SECOND MT. OLIVET
REMINISCENCES OF PEROTE IN BULLOCK
By A Native
Catharine Elizabeth (Hixon) Rumphi
(This transcribed excerpt was written before 1958)
First Church in Village (Perote)
The first Church in the village was completed in 1851, Frank Kennedy (or Canida) being the contractor. It was built on the spot where the residence of D. A. Hixon now stands. The lot for the church as well as for the cemetery was given by our good Presbyterian brother, Mr. Samuel Hixon, father of our Messrs. Sam and Dan Hixon, Soon after completion, the church was dedicated. It was a great occasion for the people of the community, as few had witnessed such a ceremony, Many came from the surrounding towns and country. Rev. J, W. Crossley having been a member of the Bush Arbor or Mt. Olivet Church, and wishing to keep the old church in the minds of the people gave to this new one the same name, Mt, Olivet.
I quote from Mrs, Mollie Riley of Greenville, Alabama, whose father, William Johnson, did so much for our town in those days: “The church was dedicated by Bishop J. O. Andrew, father of Mrs. J, W. Rush. It was an occasion of quarterly meeting and the Bishop came in a closed carriage on Saturday in company with some other preachers whose names I do not remember. The Sunday School was organized soon after the church was dedicated. It was the first I ever attended. Children walked to this school two and three miles. There was a little library in connection with it. The good Mr. Crossley was Superintendent of this school and the one in the present church for more than twenty years.”
Dr. William Grossley of Banks, Alabama writes: “Bishop Andrew ordained several preachers at the time of the dedication of the church, one of whom was Brother James Crossley. The circuits were very large at that time embracing eighteen or twenty appointments and requiring two preachers, an old man and a young one, to supply them. The church started under favorable circumstances financially and spiritually. The rich lands around us had been overlooked, until about 1850 when wealthy men commenced bringing them up most of them building residences in the village.
In three years time the community had grown wonderfully with as fine a school as any in the State with a hundred and fifty pupils in attendance which was a source of great pride. Education and religion went hand in hand. A minister was kept as principal of the school and resided in the town. Five other local preachers lived in our midst, all of them men of means and some of them wealthy. With such a force of resident preachers, two others supplied by Conference, and such lay members as we had, few churches excelled or even equaled ours. The negroes too were carefully looked after. A Missionary was sent annually to see to their welfare. They visited the plantations, preached to them and catechised (sic) the children. John L. Saunders and James Pierce preached in the new church. James Pierce was a brother of the Bishop and like others of that gifted family, was a fine preacher. Saunders whose second initial was L. was called Long John as though it was his name on account of his great height but co-laborers and laymen were careful as to how they addressed him as he had a reputation for fighting as well as preaching.”
From the diary of Martha Crossley who became Mrs. J. D. Rumph, Sr. we quote the following: “We were in Pike County, Precinct of Missourie, so called because of its resemblance of its soil to the rich lands of the Missouri River. When the new church was built the old church was turned over to the negroes. In 1867 there was an insurrection among them and it was said that they held their secret meetings in the old building. A party of young men came up from Brundidge and burned it to the ground—a sad ending for the once sacred edifice.”
Name for the village
About the year 1852, Mr. William Johnson, postmaster applied to the Post Office Department for a name for this growing little place. The Mexican War still fresh in the minds of the people and the name Perote was suggeted (sic) General Wiley, father of the prominent Troy family, who had been an officer in the war, strongly advocated the name comparing the beautiful location of the town with that of Mexico so from that time to the present it has been known as Perote Church. Prominent members families were Baldwin, Miles, Aaron, Packer, Stuckey, Braswell.
Frank Peach and John Tullis, the last mentioned father-in-law of the late Rev. Frank Ellison, and grandfather of Robert R. Ellison, Alabama Conference.
Our church must have been changed from Enon to a different Circuit at sometime impossible to locate. There was at one time Enon and Chunnenuggee Circuit, which included Barker’s Church and Mt. Andrew in Barbour County. The names given by Dr. Mason do not correspond in time with those who served Perote. Between the year 1850-1857, Saunders and Kidd, Carter, Ardis and Hurt (who held a great revival about 1853 or 1854). J. F. R. Brandon, Druchler, and Butt, William Ellison, S. F. Pilley, nor J. B. Cottrell were ever our pastors. We are certain F. L. Densler and J. J. Cassidy were our pastors in 1859. O. B. Stanley in 1861, and Jesse Wood in 1862. J. W. Rush and J. W. Glenn preached at our church sometime. Presiding Elders, 1849, 1850, 1851, 1852 S. Armstrong; 1853, 1954, 1855, 1856 S. F. Pilley.
The present Church was built in 1857, Mr. John Adair, being the contractor and Noah Scafe, (a negro) owned by Mr. Adair, being the architect. This beautiful lot as well as those for the Baptist Church and school building were given by my father, C. D. Laney of Eufaula and Daniel McCall, of this place. The building was well constructed and commodious, its seating capacity being about five hundred. Mr. John Finlayson remembers some of the names of the building committee noticed before the books were destroyed. They were George Rodgers, Jesse Locke, John Adair Isaac Ardis and Daniel McCall.
Dedicated in 1857
The new church was dedicated in 1857, P. P. Neely officiating. No finer orator or more gifted man ever graced the pulpit of the Methodist Church. Mrs. E. W. Starke speaks of the dedication thus: “Dr. Neely’s subject was “Heaven” and as he described its beauties he left the altar and walked up and down the aisles and poured such a torrent of beautiful language, delivered in such a manner as I have never before nor since listened to.”
Churches were not so numerous then as they are now under our present church extension sytem (sic) and people from many miles attended services at this place. On two occasions District Conference was held here, once during the pastorate of W. G. Turner, 1873-1877 and again in 1890 during the pastorate of J. W. Solomon, Bishop Duncan presiding.
A new bell was needed
Soon after the completion of the church a new bell was needed to correspond with the quality and price with the other furnishings. Mrs. Queen Gamble, now Mrs. Nimrod Long of Hurtsboro, took the lead in securing the needed money. Its sweet, clear tones ring out o’er hill and vale and remind us of her zeal and church interests.”
(The person who succeeded in raising the most money for the bell was to have her name engraved on the bell and the name Queen Gamble is inscribed on it. It is still the property of the Methodist Church.)
But cruel war comes on, three companies going out from the village nearly depopulated it, and the Church suffered the loss of many valuable members. Miss Martha Crossley, standing on the steps of this sacred edifice, delivered to the Perote Guards the address, and gave the silken banner which oft inspired noble deeds. A copy of the address together with the flag are now in the keeping of the State. The name of C. W. Rumph, Sr. stands out prominently as an example of what a consecrated layman can accomplish. For nearly twenty years, he served the church as Sunday School Superintendent, leader of prayer meetings and as representative at Conferences. He gave most liberally of his means and his home was open to the preachers, not only his own but other denominations. Now I wish I might name many who have gone to their reward. Those who like Dr. William Walker, whom death has so recently claimed and whose influence in humanity and Church will never die, also those of the present who labor so earnestly, but this will be the duty of a future historian. We will watch with interest the career of Mr. Clarence Lowe, one of our converts who has recently been licensed to preach by the South Georgia Conference. Clarence is the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Lowe of this place and grandson of the late J. W. Crossley.
We are endeavoring to keep abreast of the times-Epworth League, Missionary Societies, Adult and Juvenile, Loyal Temperance Legion and other organizations have prospered in late years. We take the different church and Missionary Advocates and observe Children’s and Orphans’ Day exercises. At the recent centennial celebration, we enjoyed the Historical address of Hon. L. M. Moseley, of Union Springs. With Prof. D. D. King as organist, Miss Margaret Rumph leader, and his pupils and other children composing the choir, we listened with pleasure to their rendering of the standard hymns of our faith.
May God’s richest blessings continue with the Perote Church.”
Mrs. Alberta L. Rumph was a faithful Sunday School teacher. Other teachers were Mrs. C. D. Laney, Mrs. M. J. Rumph, Mrs. J. B. Murphy, Mrs. M. K. Johnson, Mrs. D. A. Hixon, Mrs. Addie Lowe to name a few.
Among those who have acted as Sunday School Superintendents were J. W. Crossley, C. W. Rumph, A. B. Laney, J. D. Rumph, III, J. S. Finlayson, Bates Cowart, Mrs. Alma Finlayson, Bill Brabham, B. H. High, Jr., Jane High, Mack Hixon. At present 1958, Jane High.
Some of the organists were Mrs. Imogene Walker Hannah, Mrs. Alma Peach Petty, Mrs. Abbie Peach Foster. She was organist from 1899 to 1901. Mrs. Bessie Hixon Rumph, Mrs. A. L. Rumph and Miss Winogene Hixon, Prof. D. D. King, Miss May Belle Rumph, John and Frances Rumph and Mrs. Jerry Capps is the present (1958) organist.
Construction of the church
The church that was built in 1857 was built by Rev. J. W. Crossley, Mr. Norman Mathison and a colored man, Noah Scafe. It was put together with wooden and iron pegs and stood on a hill a short distance south of the business area. There was one large room with two front doors, two back doors. There were four large windows with blinds on each side. The pulpit was at the front of the church and a person entering the front door faced the congregation. Back of the pulpit was a semi-circle extending out on the porch. This had five or six long narrow windows with blinds. The porch extended across the front and there were two sets of steps. There were four square columns. The bell was in the middle of the porch near the edge. The ladies sat on the right side of the church and the men on the left. On the men’s side were spittoons for the use of tobacco chewers.
At the end of the benches next to the wall were dirty spots where they had leaned their heads. Three handsome pulpit chairs were upholstered in wine colored velvet and the backs were elaborately carved. These with a lectern, two pedestal like stands with a pitcher of water were the only pieces of furniture on the chancel except a table which held a pitcher of water for the preacher who often became overheated or hoarse from shouting to the congregation. At one time a partition was built in the rear of the church and Sunday School rooms were made. Steps were built to the doors of these rooms. Often in hot weather classes were held on these steps. In front of the church long tables were built in the shade of trees to be used for Memorial Day dinners or Quarterly Conference dinners on the ground.
Fire destroyed the church in 1937
In 1937 fire destroyed this historic structure. There was not a ladder in town long enough to reach the top of the church. All furniture was saved including the hot stove that had a fire in it at the time of the fire. The windows and doors were saved. Another church was erected while S. F. Lowery, Sr. was pastor, 1939-1940. Mr. Lowery, Mr. G. C. Russell and Mr. Frank Dykes of Perote did the work. The building was ceiled with the cheapest grade of lumber with the hope that sheet rock would cover it. Interest in the church had waned and membership had decreased. No one seemed interested enough to make any improvements until Charles Wynn, pastor of the church in 1956- 1958, asked for the money and got enough to finish the interior without going in debt. The walls are painted a lovely shade of blue and white Venetian blinds hang at the windows. The pulpit furniture was refinished and the wine-red upholstery looks beautiful against the blue walls.
At the present time services are held twice a month at a morning service. For several years it has been served by student pastors from Troy State Teachers College. It has been many years since a pastor’s family has lived in the parsonage.
Sunday School is still held each week and a Woman’s Society of Christian Service function. Annual revivals are conducted each summer, but attendance is small. The future for the Perote Methodist Church does not look very bright, however, the residents are of high moral character and hold fast to the Golden Rule.
iCatherine Elizabeth (Hixon) Rumph was born in Bullock County and has lived during her entire life time there. She is the daughter of a Confederate Veteran who was some time a prisoner at Ship Island off the coast of Mississippi and grew up in the environment of the small country village about which she writes and among interesting Confederate associates, Mrs. Rumph has collected Americana, folk lore and historical data and contributed in no small way to the life of this rural community
- Sketch of the Methodist Church, Perote, Ala., 1839-1908, By Alberta Laney Rumph, Alabama Conference Historical Society
- The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 03, Fall Issue 1958
Discordance: The Cottinghams Inspired by true events and the Cottingham family that resided in 17th century Somerset, Maryland, and Delaware, colonial America comes alive with pirate attacks, religious discord, and governmental disagreements in the pre-Revolutionary War days of America.