Historic Mt. Moriah Baptist celebrates 192 years

BY MARY ALICE BEATTY CARMICHAEL

 

Principals for this Zoom Homecoming are Don Carmichael, Jr., presiding. There will be a traditional preacher, and there will be several people speaking short devotional type thoughts.

Special music will be by Jennifer Ellis of Baton Rouge, La., Amanda Carmichael of Chelsea, Gary Yeldell of Melrose, Fla., Danna Strickland of Montgomery, and Rob Robinson of Mt. Brook. It should be an excellent worship service!

Mt. Moriah Fellowship Church, located on the line of Butler and Wilcox Counties, was formed in 1828 by a devout group of twelve men and women, among whom was a slave named Sawney.

Like a number of other churches in this area in the 1820’s, these five, Rev. Kedar Hawthorn and his wife Martha, Dabney Palmer and his wife Clarissa, and Sawney, property of Mr. Palmer, were church planters and were instrumental in Mt. Moriah’s founding. They were five of the original dozen who constituted the church that they named Fellowship.

This little church has been resilient since its founding (called “The Little Church That Would Not Die”) and very rarely have its routine services been cancelled in the three centuries in which it has existed.

In the original Records and Minutes of the church, there were a few mentions of church services being cancelled because of excessive rain.

On another occasion, in the spring of 1865, “because the enemy is within us,” communion was not served since the wine had been stolen as a portion of the Union Army made its way through this area, burning and pillaging.

“They” had stolen the communion wine therefore communion was postponed. The wooden church which was standing at the time that the Yankees came through lasted well until the mid-20th century.

By 1954, the century old church was badly deteriorating. After a cost analysis of repairing the old or rebuilding a new, the decision was made to build a brick, more permanent church which was dedicated on June 12, 1955.

In the 21st century, 62 years after the rebuilding of the church, it is recorded that a service was cancelled in 2017 because the eye of Hurricane Nate was predicted to come over the church, which did happen.

The notice for the service for this year: it is not cancelled, but no one will be physically present as the COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the dynamics. The service will be a “first”, a “Zoom” service with worship, music, and Memorials but we will not have Dinner on the Ground, nor will anyone be present.

Memorials for 2020 are for the following:

Anderson, Harry Alanson, 90, of Montgomery

Bryant, Barbara Corley Steen, “BB”, (91) of Palmerdale

Bryant, Stephen H., (67) of Pinson

Crouch, Evelyn Pearl Henderson, (84) of Terrell Texas

Davison, Barbara Atkins, (73) of Forest Home,

Schulte, Grace Robins (102 minus 2 weeks) of Birmingham

Smith, Thomas Lyde, Jr. of Fairhope

 

History, long ago and recent

In the 1950’s when the church was to be rebuilt, a search for deeds to the church evidently could not be found. The church and cemetery had been established in 1828. The writer surmises that a search for deeds in both Butler and Wilcox County failed.

The committee formed in 1954 to rebuild the church realized that a clear deed was needed to proceed with the building project and a survey was needed. T. H. Crenshaw was contacted and made a survey of the church and cemetery consisting of a pencil drawing, signed, but not dated. This was found, about a decade ago, among the original records of the church.

This survey is fascinating with the unique information and facts it displays.

This little church is in two counties! The county line, running east to west, bisects the building! The congregation sits in Butler County, but just a scant three feet away from the first pew, the Preacher or speaker stands in Wilcox County! There are even more “oddities” to follow:

The church land is in two different “Ranges!” Range 11, Wilcox County; Range 12, Butler County! And this Range Line, just a smidgeon to the north of the church, bisects the Food Arbor that holds the “ton” of delicious food for Dinner on the Ground in non-COVID19 times, in a north-south direction.

The church property is in four different sections! Sections 13 and 24 in Wilcox Co., and Sections 18 and 19 in Butler County.

In order to proceed with construction, the owners of the lands, or their wives who were descendants of the pioneer settlers who settled near the future location of the church, agreed to deed to the Mt. Moriah Fellowship Church the lands they held that was already occupied by the church or cemetery.

Their ancestors had settled here during the Mississippi Territory, which was incorporated into the US in April 1798, the 1817 Alabama Territory, or the earliest years of the 1819 State of Alabama.

These owners were Richard W. and Clarita (Kendrick) Hagar; W. W. Kendrick, father of Clarita; Bob Atkins; and Dr. John L. and Grace (Donald) Carmichael.

In each of these couples, either the husband or the wife, or both, were descendants of pioneer Butler or Wilcox County families. (To be continued)

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