Going Inside: Mt. Zion Baptist Church No. 1

As you recall, my last stop on my journey through Claiborne and Jefferson County back in August was at the semi-abandoned river town of Rodney, Mississippi. Important in the antebellum period, the town quickly began to dry up when the river changed course sometime in the 1860s (I’m having trouble nailing down this date–does anyone know?). Since it seems so remote today, it’s hard to imagine how in the middle of things Rodney was in its day, but you can get a sense of it but driving Rodney Road north and within a few minutes all the sudden you are entering Alcorn State University, which began as Oakland College in the 1830s.

The river changed course after a flood, and a more recent flood has taken its toll on the wood-frame Mt. Zion Baptist Church No. 1 (where is No. 2?). The church sits lower than last week’s Rodney Presbyterian and is closer to the old riverbed; back in the flood of 2011, water got inside the building which had been abandoned for many years. You can see from the toppled pews that nothing has been done to clean up the building since the flood, and in fact, the two friendly dogs who toured me around town ran into the building before me, clearly having made a home here.

Unlike Rodney Presbyterian, I’m not even sure who the owner is at the Baptist church and its future seems very cloudy. However, just as at the Presbyterian church, pilgrims pass through here regularly, and as I was leaving, a couple was walking in awestruck and silent in the face of so much abandoned history and beauty.



Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, Antebellum, Churches, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Rodney, Urban/Rural Issues

6 replies

  1. Gosh, I’d surely join a volunteer clean-up crew.. I’d love to tackle those vines…. But I guess that would be trespassing w/o the permission of the owner. Would a park ranger know? County Tax Collector?

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  2. E.L.: If we could convince some statewide church leaders, across several denominations, to get together and discuss the preservation of these sites, would that be worthwhile? It just seems a shame to turn our backs on these beautiful spaces, especially where there are no local groups to take charge (i.e., Rocky Springs, Bethel, Rodney). Just a thought.

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  3. This is a beauty, even in its dilapidated state. It seems unique–I don’t recall having seen this design. Do you know what it is called?

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  4. I don’t know the date of the river course change but it was drastic and quick. This 1864 map (http://www.gis.ms.gov/Portal/imgViewer.aspx?fileName=bruinsburgarea1864.jpg) shows Rodney right on the river, while this 1878 map (http://historicalcharts.noaa.gov/jpgs/MR52.jpg) shows it almost a mile inland.

    One change to this structure is that it originally had an exterior access door to the balcony, similar to the Presbyterian church.

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