« AnteriorContinuar »
put down a dollar to begin with. Noble effort! In that little gathering were men who learned from that time to give their thousands to the cause of Christ and education. In a short time, “ the little church down Hubbard's lane-the little church round the corner”-became inconvenient; and about 1824 efforts were made to build two houses, one at Bethel cross-roads, two miles from Oakland College, and another at Rodney.
The first stated minister of the church was Rev. Samuel Hunter, a native of Ireland, who preached at different points in the vicinity; and about 1826 organized “ Bethel Church,” an offshoot of the Old Bethel, near Fayette, made up of members principally from the old “ Bayou Pierre Church,” which worshiped formerly in a log building on the road now leading from Mrs. Crane's residence to Port Gibson, and near the residence of Mr. Venable. The place where the house stood can only now be identified by a few old trees and sunken graves. I know the spot. As early as 1824, the old Presbytery of Mississippi met in session there. There were Rickhow, and Montgomery, and Patterson, and Chase, and others. A young man from New England offered himself as a candidate for the ministry, was licensed (the first licensure ever witnessed by the people), and after laboring a short time at St. Francisville and Baton Rouge, returned to his home, and within two years past has ceased from his labors. He was the Rev. Thomas Savage, late of Londonderry Presbytery. A later incident connected with this lonely spot is familiar from personal presence. Nearly twenty years ago, two horsemen, on a sultry day, turned aside at these old graves to repose beneath the shade, and have time to get to Oakland at sundown. Plucking some wild grapes from overhead, they stretched themselves on the grass to rest and talk. Being both given to being merry and
sad as occasion offered, the time and the place gave food to both extremes of temperament. They talked about the past, the present, and the future. They then arose and departed. One remains until this day to record the past. The other (three days after) fell by the hand of an assassin! (See History of Oakland College.)
The original members composing the “Bayou Pierre Church," and then incorporated into Bethel Church, were John Bolls, elder (noble old man, with a little body but a big soul, and who loaned himself about among the churches as an elder until other elders arose), Mrs. Catherine Crane, Lewellin Price (grandfather of Rev. Robert Price), William Young, Clara Young, Dr. Rush Nutt, Mrs. Nutt, Mrs. Elisa Kerr, David Hunt, Mrs. Ann F. Hunt, and others. Early in the spring of 1828, Mr. Hunter retired from the care of Bethel and Rodney churches, and the Rev. Zebulon Butler took charge of the congregation in conjunction with the church of Port Gibson, for one year. In November, the Rev. J. R. Hutchison came from Princeton Theological Seminary, and preached at Rodney as stated supply until the following July, when he removed to Baton Rouge and succeeded Rev. John Dorrance, who returned to Pennsylvania. While J. R. Hutchison preached at Rodney, there were but two members of the Presbyterian Church residing in the place, although the village contained a larger population than at present. Yet almost all the heads of families in the town formed themselves into a Bible Class and were instructed weekly in the Holy Scriptures. The first place used for public worship was the bar-room of a house of entertainment. On Sabbath morning the landlord would ring the dinnerbell, wipe the stains of decanters and bottles from the table, bring out an old Bible, and the people would come in. Some objected to the preacher because he was too young; but Matthew Bolls, the great oracle, thought that “if they would give the young man a little time, he would get over that defect.” The young man has long since got over that fault. The writer has now lost his raven locks, has put on gray hairs, and is old enough.
Early in 1829 steps were taken to erect the present brick church at Rodney. It was dedicated to the worship of God on the first day of January, 1832, by the preaching of a sermon by Rev. Dr. Chamberlain from Exodus xx. 24: “In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.” After the house was finished, it appeared that the builder still held a claim against it of $1,500—which debt was quietly paid by Mr. David Hunt, a princely man, and the building released from all embarrassments.
Early in the spring of 1830 a new element of life and vigor was introduced into this church, by the location of Oakland College within its bounds, towards which the members of the congregation subscribed $12,000. Afterwards the same individuals multiplied their donations to the amount of tens of thousands. The reason why the college
located in so retired a spot, was this: at that time no town or city in the Southwest was deemed sufficiently healthy or sufficiently moral to be the seat of a college. In addition to his position as president, Dr. Chamberlain preached at Rodney and Bethel alternately for seven years. During that time, in addition to the support of their preacher, the people contributed to the different boards of the church about $1,000 annually. On the 11th of November, 1837, the Rev. J. T. Russell was installed pastor, and resigned in 1842. For the twelve next succeeding years, Rey. J. R. Hutchison, having removed from Vicksburg, acted in the capacity of both professor of ancient languages and pastor of the church. During those years the congre
34 HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF BETHEL AND RODNEY.
gation in its spiritual aspects assumed many interesting features. In 1837, about twenty were added to the church, principally young men connected with the col. lege. In 1845, about fifty persons were added to the communion. During the long term of thirty years, the congregation contributed largely to the boards of the church-to the Tract cause, the Bible Society, Sundayschool Union. The American Colonization Society always was a favorite, and sometimes received from individuals contributions amounting to thousands of dollars. For many years, a few noble planters supported a minister to labor exclusively among their slaves. At one time, forty negroes, valued at $330,000, were liberated and sent to Liberia. An individual (Thomas Freeland) contributed, from 1833 to 1843, $333 annually, to support a missionary in China. The students in the college gave about $300 for the boards of the church. Besides, the Theological Seminary at Maryville (Tennessee), the Natchez Orphan Asylum, etc., received large contributions. 0! those were palmy days, gone, never to return.
HOUSTON, TEXAS, August 28, 1871.
An Address delivered at Oakland College, on the occasion of the Inauguration
of Dr. J. H. Savage, as Professor of Chemistry, August, 1842.
Gentlemen of the Board of Trustees and Faculty :
ALL attentive students of history have remarked that great men and great events have generally appeared in clusters. When one individual of vast enterprise or learning has attracted the gaze and admiration of the world, others, remarkable for similar qualities, have arisen almost simultaneously with him. When great inventions and discoveries have dawned upon the earth, others of a kindred character have sprung up around them.
What is the philosophy of this historic truth?
How do we account for it? By the following simple process :—That waking up and inquisitiveness of the human intellect, which results in the discovery of some new principle, or the development of some new and startling invention, impel it forward in a new career, -a career of universal investigation; and speedily other discoveries and inventions open before it, and reward its newly-awakened energies. In addition to this, all truth is intimately affiliated and interwoven, and any change in one of her departments, speedily extends its influence to every other, and, ere long, all things become new. But the chief cause why great events and discoveries have só often appeared simultaneously has been, that withont such simultaneous appearance they would have been of no great benefit to