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Collection Title: Bethel Methodist Church Class Book and Membership Rolls

Collection Number: M344

Dates: 1855 - 1875

Volume: 1 item

Provenance: Transferred from the Genealogy Collection, October 31, 1990.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

The period from 1817 to 1860 was one of rapid religious growth in Mississippi. By 1860, the Methodists had the largest number of churches in the state, even surpassing the Baptists, although the Baptists apparently had the largest number of members.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, existed from 1845 until 1939, with most of its membership in the southern states. The church was separated from the parent body as a result of controversies over slavery in 1845 that led to the division of the church into predominantly northern and southern parts. The church enthusiastically supported the confederacy, providing chaplains and missionaries where needed. In 1939, the Methodist church body through the "Plan of Union" united the north and south branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church as one.

While it is not possible to establish the location of the Bethel Methodist Church with absolute certainty, existing records point to two distinct possibilities. One possibility is Bethel Methodist Church in Covington County, Mississippi, which was organized in 1852. The other is Wesleyanna United Methodist Church, which was organized, in Rankin County, Mississippi, in 1847, near the present community of Star.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of a photocopy of a class-book for use in the Methodist Episcopal Church. The book, published by Carlton & Phillips in New York, 1856, is a ledger for church record keeping. The book was sanctioned by the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church: Elijah Hedding, Beverly Waugh, T.A. Morris, and Edmund S. Janes who expressed in their judgement "a series of uniform Church Records is of great importance." The publishers in a brief set of instructions stated explanations on how to keep accurate records and how to use abbreviations.

The front cover of the item has a handwritten inscription that reads "Class Book from Wesleyanna 1856. METHODIST BETHEL." The book begins with Wesleyanna Society information and ends with Bethel Society information. It is unclear whether the societies evolved one from the other, or if the book was used as an economical measure for two separate entities. The names John Price and Daniel Loflin appear in both records as church leaders.

Names recorded in the Wesleyanna Society coincide with a history of the Wesleyanna United Methodist Church (Rankin County, Mississippi) that was organized in 1847 on land donated by the organizer and first pastor, Daniel H. Loflin. The building was located two miles north of the present community of Star on old Highway 49 at the location of the Wesleyanna cemetery. In 1921, the church was relocated to a building at the center of the Star community on a lot adjacent to the High School. The church faces new Highway 49.

Names in the Bethel Society section coincide with a history of Bethel Methodist Church (Covington County, Mississippi). This church was first organized in 1852 by ten women, including Mrs. Mary F. Welch, Mrs., Jane Patten, Susie Welch, Polly Welch, Rachel Welch, Mrs. Sally Welch, Phuroby ( Phayby or Pheaby) Welch, Nancy Welch, Judith Welch, and Martha Welch. The first preaching was in an old house used as a schoolhouse. A few years before the Civil War, Mr. Jimmy Welch built a log house that served as the church until about 1889 or 1890. Between 1939 and 1940, the members of Bethel Methodist Church built an annex on the back of the church for schoolrooms. The present structure was the first house in the vicinity to be made of sawed and dressed lumber. The walls of the church have since been covered with Masonite boards and painted. Bethel is identified as part of the Enon Circuit.

An item of special interest in the class-book includes an inscription by R.J. Janis to his brethren to ".Pray together, watch over each other in love. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy. Forget not that the Friday before the quarterly meetings is to be observed as a day of fasting and prayer."

This collection would be of interest to Methodists, church historians, Mississippi historians, genealogists, and calligraphers.


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
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Revised: December 17, 2004