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Mayhew Church History, Lowndes County, Mississippi
A Religious History
by Bess Y. Swedenburg, 1972
Our name, Mayhew, was given to us by missionaries to the native Indians of our area. In 1818, the American Board of Commissioners sent a number of Evangelists to establish a mission in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. The Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury was the leader of the group. He decided upon the location, which is a site several miles northwest of our present community. The group decided to call the "spot" Mayhew Mission, in honor of a distinguished Massachusetts family of ministers. The Mayhew family had been largely responsible for sending missionaries to the Indians of the great Southeast. Ancestors of this famous family have visited their namesake community in recent years.
The Kingsburys were able to establish a church in 1821 at the Mayhew Mission. Not many years later, the tragic placement of Indians on reservations began. The renowned "Trail of Tears" included these first white settlers and the native Indians of our surrounding area. The Kingsburys closed the Mayhew Mission in 1833 and followed the Indians to the Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. Today, an old cemetery is all that remains of the Mayhew Mission, unless we assume that our present community had its birth from the Mission.
It is believed that the remaining people of the Mayhew community worshipped as members of the Catalpa Baptist Church which was organized in 1841. It was admitted to the Columbus Baptist Association in 1842. Using this date as the actual beginning of our church, we can estimate the Baptist Church of our community to be 130 years old this year of our Lord, 1972. In 1846, the Catalpa Baptist Church changed its name to Mayhew-Prairie. The completion of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad in 1857 through Northeast Mississippi revived Mayhew. White settlers began moving into the present location along side the railroad. The Mayhew-Prairie Church grew and prospered during this era. However, by the year 1872, this church had dwindled to 17 members and was reported as dissolved in 1873. The Columbus Baptist Association reported the old Mayhew-Prairie Church members reorganized two miles from their old location and became known as the Montgomery Church in 1877. Two years later, the Association recorded the establishment of a church named Mayhew at the station of the M & O Railroad.
Keep in mind that we have thus far traced the history of early Baptist Churches in our immediate area and the history of a nearby Presbyterian mission. Those of us who live in Mayhew presently can only remember the Mayhew Church as being the Mayhew Union Church. At one time our present building housed the Baptist, Methodist, Christian, and Cumberland Presbyterian denominations. The beautifully handwritten deed loaned to me by Mary R. Pilkinton Drane, reads as follows: The State of Mississippi
County of Lowndes
This deed of conveyance made this the 15th day of May A.D. 1878, between Jno. T.Connell, Sr., of the above County and State as party of the first part and Elisha Askew, Deacon of the Baptist Church; Edward Herron, Sr., Elder of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church; A. V. Connell, Steward of the Methodist Episcopal Church South; and G. T. Turner, as representative of the Christian Church, all of the County of Lowndes, except G. T. Turner, who resides in the County of Oktibbeha, and State of Mississippi, parties of the second part, witnesseth: that the said party of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of Twenty-five ($25.00) Dollars cash in hand paid on the delivery of this instrument, have granted, bargained and sold and, by these presents, do grant, bargain, sell, and convey to said parties of the second part and their successors in office, a certain tract or parcel of land lying and being in said County of Lowndes and State of Mississippi to wit: beginning at the Southeast Corner of the Mayhew Academy Lot and running East Thirty Seven and a half yards thence, North One Hundred and forty yards then, West Thirty Seven and a half yards then, South One hundred and forty yards to the place of beginning containing in all one acre more or less. To have and to hold the above described premises with the _________________thereunto pertaining to the said parties of the second part and to their successors in office and that be Jno. T. Connell, Sr., his heirs, and assigns will warrant and defend the title to the same to the party of the second part and their successors in office against the Eighth title and interest of all others.
In testimony of which I have hereunto affixed my hand and seal this the 15th day of May A. D. 1878.
The State of Mississippi
From this deed we can establish as definite fact that the present church grounds have been used as such since 1873, and that the grounds were sold to a union of the Baptist, Methodist, Cumberland Presbyterian, and Christian denominations for the sum of $25.00. It is believed that the present building was cut in half and moved from old Sand Creek Church site to a Mayhew in the same year. The pews now in use were probably brought from Sand Creek also.
During the 1900's, the Ladies Missionary Groups has contributed much to the history of our church. Informative minutes of the Methodist Missionary Society date back as far as 1917. It is interesting to note that W.M.U. as it exists today functions much in the same way of the earlier organizations did. It has traditionally met in the homes of its members "with delicious refreshments served." These same ladies of Mayhew prepared their own scripture lessons, sang hymns together, listened eagerly to their cohorts' readings, were afforded the pleasures of a voice or instrumental solo, and prayed in unison. The group evidently has always contributed to orphans' clothing and welfare. From the minutes of 1917, the following list of articles were sent to a little orphaned girls.
W.M.U. has also participated in the upkeep of the Mayhew Union Church. During the late 1920's most of the community was involved in the renovation of the church. The present windows were set in their places, and the Johns-Mansville roof was added to protect the church building. Prior to this repair, the church had two front doors. Later in the early 1950's, the W.M.U. ladies began another repair project. Brunswick stews, of which the writer has fond memories, were cooked to raise money to paint and repair the church building. A second moneymaking project was making miniature aprons and selling them for 10 cents each. These little aprons were mailed to friends and former members of the church who in turn sent their donations. It was suggested that the receiver send a penny for each inch around his/her waistline. More than $500 was received to support this second renovation of the building. There was enough money to purchase electric fans and have them installed. Some adjoining land was also bought for the church property. The church has been painted inside in recent years. The air conditioners and heaters are enjoyed and appreciated by the little church going family of today.
Giving praise to our Lord, this little church has sent forth thirteen young preachers. Brother Watt Askew was able to list the following men who were ordained to preach:
Through the years Bible Schools have been held for the spiritual growth of the community's children. Songs, dear to my heart, were taught and crafts were a highlight of the Bible School Days. This summer Bible School was again held in the Mayhew Union Church and again the children of our community loved every minute of it.
Old time revivals have also contributed to our spiritual growth. In recent years, the Baptists and Methodists have shared revival week in the same spirit that they share all church activities. The membership of the two congregations is small, but all members have one common goal--to preserve the Mayhew Union Church in a way that glorifies God and shares the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let us all remember that throughout this long history, the people of this community and the surrounding area have united to worship God. Our history is a vivid one. It teaches one main point--regardless of problems, such as lack of large congregations, lack of expensive budgets, lack of carpeted floors or even beautiful chimes, born again Christians will come to the House of the Lord to glorify HIM and enjoy HIM forever.
Bess Y. Swedenburg