(ODD)yssey, Blog Post

The reason this rural Mississippi church has such odd architecture

In rural Mississippi, near Alcorn State University, a small church makes a stately but unusual silhouette. Bethel Presbyterian Church is missing its steeple and its hind-end but it has managed to survive in this spot near Port Gibson since the 1840s.

Sweetums and I stumbled on the church while visiting Windsor Ruins, which is located nearby. Click here to read about those.

Bethel Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

I did some research when we returned and learned its unusual style is actually the result of a 1943 tornado that leveled the church. The Gothic Revival-style church was rebuilt, but without the steeple, the slave gallery and a portion of the back (the church originally had four windows across each side).

The Presbyterian Church website says:

“In 1837 Rev. Joshua T. Russell became pastor and served the church until about 1842. It was during his term of service that the congregation moved to this site and built the present house of worship. Located about 2 miles east of Oakland College (now Alcorn State University) at Bethel Cross Roads, the church is situated on 3 ½ acres of ground which was donated by Lewellin Price … on February 18, 1839.”

The sign on the front of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Miss., gives the date the congregation was formed. The church was built in the 1840s. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

Lewllin had specific demands before donating the land; he wanted to be sure no businesses of ill repute were built on his property, writing in the deed:

“that no house or shop for selling or retailing intoxicating liquors shall be erected on the above described lot or parcel of ground,” and that no “enticements shall be Created of any kind whatsoever thereon calculated to interfere with the studious habits or good order of the students of Oakland College and in case this condition be violated then the said lot or parcel of ground together with the improvements thereon erected shall be forfeited and revert back to my legal heirs.”

His wishes have been carried out for 180 years and the students at Alcorn are safe from “enticement.”

Marker at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
Bethel Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
An article about the tornado that heavily damaged the church. (From the Presbyterian Church website)
Bethel Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Miss. (From the Presbyterian Church website)

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