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By Andy Baeuerle
Nestled in the backwoods of Simpson County, about 5 miles southeast of Pinola, Mississippi, sits a simple little church. This church has only 3 rooms: a sanctuary and two wings that once served as Sunday School rooms. Across the road is a 2 acre cemetery with over 100 graves. The death dates on these headstones go as far back as 1891. To the left of the church sits a 5 foot deep baptistery, lined with concrete. The only way the baptistery can be filled is by bucket from a spring that sits below the hill.
This church is Stonewall Baptist Church (founded on July 30, 1876). This 131 year old church is one of the oldest churches in Simpson County. The church building sits on no solid foundation. Instead, the church is perched in the air, sitting on top of wood and concrete blocks.
When Stonewall Baptist Church was founded, 25 members came from the local churches of New Hebron Baptist, Strong River Baptist, and Pleasant Hill Baptist, seeking membership for a new church. In the church’s first meeting on August 12, 1876, 17 members were accepted. A letter requesting admission to the Strong River Baptist Association was written during a September 1876 meeting. Local homesteader, Robert Johnson, donated 10 acres of his land to the church, and a building committee was appointed in 1882. A temporary building was built to hold services until the current building was complete. In 1886, an organ was purchased, however, this was frowned upon as a source of evil at the time.
In 1890, the current building was built adding the two Sunday School rooms in 1917. A house was also built on the grounds for a school teacher. The house was located in the large grassy area between Stonewall and Shivers Road, but is no longer in existence.
Important things to note in the history of Stonewall Baptist Church:
1. The first grave in the cemetery is that of Mary Berry, daughter of E. & W.W. Berry. August 9, 1869 – January 24, 1891.
2. Bob Jones of Mendenhall, MS, was a long time pastor at the church, and led it through some hard times. The church members today believe that had it not been for him, the church would have closed many years ago. He preached at Stonewall Baptist Church for nearly 50 years.
3. Two Bibles sit in a case above the pulpit. One Bible was bought after the founding of the church, and the other Bible was given to the church in 1887.
Today, the church is still conducting services with a small crowd that grows and shrinks every week. This strong, little church has proven that you do not need to have over 20 members in attendance to worship the Lord. The current pastor is Bro. Chris Rankin.
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