred and fifty-five years since 1860. Our current Interim Pastor, the Rev. Larry C. Mills, has ministered to the flock for six years, and counting. This Church has been blessed with ministers who have faithfully preached the Word of God from the pulpit.
Image: Front cover of The First Presbyterian Church, Hazlehurst, Mississippi, 1860-1985, by Allen Cabaniss, VDM.
Henry Rowland Weed was born in Ballston, New York on July 20, 1789. He received his college education at Union College in Schenectady, NY, graduating in 1812, and prepared for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating there in 1815. He was ordained by the Presbytery of New York on January 4th, 1816 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Jamaica, Long Island, NY, where he served from 1816 until 1822.
His next charge was as pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Albany, NY, 1822-1829. Leaving the pulpit ministry for a time, he was employed as an Agent of the Board of Education, 1830-1832, after which he returned to the pulpit, first serving as stated supply for the First Presbyterian church of Wheeling, Virginia (later West Virginia). That arrangement led to his being called by that church and he continued there in Wheeling until 1870, his longest pastorate, though in his final years he was infirm and his associate often took over the duties of the pulpit.
Alfred Nevin notes that “Dr. Weed was an able, earnest, faithful and successful preacher. He contributed occasionally anonymous articles to the religious periodicals of the Church, including the Biblical Repertory, but avoided regular authorship. [Between 1829-1868, there were 39 articles that appeared anonymously in The BiblicalRepertory; there was also one article by Rev. Weed which appeared under his own name]. For the use of his own Bible class, he published a series of questions on the Confession of Faith, which was afterwards published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication. Rev. Weed died at Philadelphia, on December 14, 1870.
We may never know which of the otherwise anonymous articles in Princeton’s Biblical Repertory were authored by Rev. Weed, but from another source, we do at least have some interesting insights into the man’s character in his early ministry :
From the Long Island Daily Press, Tuesday, January 29, 1929, Section A.
1815: Rev. Henry R. Weed, fresh from Princeton Seminary was called to the Presbyterian church. Weed discouraged the practice of giving wines and liquors at funerals. Time out of mind, in humbler families rum was handed from one to another as they stood out of doors about the house, each man drinking out of the mouth of the upturned flask. Wine was passed to the women within the house. Captain Codwise who lived at Beaver Pone had a cask of choice wine in his cellar for years, reserved for his funeral. The last and most distinguished occasion in Jamaica for thus regaling the attendants was the funeral of Rufus King, our minister to England, who died April 29, 1827, at the age of 73. It was a warm day and the waiters were kept going about indoors and out with silver saivers before them loaded with decantors, glasses and cigars.
1818: Mr. Weed and Mr. Sayres were chosen inspectors of common schools for Jamaica. They did their duty so strictly and exposed so many shortcomings in the teachers that they were not re-elected.
Those instances strike us as the errors of a young pastor, too often zealous about things that matter, yet without a balancing wisdom and measure of discretion. I think we can assume that he gained that wisdom over time, particularly given his long tenure as pastor in Wheeling.
As a sample of Rev. Weed’s Questions on the Confession of Faith, here are the questions attached to Chapter 1 – Of the Holy Scriptures:—
Question 1. – Do the works of creation and providence, teach us that there is a God? Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20. Question 2. – Which of His perfections do they manifest? Question 3. – Do they teach enough of God, to leave man inexcusable? Romans 1:20. Question 4. – Do they afford all the knowledge that is necessary to salvation? Proverbs 29:18; 1 Corinthians 1:21. Question 5. – Has it pleased God to reveal Himself and the way of salvation to mankind in any other way? Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:19. Question 6. – In “what divers manners” did God reveal Himself to His people before the Sacred Scriptures were written? Answer: By angels, dreams, visions, and voices, by Urim and Thummim and by immediate suggestion to the mind. See Numbers 12:6, 8; Exodus 3:1-4. Question 7. – Why was revealed truth committed to writing? Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16. Question 8. – Do the Holy Scriptures now supersede the necessity of all those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people? 2 Timothy 3:15.
Words to Live By: Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:12). How can a young pastor earn the respect due to his office as pastor? By being an example of the Christian faith, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Occasionally you may see young pastors who have a tendency to be overbearing, perhaps thinking that a show of strength or adamant will is necessary to accomplish their goals for the church. But as Francis Schaeffer was good to remind us, “the Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way.”
Scripture References: Rev. 4:11. Eph. 1:11. Isa. 46:10. Mark 13:31.
Questions: 1. To what can we compare the decrees of God to enable us to better understand them?
“We compare the decrees of God to the plans an architect draws for a great building. If most of us saw the blue-prints for this building we could not imagine what the building would look like . . . But when the building was all complete then we would see what was in the architect’s mind and what was the meaning of his blue-prints. So we cannot read God’s mind except by what He has said and done and by what He is doing.” (The Christian Faith According to the Shorter Catechism, by Dr. Wm. Childs Robinson, Pgs. 12-13).
2. What is the meaning of God executing His decrees?
The meaning is God bringing His will to pass, doing what He purposed from all eternity.
3. Is it possible for the decrees of God to fail?
It is not possible. No man can stay the hand of God or question what He is doing. (Dan. 4:35)
4. Where does redemption fit in the division of his decrees?
Redemption comes to pass in His providence as His majestic gift to some men through Jesus Christ.
5. What is the difference between His works of creation and providence?
Creation is His work of making all things out of nothing by the word of His power. Providence is His work of constant support and control of the universe and all that is in it.
6. What can be learned from the execution of God’s decrees?
Two verses are suggested to teach us great lessons: (1) Rev. 4:11 – the fact that He created all things for His own glory and therefore we should attribute to Him the glory, honor and power. (2) Heb. 1:3 – the fact that He is upholding all things by His power and therefore our complete sense of security is in Him.
According to some teachers of psychology, the child is not to be punished; the young person is to be allowed freedom; the older person must have everything going his way — all of this so that none will lose his sense of security.
The word “security” has rapidly become one of the most important words in our language. Adjustment, success, marriage and many other facets of life have all come to depend on security.
Is this matter of security so important for our lives? Does so much really depend on it? Is it possible to live without a sense of security? These questions, and others, are questions asked in our age.
Our Catechism Question gives the answer to many of these inquiries. Our Lord recognized that security is important — though it is not the security fashioned by the modern psychologist. The security that comes to the Christian is the recognition of Isaiah 46:10 – “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” This is the basis of a security that is lasting, a security that places its confidence in the God of the Scriptures.
In Hebrews 13:5 the writer states: “ … be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Immediately following we find: “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Certainly it is important for us to understand that we have this security. We are taught that we are not alone in the providences of life but that we have, in God, the One who is upholding us by His power. We are taught that His power is executed in His decrees and He is doing what He purposed from all eternity.
This type of security is important. This security is not lost on the basis of whether or not we are punished, or allowed freedom, or have everything going our way. It is based first on our having a saving know¬ledge of Jesus Christ, by His grace. Second, it is based on our keeping the commandments of God. At that point we recognize that God can uphold us and keep us — and we are secure.
THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 1 No. 8 (August 1961)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor
From the church’s web site, at http://www.fpcgulfport.org/history
The First Presbyterian Church of Gulfport, Mississippi, was organized on Friday, February 17, 1899, following a petition to the New Orleans Presbytery from eight individuals: Dr. A. Murdock, Mrs. E.T. Platt, Mr. Kenneth McLeod, Mrs. Sarah McLeod, Mrs. T.S. Strange, Mrs. M. Hauser, Mr. W.J. Quarles, and Mrs. W.E. Quarles. The church actively met together under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. J.D. Mooney, who served as Stated Supply for just over 2 years, until November 1901. During the first few years of its existence, the church met in the public school building until that building burned down sometime in 1900 or 1901. Subsequently, the church met in various buildings around town–one of which was a two-story structure located on the west side of 28th Avenue.
From September 1902 until November 1904, the Rev. Dr. D.L. Temple served as Stated Supply. Shortly after arriving in Gulfport, Dr. Temple established a building program to begin construction of a new church facility, which was to be built on four lots located on the western side of 13th Street. These lots were conveyed to the church by Captain J.T. Jones in May 1901, for the grand sum of $1. The new facility, which cost a total of $1,500, was completed near the end of the year in 1903 anddedicated on January 30, 1904.
A year later, in February 1904, the church installed its first pastor, the Rev. Fred L. McFadden, who served until September 1907. The Rev. McFadden was only 31 years old when he became the church’s first pastor. He claimed he was descended from the Scottish minister and reformer Robert Bruce, who succeeded John Knox at St. Giles High Kirk in Edinburgh. No doubt it was partly because of this fact that McFadden was encouraged to go on and do further post-graduate study at the University of Edinburgh, which he did beginning in 1907.
On December 9, 1909, the Rev. Dr. Herbert A. Jones was installed as the church’s second pastor. Dr. Jones was born in Liverpool, England, but became a citizen of the U.S. when he was 23 years old. He served various churches in Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado before accepting the call to come to Mississippi. He rapidly became one of the most well known and beloved preachers in the state. Twice he had the privilege of preaching before the President of the United States (once before President James Garfield and once before President Woodrow Wilson). Dr. Jones served Gulfport until his death on January 12, 1915, and he was buried in the cemetery at Pass Christian. During Dr. Jones’ tenure as pastor in Gulfport, Captain J.T. Jones again conveyed property to the church for the sum of $1. This property, which was given in honor of Dr. Jones, was later to become the site of the 1922 church facility.
Dr. Jones was followed by the Rev. Alfred C. Ormond, who was installed as pastor on July 1, 1915, but who resigned after only 3 years to enter the service of the Y.M.C.A. during World War I. Our next minister, the Rev. Dr. Charles S. Newman was installed on December 18, 1918, and was a significant leader in our church’s history. It was during Dr. Newman’s 13 year pastorate that the church experienced real growth and change, both spiritually and materially. The congregation grew from 231 members in 1918 to 421 in 1932, when Dr. Newman retired. A new church building program was inaugurated and completed under Dr. Newman’s leadership as well. This building was located on the corner of 24th Avenue and 13th Street. Although it was finished in 1923, the building was not dedicated until May 27, 1928, when the small debt that was incurred was fully repaid. Dr. Newman retired in May 1932, leaving behind a large sum of money (approximately 25% of the purchase price) for the church to purchase and install a pipe organ for the new facility.
The only native Mississippian to serve as an installed pastor of our church was the Rev. Dr. James N. Brown, who served from May 15, 1933, to October 15, 1953. Dr. Brown’s pastorate was the first of two long-term ministries in First Presbyterian Church. During his twenty years in Gulfport, the church received 1,246 new members, baptized 411 children and adults, and witnessed 819 marriages and 298 funerals. Also during his long pastorate, the church opened and operated what was known as “the Church House,” a ministry to provide hospitality and refreshment and other help to soldiers serving in our armed forces. Three ladies, Mrs. W.H. Caraway, Mrs. L.P. Ritchie, and Mrs. C.H. McWilliams, were responsible for beginning this ministry project. They were ably assisted by many women in the church, perhaps most notably, Mrs. A.C. Hutto, Mrs. Edith James, and Miss Josephine Newton. Over 70,000 servicemen registered at the Church House from 1942 to 1946.
The Rev. Dr. Richard L. Summers was installed as the church’s sixth pastor in July 1954. Although Dr. Summers was only 30 years old when he was called to First Presbyterian Church, he had already served as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Slidell, Louisiana, for four years and had completed work on a Doctor of Theology degree in Church History and Theology. He served here at our church for just over thirty-two years, until September 1986. Under his guidance and leadership, the congregation increased to a membership of 882 and initiated a church building program that culminated in the construction of our previous church facility located on the corner of 24th Avenue and East Beach Boulevard (across the street from the 1922 building). The new building was dedicated on January 17, 1965. It was also during Dr. Summers’ pastorate that the congregation voted to leave the Presbyterian Church U.S. and join with the already established Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) on January 10, 1982. We were officially received into Grace Presbytery of the PCA on May 10, 1983, at the First Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg.
The Rev. Dr. Danny C. Levi followed Dr. Summers and served from July 26, 1987, until December 15, 1991. During his pastorate, the church placed a greater emphasis on missions and outreach, on Advent and Easter, and on the midweek services than it had before. The first assistant pastor in the church’s history, William R. Lyle, was ordained and installed on January 2, 1991 and served almost 2 years, until December 31, 1992. Dr. Levi received his Doctor of Ministry degree during his time in Gulfport.
The Rev. Marshall D. Connor became our eighth pastor on March 1, 1993, and served for just over 11 years until July 31, 2004. The Rev. Connor is fondly remembered as a good Bible teacher and a loving pastor and friend by many in the congregation. He has retained close ties to our church since his departure in 2004, returning not too long ago to baptize his granddaughter. It was during his tenure at FPC that the church’s preschool expanded its operations and became the Covenant Christian School, providing teaching for K-6th grades. Mrs. Carol Milner was the school’s first director. She was succeeded by Mr. Charles Brueck, who ably served the school on a volunteer basis until it closed its doors just before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. During M.D. Connor’s pastorate, the church celebrated its centennial anniversary.
The Rev. Dr. Guy M. Richard became the ninth pastor of First Presbyterian Church in September 2005, in the wake of the nation’s worst natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina. His initial ministry was filled with recovery and rebuilding efforts, as the hurricane destroyed our church facility (causing somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in damage) and the homes of one-third of the families in our church.
The church built its present facility in 2009 and held its first worship services on November 22 of that year. In God’s providence, the facility was able to be dedicated on the 45th anniversary of the dedication of the prior facility that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina (January 17, 2010).
Dr. Richard, interestingly, shares a common bond with our church’s first pastor: they both studied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Dr. Richard completed his Ph.D. there in Systematic and Historical Theology in 2006. He is married to Jennifer, and together they have a son, Schyler, and two daughters, Jane Barton and Ellie.
This brief survey of the history of First Presbyterian Church has not been able to mention the many Godly men and women who have prayed for and served our church with their lives and resources since 1899. Special attention must be given to the ruling elders who have so ably and faithfully served this congregation since its inception and especially to those who currently fill that office. Without these men, humanly speaking, the church would not be where it is today.
Thomas Verner Moore was born on February 1, 1818, in Newville, Pennsylvania, a small town in Cumberland county, near Carlisle, PA. Completing his preparatory years, Thomas initially attended Hanover College, in Indiana, studying under the esteemed Dr. Blythe. Perhaps it was to save on expense that he then returned home to complete his collegiate education at Dickinson College (1838). He worked briefly as an agent of the American Colonization Society in 1839 before leaving to prepare for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary.
In the Spring of 1842, Rev. Moore was installed as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Carlisle, PA, though he only held this post for three years, resigning because of some church difficulties. Then in 1847 he accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia. During his Richmond years, he served as moderator of the seventh PCUS General Assembly, when it met in Nashville, in 1867.
He remained at Richmond through the duration of the Civil War until 1868, when his frail health prompted him to accept a call to the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Presumably it was thought that the change of climate might help in his recovery. He continued his ministry there in Nashville until his death, on August 5, 1871.
Thomas Verner Moore was a prolific writer and he served for many years as the editor of The Central Presbyterian.
Words to Live By: From the closing words of Rev. Moore in one of his addresses, delivered in 1846:
“And though your names may never gild the flaunting page of history, or your record be engraved on the monumental marble to mark the spot that enshrines your dust, yet you shall have a more enduring memorial in the glad hearts you have cherished, and the sad hearts you have cheered, and more enduring still in that dread and awful scroll whose words of flame have been written by the finger of the Almighty : whose seals shall be opened in the terrific scenes of the judgment, and whose pages shall be unfolded in the retributions of eternity.”
May your lives be lived to the glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
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