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.
The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson was organized on a Saturday afternoon, April 8, 1837 by the Reverend Peter Donan and four persons: Mrs. Margaret E. Mayson, Mrs. Susan Patton, and John Robb and his wife, Marion. The organization meeting was held in “the Old State House,” Mississippi’s first capitol, a small two-story structure on the northeast corner of E. Capitol and N. President Streets. Peter Donan continued as the church’s pastor for four years. There were no elders for two years, no deacons for six years, nor a Presbyterian house of worship for nearly nine years. In the first two years of its existence, the church had but three new members.
In 1841, Reverend Donan was followed by Reverend S. H. Hazard, who was pastor for little more than one year. He was succeeded by the Reverend Leroy Jones Halsey, a dynamic man and preacher, under whose ministry the congregation commenced to grow. Halsey spurred the building of the first sanctuary on the northwest corner of North State and Yazoo Streets. When Dr. Halsey resigned in 1848, the pulpit was supplied until February 22, 1849. The congregation then called as pastor the Reverend Isaac James Henderson, who served until he was succeeded by the Reverend L. A. Lowry on December 3, 1853. Mr. Lowry was a fine pastor and effective preacher, but died of Yellow Fever after but two years service. The pulpit was supplied from March, 1855, until a call was extended to the Reverend John Hunter on January 24, 1858.
[For more on the history of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, see the church web site.]
Words to Live By: Blessed Zion: First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, 1837-2012, is a wonderful church history, written by Dr. Sean Lucas and published early in 2013. The book’s preface alone would be worth the purchase price, in my estimation. There Dr. Lucas summarizes several lessons drawn from the writing of this history:
1.It only takes one generation for a church to die. The reasons may vary: “a poor pastoral choice; a failure to continue to preach God’s Word faithfully; a transition in the church’s understanding of mission; an inability to see and adapt to the neighborhood around it.” By the grace of God, First/Jackson has been blessed in making many right choices over the many years.
2. The quality of the ruling elders who serve the church. These men who form the Session of the church must be talented, godly men.
3. The value of long-term pastorates, allowing for great stability, space for godly pastors to “to shape the theological and experiential perspective of the congregation in favor of the grand, winsome, evangelical truths of Reformed Christianity,” and enabling pastors to earn the long-term trust of their congregation.
4. What Dr. Lucas calls “The Road Not Taken,” i.e., knowing that mistakes, even disastrous ones, can be so easily made, we must recognize and rely upon God’s mercy and blessing. We note that Rev. Peter Donan, the founding pastor of First/Jackson, later departed from the Reformed Faith, but in God’s providence, that was some years later and by that time he had no influence on the life of this congregation. “Churches that stand faithful through the generations are those that seek men who are faithful to the Scripture, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.”
5. The blessings of evangelical Presbyterianism. A great church will not “major in the minors” but will focus on proclaiming Christ and Him crucified.
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.
Last year we wrote of the founding of the Presbyterian Ministers Fund on this day, January 11, in 1718. Rather than cover that ground again, and lacking some other significant Presbyterian event or person for this day, it seems good instead to turn to Leonard Van Horn’s commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
Rev. Van Horn was born in 1920, educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, and pastored churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and New Mexico. He also served as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. His work on the ruling elder remains in print, but his series on the Shorter Catechism has, regrettably, never been published. It was originally issued in the form of bulletin inserts, and the PCA Historical Center is pleased to have a complete set of these inserts.
STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. Scripture References: I Cor. 10:31. Psalm 73:24-26. John 17:22,24.
Questions: 1. What is the meaning of the word “end” in this question?
The word means an aim, a purpose, an intention. It will be noted that the word “end” is qualified by the word “chief”. Thus it is noted that man will have other purposes in this life but his primary purpose should be to glorify God. This is in keeping with the purpose for which man was made. It is when we are alienated from God that we have the wrong end or purpose in view.
2. What does the word “glorify” mean in this question?
Calvin tells us that the “glory of God is when we know what He is.” In its Scriptural sense, it is struggling to set forth a divine thing. We glorify Him when we do not seek our own glory but seek Him first in all things.
3. How can we glorify God?
Augustine said, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, O God, and our heart is restless until it finds repose in Thee.” We glorify God by believing in Him, by confessing Him before men, by praising Him, by defending His truth, by showing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, by worshiping Him.
4. What rule should we remember in regard to glorifying God?
We should remember that every Christian is called of God to a life of service. We glorify God by using the abilities He has given us for Him, though we should remember that our service should be from the heart and not simply as a duty.
5. Why is the word “glorify” placed before “enjoy” in the answer?
It is placed first because you must glorify Him before you can enjoy Him. If enjoyment was placed first you would be in danger of supposing that God exists for man instead of men for God. If a person would stress the enjoying of God over the glorifying of God there would be danger, of simply an emotional type of religion. The Scripture says, “In Thy presence is fulness of joy. . . .” (Ps. 16:11). But joy from God comes from being in a right relationship with God, the relationship being set within the confines of Scripture.
6. What is a good Scripture to memorize to remind us of the lesson found in Question No. 1?
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: …” (Ps. 42:1,2a). This reminds us of the correct relationship for the Christian, looking unto Him. It is there we find our ability to glorify Him and the resulting joy.
THE PRIMARY CONCERN OF MAN
It is a fact to be much regretted that the average Christian who gives allegiance to the Westminster Standards is a Christian that many times leaves out the living of these Standards in the daily pursuits of life. It is good to believe, it is good to have a creed in which to believe. But there is much harm that can result from believing in a creed and not living it day by day. From such an existence we arrive at a low tone of spiritual living and the professing believer becomes cold, formal, without spiritual power in his life.
We should always recognize that the first lesson to be learned from our catechism is that our primary concern is to be of service to the Sovereign God. Our Westminster Shorter Catechism does not start with the salvation of man. It does not start with God’s promises to us. It starts with placing us in the right relationship with our Sovereign God. James Benjamin Green tells us that the answer to the first question of the Catechism asserts two things: “The duty of man, ‘to glorify God.’ The destiny of man, ‘to enjoy Him.’ ”
It is to be regretted that though we have inherited the principles of our forefathers, in that their Creed is still our Creed, so many times we have failed to inherit the desire to practice their way of living. Many people will attempt to excuse themselves here by stating that we live in a different age, that the temptations and speed of life today divert us from spiritual things. But no matter what excuses we might give, the Catechism instructs us right at the outset that our duty is to glorify God, such is our chief purpose in life. All of us need to note the valid words of J. C. Ryle in regard to our Christian living: “Where is the self-denial, the redemption of time, the absence of luxury and self-indulgence, the unmistakable separation from earthly things, the manifest air of being always about our Master’s business, the singleness of eye, the high tone of conversation, the patience, the humility that marked so many of our forerunners . . . ?”
May God help each of us to stop right now, read again the first question and answer of our Catechism, and pray to God that in the days to come our primary concern might be that we will live to His glory. It is not difficult for us to know the characteristics of such a life. The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are plain enough.
The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 1 No. 3 January, 1961
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn
Words to Live By: Given our comments in yesterday’s Words to Live By, it seemed quite appropriate today to touch on this first question from the Catechism. Dr. Van Horn’s summary statements, above, are particularly apt.
Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column.
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