Museum celebrates spiritual history of Union County with Hallelujah Trail
The Hallelujah Trail is one way that the Union County Historical Society and Heritage Museum will commemorate the Mississippi Bicentennial in Union County. The project has been funded by a $7,500 grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council and the Mississippi Development Authority.
This trail will mark the churches in Union County which were organized 100 years ago or more and which are still holding services, said Jill Smith, Museum Director. “We are excited to be able to do this project. After the first homesteads were settled in New Albany and Union County, the next things to be constructed were brush arbors for schools and churches and then the building of log buildings. There are a lot of our community stories in the organization of our churches. The 200th birthday of the State of Mississippi gives us reason to pause and celebrate our spiritual heritage.”
More than 50 active churches in county may be eligible for inclusion in Hallelujah Trail
Research is still underway, but it looks like there may be 50 or more churches in Union County which are more than 100 years old. “That makes a good statement about our community – one worth talking about,” Smith said,
History shows that in the 1600s the French brought Christianity to what became Mississippi in 1817. “By the time Mississippi passed into American hands, however, a new period of religious history began, one marked not by state control of religion but by the supremely American concept of freedom to choose one’s religion. Thus, by the time that statehood was achieved in 1817, Mississippi was attracting Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and other Protestant evangelical faiths at a remarkable pace.” (Mississippi History Now)
Those first churches, which were organized beginning here in 1838, were one or two room log buildings with split logs for seats and dirt floors. There is a good deal of information about many of the churches in the Union County History Book, published in 1989. However, not all the churches have histories in the book, and very few of the African American Churches are listed.
Hallelujah Trail churches to be identified and celebrated
“We hope that as this project moves forward, people will come by the museum with information about their churches with dates of organization as well as allowing us to scan photos of those early days. We hope to have the list completed by June 1,” she said.
What the Hallelujah Trail will include is a 12 x 18 inch metal sign on a metal post at each of the churches which would like to be a part of the project; inclusion on a web site, Facebook Page and a brochure which will be placed at the Mississippi Welcome Centers and other tourism locations. “We would hope that the churches included in this project would welcome visitors to attend regularly scheduled services should they be in the area and wish to attend,” Smith said.
There will be an exhibit at the museum opening in July, Sacred Spaces Surround Us, celebrating the churches in Union County. “If your church has not brought photos and church histories to the museum already, we would ask that you do that. We can scan and return photographs and copy the histories if they are not donated. We hope to broaden our church history information, as a research collection as well as photos for exhibits.”
Revivals, protracted meetings, baptisms, christenings, singing of the Psalms and Gospel favorites, funerals, weddings, dinners on the grounds, and fellowship – all were an important part of the early pioneers lives as well as life today.
Jill N. Smith
Union County Heritage Museum