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Kemper County MS GenWeb

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Chapel Hill Church

Submitted by Gene Allred.

This church was founded in 1874. The first building was constructed from hewn logs. The benches were also made from larger logs that were split in halves and hewed to a smoother surface. This building was completed in 1875 and was known as Narkeeta Chapel. The first minister was the Rev. John C. Brogan, an itinerant Methodist minister from Lauderdale. In the early years it was used as a union church, and was used by the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians. These other denominations chose their ministers during the time it was a community church. No records could be found as to who the other Baptist and Presbyterian ministers were, nor how long this arrangement lasted. It was used as a church and school for a number of years.

One of the founders of this church was Joseph Louis Parmer, who donated the original 3 acres of land to be used for a church, school and cemetery. Some of the other early members were Mr. and Mrs. George B. Shirum, Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Odem, Mr. and Mrs. George W. Burnett, Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Warren, Mr. Thomas W. Evans, Mr. and Mrs. James Slaton, Moses G., Eddie and Dora Parmer, Miss Elizabeth Moore and others. Revised membership records show that the above listed members were received into the Methodist Church in 1879.
There was no further recorded membership activity until 1884-88, when Kittrell, Caraway, Henderson, Huff, Scott, Carnathan, Knight, Brown, Gilmore, Hudnall, Rigdon, and Wallace family members were added to the rolls.

When the first community church was organized, the land was apparently a verbal gift to the church. The present deed was signed by Joseph Louis Parmer on December 1,1884, and was recorded on February 25,1885. The deed was made to Charles Butchee, J.H. Cochran, J.L. Hunnicutt, D.T. Archer, A.H. Morse, P.A. Rogers and J.K. Amos as trustees for the Methodist Conference.

The first reference to the church renamed as Chapel Hill from Narkeeta Chapel was in 1890 when the original building was torn down and the present building built. One article in the History of Methodism in the Mississippi Conference states that the now defunct Narkeeta Chapel was reorganized in 1890. The Mississippi Methodist Conference Records also state that Chapel Hill Methodist Church was organized in 1891, and the minister was Rev. J.T. Abney of the Lauderdale circuit. He was admitted to the conference on trial at the annual conference in Canton, Mississippi, December 17-22,1890, and was moved to the Lauderdale circuit and served Chapel Hill Church as it's first pastor under the new name. Chapel Hill later incorporated with the Porterville Charge and enjoyed a period of further growth. The family names of Keeton, Hall, Avery, Hughes, Birdsong, Lackey, Gross, Porter, Horton, Webb, White, Winningham, Perkins, Rogers, Evans were added to the rolls. These three periods of organization and reorganization had finally given the church a membership of approximately 100.

Chapel Hill Church building and part of the grounds are part of past history and are quite unique as to location and structure. This area was the overnight rest stop for the Jackson, Mississippi, to Greensboro, Alabama, stage coach company. The spring in the northwest corner of the church property furnished water for the hotel and for the horses. The hotel was on top of the hill to the west.

In Dr. William D. McCain's book, "The Story of Jackson", he states that in 1847 Loftin and Hudson advertised in the Jackson paper, "The Mississippian", as follows: "Four Horse, Six Passenger Coaches, and Two Horse Hacks will leave Jackson each day, 12 M. for Greensboro, Alabama, through in 52 hours, fare $17.00." The hacks were for mail only. The lower route of the line went through Brandon, Hillsboro, Herbert, Daleville, Lauderdale Springs, and Livingston, Alabama to Greensboro. The upper route of the line went through Herbert, Dekalb, Gainsville, Alabama, Tuscaloosa to Greensboro.

The hotel building was abandoned by the stage coach when the stage stop running and by the 1880's was used as a meeting place for the local chapter of the Farmers' Alliance (Co-Op) for several years. This building was acquired by the congregation, and Mr. John Keeton, a young carpenter in the community, tore it down and built the present church building during the fall and winter of 1890-91.

Like most of Kemper County, Chapel Hill Church reached it peak in the late 1920's. During the depression years of the 1930's it became evident that a large farm family on a small farm, could no longer make a living in the rural communities. Then when World War II began there was a movement away from Kemper County to the shipyards on the Gulf Coast and other wartime industries. Chapel Hill suffered greatly from this and has never recovered. The church's active membership is now virtually all Senior Citizens.

As a result of the Centennial Celebration in 1974, and a brief, preliminary history of the church given, renewed interest was shown in the preservation and continuation of this community landmark. Several thoughts and ideas were exchanged and discussed by various family groups, with the main goals being to encouraging the fourth, fifth and sixth generations of descendants continuing to "feel a part of the church" so they would return for Homecoming Day on the Second Sunday in August each year, and to support the project of perpetual care for the cemetery, which had been enlarged and enclosed with cyclone fence.
In 1974, Mr. H.E. (Gene) Allred who lived a short distance away, on the Porterville-Townsend Road, had started building a field stone retaining wall that would be 360 feet long and as much as 12 feet high. The members of the church had admired the work and it was suggested that the outside walls of the church be veneered with native sand rock. A delegation approached Mr. Allred for advice on how to do the church. His main advice was to "put a heavy foundation under the church."

It was suggested that the sand rock should come from as many old homesteads in the community as possible, chimneys and building foundations. After being unanimously adopted at the 1976 Homecoming Service, plans began immediately to get the project under way, with completion planned by the next Homecoming. The months of September, October, November and December were busy ones. Since many families had moved away, but still owned their lands, weekends were used by many family groups who would visit their Old Home Place, locate the sand rock, and "blaze" a trail for later hauling of the rock.

A contractor was hired to pour a new concrete foundation and level the building. After several months' search, a group of experienced stone masons were contacted and hired. Then volunteers were recruited to meet on Saturdays and holidays to haul rock. There were adequate volunteers, and a sufficient amount was soon hauled. The corner stone at the southwest corner was the first rock hauled, and came from the original homestead of the church's' founder. The large rocks along the foundation are the "pillars," or "foundation rocks," from many of the pioneer log homes in the community.

The support of this project, and the cash contributions were encouraging, so the group decided to do a remodeling job on the inside to further enhance the beauty of the Krinkle Glass Windows that were being installed. The cathedral type ceiling, of yellow pine to match the pews, and the select birch paneling is further evidence of the articulate planning that went with the entire project of preserving and beautifying this sanctuary, its grounds, the cemetery, and "Old Spring," what have been a vital part of the lives of the people for generations.

Compiled from information furnished to the late Mr. Jake Louis Parmer, by the late Mr. Isaac Axum Sanders, the late Mr.Leon J. Hudnall, the late Mr. Bennie Keeton, Mrs Lora Davis Yeager, Mrs. O.W. Hall, and many others for affidavits to be prepared, signed and attested by the late Aaron K. Briggs, Justice of the Peace, as the authentic history of the church. An application was prepared and sent to the State Historical Society for a historical marker. The marker was approved and was erected in October 1979, in honor of the church founder's 147th birthday.
 

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