Friday, November 21, 2014
History of Lamar County, MS featuring Oak Grove United Methodist Church– Part 1
The combined Oak Grove United Methodist Church and Calvary Baptist Church Thanksgiving Service will be held Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 6 pm at OGUMC. Pastor Jeff Floyd of Calvary Baptist will preach and OGUMC will host the reception afterwards. Brother Chris Young currently serves as OGUMC’s pastor.
Here is the humble story of how these two sister churches combined spiritual forces to serve the needs of a small, rural community. The bond still remains today.
It was 1902 when four Methodist families (Crews, Mucklewraths, Pools and Howells) banded together in the Oak Grove community, then Marion County, to hold Methodist church services. They built a frame building on the location of the Joe Cameron home at the corner of today’s Old Hwy. 11 and Hwy. 24. By 1908 the name of the area was changed to Lamar County and the rural church building remained in use until 1927. During that year, the Methodist pastor, Mr. C.W. Wesley, was sent to Purvis and the small flock followed. Since the Oak Grove church building was in poor condition by that time, it was torn down and the lumber was sold.
With the main mode of local transportation being horse, mule or walking, the congregation was not happy traveling the distance to Purvis. When the Shelton family came to Oak Grove in 1931, they contacted the Methodist of the local community and made arrangements to meet in different homes of the members. Things progressed and eventually Rev. Tom Pruitt of the Broad Street Methodist Church came and assisted in the Sunday services. By September 1936, several Broad Street Methodist Church members came with Rev. Pruitt, and an assistant pastor, J. Melvin Jones, and officially organized the Oak Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which met in a donate frame structure at the church’s current location.
On Heritage Sunday 2005, the last remaining charter member, the late beloved Mrs. Ena King Cuevas shared her early memories of the church with the congregation. “In 1936, when my father, Homer King, moved to Oak Grove, there was no Methodist Church; however, it was not long until Broad Street Methodist Church (now Heritage United Methodist Church) started a mission church in Oak Grove. We met on Sunday afternoons in different homes. After the services were over, we children had fun playing together. We were in the country (and I mean country then), and everyone knew everyone in the community, and helped each other when the need arose. For example, if someone was walking along the road, we would immediately stop and give them a ride.”
Ms. Ena stated “On September 6, 1936, Oak Grove Methodist Church organized with 48 charter members. The Rev. Thomas O Prewitt, pastor of Broad Street Methodist Church, presided. The organizational meeting was held in a new church on land donated by the M.H. Crews Family. Newman Lumber Company donated our first church and moved it to the church property.” There were rooms on both sides which were large enough to hold pews, and also serve as Sunday school classrooms. The pulpit, pulpit chairs, table and decorative glass above the entrance doors were given by Broad Street Methodist Church.
The week following the official founding of the church, Ms. Ena stated they had the most spiritual revival she ever experienced. “There were very few cars so most people had to walk 3 or more miles. The majority of the people living in Oak Grove came – both Methodists and Baptists. Many people accepted Christ as their Savior during this great revival. One person left that night feeling so strong about Christ that, after he had walked all the way home, he walked all the way back to the church and accepted Christ as his Savior. He later became a well-respected Baptist preacher in our community.”
“We only had church every other Sunday, and our pastors were students at USM – known as Mississippi Southern College then – so we think we trained a lot of good ministers.” It was not unusual during this period for preachers to serve more than one church, thus being circuit riders and alternating Sundays where they preached. This is where the bond between Calvary Baptist Church and Oak Grove United Methodist Church grew as members from each church worshipped together each Sunday but alternated between the church houses since their circuit riding preachers were on opposite schedules. “On Sundays that we had church, the Baptists became Methodists, and on the other Sundays, we became Baptists. This relationship has continued through the years with our two churches sharing Thanksgiving Service and Easter Sunrise Service.”
During the early years, there was no electricity, no water, and no bathrooms – just outhouses. “The men’s outhouse was on the left and women’s on the right. We had never heard of toilet tissue, so catalogs came in handy – not nearly as soft as Charmin. Windows were opened in the summer, and paper fans from Hulett Funeral Home were great to move the air. We could hear singing from the Baptist Church next door, and of course, we tried to sing louder and better. Sometimes you could also hear their preacher when he got excited and started shouting.”
Coal oil lamps were on the walls, wooden heaters were used, and homemade pews were installed. Electricity was added in the 1940s. The church doors were always open to anyone who wanted to come. Many old-fashioned revivals were held with dinner on the grounds and the Spirit of the Lord overflowed the church and many joined. Pastoral service was on an every-other Sunday basis for years but as membership increased, a regular pastor was assigned for each Sunday service.
Do you have memories, stories or photos you would like to share with us about the history of our community? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.