Historic County Church Named to National Register of Historic Places

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, 2382 Wright Road, Caledonia, MS. was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, on July 5, 2007. The National Register is part of a nationwide program to support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our Nation's historic resources.

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church is located 10 miles northeast of Columbus, Mississippi, off Miss. Hwy. 12 and the Caledonia-Steens road on Wright road and has been known by various names such as Vaughn's Campground, Vaughn's Church, Pleasant Grove and Mt. Pleasant as it is officially recorded in the Deed of May 14, 1833.

This historic Church is located in the northeast area of (now) Lowndes County, Ms. where the first land was opened for settlement under the Chickasaw and Choctaw Treaties of 1816. In fact, two of the oldest houses in Lowndes Co, Ms. that stand today are near Mt. Pleasant Church; "Woodlawn" (aka Kidd's Tavern) on Highway 12 North and "Belmont" on Neilson Road. Both houses were built in the 1820s. According to Dr. W.L. Lipscomb in his manuscript, A History of Columbus, Mississippi during the 19th Century, published in 1909, in 1826-1827 a large number of settlers moved into the section of land between the Luxapalila and Yellow Creeks. They were generally Methodist and in 1828 organized the first Methodist Church in Lowndes County known as Piney Grove Church. Tabernacle Methodist Church near the Alabama-Mississippi line was also organized in the same time frame. Mt. Pleasant was an outgrowth of Piney Grove Methodist Church and began as a campground north of Wright's road between 1828 and 1833.

According to the recorded Deed of Lowndes County, Mississippi, dated May 14, 1833, James Vaughn and his wife, Susannah Vaughn, sold 5.56 acres and the existing Church meeting house and graveyard for $1.00 to the Trustees of a Methodist church known as Mt. Pleasant. The original Trustees were Robert Shotwell, Capt. William Walker Neilson, Capt. Edward Randolph, John Vaughn and James Weems. It is written by Dr. Lipscomb that Capt. William Neilson, one of the original settlers in the county, was converted to the Church after wandering into Vaughn's Campground while looking for his cattle that he thought had been stolen by Indians. The Rev. George Shaeffer was preaching at the time.

On October 8, 1851, Judge John Perkins, who descended from James Vaughn and resided in Louisiana, donated by Deed as recorded in the Lowndes Co, Ms. Courthouse five acres of land south of the first Church and cemetery site on Wright Road to the Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church for a Church meeting house and a schoolhouse. This is the site where Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church is now located. The original 5.56 acres given by the Vaughn family to the Church on May 14, 1833 remains as the present day Vaughns cemetery.

Based on research, there is evidence that a Church building was constructed in the 1854-1855 time frame on this new site but no information is available as to what happened to this Church building. During the research phase for nominating the Church for Listing on the National Register of Historic Places, information was found in the research papers of Agnes Robertson, Church Historian for many years, whose ancestors donated the land for the first Church and cemetery. This information revealed that the present Church building was constructed in the 1892 time frame by a local Church builder, David Parker Tunnell. It is this third Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church building that is being recognized by Listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The present Church building is a rare and very intact example of Rural Carpenter Gothic style architecture from circa 1892 which is a front gabled structure with a steeply pitched roof, pointed-arch windows and a Gothic-arch window above the front entrance double doors. The exterior is sided with 6 inch exposed wood lap siding and the building rests on brick and sandstone pillars. The roof is standing "V" galvanized tin. The interior of the building is clad in beaded pine paneling and the apse bay is further evidence of the Rural Carpenter Gothic style of this period in America.

Restoration of historic Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church has been accomplished over the past several years by James Reeves, a Trustee, and other volunteers. Work that began in the year 1999 to the present date includes placement of a new tin roof, addition of foundation support piers, the use of steel rods to tie the outer walls together to prevent separation of the floor, complete pressure washing of the exterior lap siding, caulking and painting. Both the exterior and interior of the Church remains virtually unchanged since it was built in 1892 and it has no electricity, water or heat.

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church was on the Caledonia Circuit of the North Mississippi Methodist Conference for many years with Church services held every 2nd and 4th Sundays. The Churches in this circuit included Piney Grove, Mt. Pleasant, Flint Hill and Caledonia. However, due to the deaths and moving away of members, the Church congregation became inactive around 1981. Currently, the Church is operated and maintained under the leadership of the Trustees and is now used for Homecoming and Decoration Day services as well as for weddings and funerals.

Vaughns Cemetery, located approximately 1,000 yards north of Wright Road in front of the Church, remains on the original land received from James Vaughn in 1833. However, it is not listed on the National Register with Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church due to the unique and personal nature of cemeteries and the National Park Service registration criteria. However, it remains as an integral part of the community and the Church. The first recorded burial is Helena Frazier Neilson, wife of Capt. William Neilson, who died January 19, 1835. Capt. William Neilson, an original Trustee and War of 1812 Veteran, is buried in the cemetery along with numerous veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Viet Nam and the current period. Of special interest is the western section of the cemetery which was most likely used prior to the Civil War for burial of slaves of the local landowners and later for Free Men and Women of Color. Effort to date by the cemetery board has resulted in the recording of over 100 names of those buried in this African-American section of the cemetery. Extensive work by Martha Jo Ballard Mims and the Cemetery Board with many volunteers has resulted in the return of the cemetery to a beautiful, rural setting to honor those buried there. Starting in the year 2005, USA flags have been placed on the graves of each veteran beginning with Capt. Neilson, veteran of the War of 1812.

Each year, the 2nd Sunday in May, Mother's Day, is Homecoming at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church and Decoration Day at Vaughns Cemetery.

Prepared by:

Harold E. Wright
Church Historian
August 2007

Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved

Lowndes, Mississippi Genealogy & History Network

Hosted by C. L. Herrick | Mona Tomlinson | Ruth Ann Faris, Co-County Directors.

The Mississippi Genealogy & History Network
is managed by the MSGHN Executive Council.