History of Early Grove Church near Slayden
"Historic church building replaced with new structure at Early Grove"
The South Reporter, November 19, 1981

Editor's Note: The following is a history of Early Grove Church near Slayden, Miss., reprinted from The South Reporter's files and written by R. B. Henderson. Because of the condition of this approximately 140 year old building--two severe cracks in the outside wall running from the roof to the foundation--the church members decided after consulting two architects, to tear the structure down and build a new church on the site, adjacent to the old cemetery. The photographs were made by John Bobb, Sunday, November 8--the last day services were held in the church. The tearing down process began Monday, November 16, 1981.

The community of Early Grove was first settled north of Sharp's Store, along the route of the Memphis and Corinth road, the Moscow and Holly Springs road, near its intersection with the Corinth and Memphis road. Present State Highway 72 follows the general course of the Memphis and Corinth road, but in the early years of settlement this road ran a considerable distance north of its present route through the Early Grove community.

Although there was a post office, a school, two churches and several stores over the years, these buildings and homes of the settlers were spread out over too wide an area for Early Grove to be considered as a municipality.

Several sections of land in the community were owned by an Indian chief named Non-Konnah. On October 7, 1836, Non-Konnah sold all of his land to Anderson & Orne, land speculators living in Pontotoc. On April 11, 1838, Edward Orne, a son of the elder Orne, brought the firm's holdings in the Early Grove community and westward as far as Slayden. For a time Edward Orne operated "a tavern of sorts" somewhere near the present village of Slayden, probably at the intersection of Highway 72 with the Holly Springs road. For some reason, Orne abandoned his tavern and peddled out his vast acreage in the community to settlers who were arriving in great hordes. Orne moved back to Pontotoc, where descendants of the family are yet living. Other descendants moved to Memphis and became outstanding citizens of that city.

Many of the early settlers built their homes on, or a short distance off, the Moscow and Holly Springs road. The route of this old road, from Sharp's store to Moscow, is little changed at this present day.

Many of the settlers were from Tennessee and were devout members of the Episcopal Church. As soon as they were settled in their new homes, they organized and built St. John's Episcopal Church. This church, a brick and frame building, was built one mile west of the Moscow road on a now obsolete road that connected with the Memphis and Corinth road further west.

Immediately following the close of the Civil War, the Early Grove Methodist Church was organized (the church pictured above). On October 19, 1876, two acres of land at the present location were donated for a church building by A. B. Conley and wife to the "Trustees of the Early Grove Methodist Church, to wit: Richard Parham, John Parham, William Tucker, William H. Bailey, Thomas Scanlon, Thomas Bell, William Shaw, William T. Bennett, Columbus G. Franklin. The church, constructed immediately after the lot was acquired, has remained continuously active until the present day.

Mr. J. K. Wilburn of the Early Grove Methodist Church has a record book of the early members and pastors are: Members: Emily J. Allen, Callie D. Allen, William H. Bailey, William E. Bailey, Nannie P. Bailey, Thomas Bell, Mrs. Sarah Bell, Mrs. Annie Barringer, Lon Bennett, John N. Bennett, Calvin L. Barringer, M. E. Bryant, Mattie Breedlove, J. C. Barringer, Mrs. Lula Carrol, Mattie Carrol, Hugh Hansel, Hardin P. Kelsey, John M. Nicholson, Irene Parr Briggs, M. J. Oliphant, Jane C. Wilburn, M. Franklin, Judy L. Fite, Tobias Sides.

All these members of the church were members prior to 1900: the oldest were Willie J. and Gideon Wilburn, 1869; M. Franklin, 1869 and William B., William E. and Nannie P. Bailey, also in 1869.

Some of the early ministers were: J. K. Morris, 1884; J. A. Boren, 1883; D. M. Cogdell, 1885; and J. J. Booth, 1886.

In the cemetery of the Methodist Church are the following epitaphs: Cullen R. Bailey, November 20, 1857-November 7, 1936; Bernard Franklin, March 11, 1799-February 3, 1878; Rebecca Mae Franklin, November 4, 1808-November 11, 1876; Daniel Webb, June 4, 1807-November 3, 1890; Tobias Sides, Co. F. 7th Mississippi Cavalry; Matida Morgan Sides, February 5, 1824-April 28, 1911, wife of John Sides, November 1858-September 26, 1902; William Robert Fite, January 1, 1851-March 20, 1928; John W. Wilburn, February 8, 1870-May 5, 1934; Fannie Mason, December 15, 1883-August 9, 1954.

Present active membership is approximately 50 and the Rev. Frank Conway of Byhalia is the pastor.

Outstanding among the early settlers were the Baileys who came to Early Grove from Lincoln County, Tennessee. Several members of the Bailey family settled in Early Grove and the other place in southern Tennessee not far from the homes of those who settled around Early Grove.

The home of Dr. Bailey was built in the 1840s in the midst of a magnificent grove of cedars, oaks and walnut trees, many of which have grown to a height of more than 100 feet and add greatly to the grandeur and majesty of the home.

Louisa Bailey, a sister of Dr. Bailey, married William M. Parr, and their daughter, Jennie Parr, is Mrs. Bennett's mother.

Dr. Bailey practiced medicine at his home for almost half a century. He was too old for military service, but treated alike the wounded of both Confederate and Union armies. It is related that federal authorities never molested him during the War Between the States, because of his charity to wounded federal soldiers.

Not so fortunate, however, was Dr. Bailey when visited by guerillas from Hurst's brigade of renegades quartered at Moscow. It is a local tradition that some of the renegades came to Dr. Bailey's one night and were hanging him to make him tell where his money was hidden when his daughter opened fire on the renegades with a shotgun. She killed one of them and the other fled. Throughout his long life, Dr. Bailey was not only a physician, but a larger planter and a leader in the community affairs. Among others buried in the old Episcopal Church Cemetery are Dr. Bailey and other citizens of his time. The home of Dr. Bailey and his great plantation is owned by his great-niece, Mrs. Boyd Burnett of Collierville.

Other pioneer settlers were Fires, Sides, Franklins, Warrens, Parrs, Wilburns, and Wheelers.

Submitted by Martha Fant.

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