South Union History Told
By Addie M. Buck
The Choctaw Plaindealer
July 25, 1941
Following the war in 1866 the older churches were organized and were served by regular pastors. One of these churches was South Union; nestling in the dense pine forest near one of the finest springs ever discovered. The original church at South Union was built of huge logs near the ever-flowing spring. It was built with an apartment back of the pulpit for accommodation of the Negro slaves, where the slaves or former slaves, worshiped as devout and regular as their masters. In this crude structure the congregation worshiped for a few years following the Civil War. The preaching day was on Thursday only once each month. On that day all work was laid aside -- for all, including the slaves went to church. The preachers, who were known as circuit riders, went by horseback and usually spent several days in each community before and after "preaching day."
The original log structure at South Union eventually replaced by a better and more commodious church, better suited to the needs of the people. In the original church and the one immediately succeeding it, the gospel was dispensed by such heroes of the Methodist ministry as Reverend Harrison, Tom Castles Hyde, Murff, William and J.O. Woodward (uncle and grandfather of the writer) Archie Moss, Jimmie Carlisle, Kenneth Jones, W.R. Rainey, Hinds, Muncie, and others.
The encampment was in the shape of a square. The large shingle-covered tabernacle was built by Mr. Arthur Tenhet. It is said that when the timbers and building material had been assembled for the structure that the grand old men of the community gather for a prayer which prayer was led by Mr. Wesley Townsend. This prayer one of the most eloquent and appealing in its simplicity and faith sought God's guidance in the building of the camp ground and for the continuation for good. Gathered around Mr. Townsend knelt Mr. Parham Pollard, Archie Moss, Arthur Tenhet, Humphrey Buck, John Buck, William Adams and others.
Scaffolds, covered with straw over which quilts were spread, served as beds. A long brush arbor at the rear of the tent sheltered the dining room from the sun, while another one was used for the benefit of the cooks and water carriers -- all of these Negroes.
The entire camp ground was lighted at night by huge pine torches placed upon earth-covered scaffolds. The tabernacle was lighted at night by the use of tallow candles made and donated by the generous women of the church. These required the care of at least two persons during the services in order to have anything like satisfactory lights. Each woman who camped was busy before the day set for the camp meeting to begin moulding candles from tallow which she had made from the fat of beef.
The hours of worship services were: Sunrise prayer meeting, preaching services at eight and eleven o'clock in the morning and three o'clock and eight o'clock P.M.
Prayer meetings were held at five P.M. in the beautiful oak grove surrounding the camp ground. Many people scattered over these United States testify to the fact that they received their first spiritual thrill at these grove prayer meetings.
There were no musical instruments in those days and some of the campers must "raise a tune." Mr. Wash Gordon was the song leader -- in the absence of some Methodist preacher who was gifted in song. Wash Gordon had a voice that was both musical and powerful and his leadership added much to the song service.
These camp meetings were first held the third Sunday in August but in 1892 they were changed to the fourth Sunday in July, at which time they continue to be held, beginning on Friday before the fourth Sunday and closing the following Wednesday night.
Camp meeting without a "mourner's bench" was an unheard of thing, and a series of services conducted without the use of such an arrangement was thought to be an innovation, and was regarded as a failure if not a travesty on religion. This bench was placed in front of the pulpit. Sinners were invited, begged and persuaded to come and kneel before this "throne of grace", the good men and women of the congregation came and knelt around the penitents and there wrestled in prayer for salvation of his soul. At these altar places, many hundreds professed to have been born again and gave expression to his joy in shouts of praises. Methodist are still called shouting Methodist. While some of these may have fallen away or were possibly deluded yet many others were able thereafter to give reason for the hope that was in them and those who have been called to their reward have died in the triumphs of this living faith.
The cooking in the early days of South Union camp grounds was done on log fires in pots and skillets. Usually Negro men and women did the cooking. A place was provided for them to sit under the tabernacle and worship after their work was done. Negro boys carried buckets of water up the hills to the tents.
The people wore home spun clothes to South Union in its early days. That was right after the Civil War. The defeat of the South by the North in the terrible struggle for Southern independence was a challenge to the manhood and womanhood of Choctaw County to let courage match the calamity. To stand erect when all was leveled by the storm took courage and the pioneers of old South Union had courage. They wove the cloth and made their garments.
Old men today who were boys seventy years ago recall with a thrill the first carriage that was driven to South Union. It was owned by Colonel Drane of French Camp and driven by a faithful Negro man. Mr. Joe Moss stated that no boy of today gets any more thrill out of seeing an airplane come over than he did when that first carriage came driving up to South Union.
The encampment has had an eventful history. On Sunday morning, April 22, 1883, a cyclone swept through the forest, devastating everything in its wake. The camp ground happened to be in its course. Every tent, the tabernacle, shade trees and even the monuments marking the graves in the nearby cemetery, were demolished.
On July 22, 1914, disastrous fire destroyed the encampment. But none of these things daunted the spirit of the friends and patrons of the camp meeting. Immediately following these catastrophes they rebuilt the tents and tabernacle and held the annual camp meeting without missing one.
Thus through an unbroken term of seventy years camp meetings have been held annually. Today the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those heroes of the long ago are the chief camp ions of the camp meetings and right well do they acquit themselves in the manner of perpetuating this sacred interest. It is a trust thrown to them from falling hands, they have taken up the responsibility with a spirit that equals that of their pioneer forefathers who built the encampment. Not only has the fame of those old pioneers been sung down through the ages, but in the General Assembly of the saints many will rise and call them blessed.
The first tent builders at South Union included: Parham Pollard, Ira Pollard, John Buck, Clark Buck, Rev. Humphrey Buck, Dan McKinnon, Archie Moss, Wesley Moss, William Moss, Garner Love, William Moss, Garner Love, William Bruce, Culby Smith, H. H. Weeks, Dr. Smithwick, Bob Love, Ike Cork, J. M. Commander, Emily Commander, W. M. Dinsmore, W. H. Smith, Sid Whisenant, Frank Love, Joe Evans, Sam Smith, Arthur Tenhet, Tol Wells, Perry Bruce, W. M. Adams, Walter Adams, Jack Gaston, Joe Moss, Leroy Boyd, John R. Gaston, Noah Weeks, Jim Strawbridge, Will Bruce, B. K. Draper.
Other tent holders include Jep Bruce, T. H. McClure, Jim McKinnon, D. H. Buck, Will Buck, Sid Moss, Elie Smith, Dutch Smith (Great Grandfather of this webmaster), Sid Moss, J. Lem Seawright, Sam Moss, Gene Bruce, Mack Bruce, Emmett Moss, R.B. Draper, John Draper, Wade Gaston, Bob Henderson, Pink Adams, Hugh Smith, John Drane, Dr. B. Strong, Leslie Curtis, Wallace Martin, W. M Kennedy, Bob Childress, Feaster Coleban, Lee Wells, Frank Keen, Mitchell Commander, Cicero Pollard, Nat Pollard, Boyce Bruce, Tom Ballard, Billy Blain, C.E. White, Sam Buck, Joe Ward, Lester Buck, Dewitt Ray, Gene Stewart, Bill Stewart, Carvell Adams, Lee King, Jeff McKnight, Jim Hamric, J.L. McWhorter, L.A. Spurgeon, John Henderson, Lark Bruce, Robert Thompson, Emmett Tullos, Henry Smith, Anderson Blackwood, and many others.
Methodist preachers who have been identified with the establishment and growth of South Union include the best talent of the Southern Methodist church. Three men whose names are most outstanding in the list are the Reverend W.R. Rainey, Jimmie Carlisle and the Rev. Casey. Brother Rainey would move down from Sturgis and Mrs. Bill Smith stated that he was so closely identified with the camp meeting that as a child she felt that the meeting only began when she saw him come riding in on his gray horse.
Other preachers who through the decades that followed have preached here include W.F. Barnett, Rev. Williams, L. D. Worshaf, W. M Lester, R. P. Goar, T. W. Dye, Eugene Johnson, J. T. McCafferty, G. W. Bachman, R. M Evans, V.C. Curtis, A. T. McIlwain, J. A. George, R. P. Neblet, T. H. Lipscomb, T. C. Weir, J. A. Biffle, W. R. Couch, Tom Castles, W. M. Commander, Sam Vowell, J. M. Wyatt, D.C. Foust, W.F. Rodgers, W. N. Duncan, W. S. Shipman, J. B. Randolph, W. M Graves, H. M. Young, G. W. Gordon, Wylie Lewis, Rev. Mr. Smith, J. B. Burns, T. F. Sartain, Rev. Mr. Ashmore, E. M. Allen.
Young men of Choctaw County who have become ministers of the gospel and whose lives have been touched by the spirit of South Union include Rev. Edd Buck, Rev. J. T. McCafferty, Rev. Jim Moss, Rev. Viner Cobb, Rev. Leland Caldwell, Rev. Howard Thompson, Rev. Elmer Martin, Rev. Garner Martin, Rev. Daniel Martin, Rev. Claude Calcote, Rev. Jim Bob Bright, Rev. Bob Ruff, Rev. Sam Hemphill, Rev. Floyd Lummus, Rev. Andrew Crawford, Rev. J.C. Stewart, Rev. Lawrence Mecklin.
One Hundred Twenty-Eight Years of History Preserved At South Union Campmeeting
The Choctaw Plaindealer
Wednesday, July 28, 1999
Volume 112, Number 30
By Sandra Berryhill
This article is part one of a two-part series featuring South Union Campground.
Reverend James Cox of Hernando, pastor of Cockrum United Methodist Church, will be bringing the message on Friday with Reverend Buddy Smith, United Methodist Minister and executive assistant of the American Family Association of Tupelo leading the music. Pastors from local and surrounding churches will be bringing the fellowship messages during the afternoon worship services beginning at 3:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Reverend Jerry Lawson from Enon Cumberland Presbyterian Church will bring the message. Rev. Greg Chamblee from Ackerman Church of God will bring the message on Sunday while Reverend Bryan Carruba from Saint Stephens United Methodist Church in Columbus will bring the message of worship on Monday. Reverend Ron Harrison from First Baptist Church of Ackerman will be bringing the message on Tuesday; and Reverend Phillip Cooper of Chester Baptist Church will bring the message on Wednesday.
A fellowship supper will be held on Wednesday beginning at 6:00 p.m. Sunday will be celebrated as the Homecoming of Sound Union Camp meetings, repeating history of more than 128 years of South Union Camp meetings.
A large number of worshippers, scattered all over the United States, are expected to attend the 128th annual South Union Camp Ground meeting. By tradition, worshippers are called to the services by the trumpeting of the horn, which is in the possession of Martha Ward, and donated by Edward Buck.
Everyone is invited and welcome to attend all of the services, so listen for the trumpet sound.
128 Year-Old Tradition Continues
The Choctaw Plaindealer
Wednesday, August 4, 1999
Volume 112, Number 31
By Sandra Berryhill
One hundred twenty eight years of history repeated itself last week at the South Union Campgrounds as descendants of the founders gathered together for a week of fellowship with one another. Approximately ten families camped at the campgrounds during this week, as local and surrounding area residents came to visit or to attend the services.
A prayer service was held on Thursday, July 22.Services began on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and continued over until the following Wednesday night, which included a fellowship supper at 6:30 p.m.
According to Linda Liddell, whose husband is a descendant of the founders, there were four services held each day. Each day began with a devotional service at 8:00 a.m., a visiting minister brought the message at the 11 a.m. services, various visiting ministers spoke at the 3 p.m. services and a visiting minister brought the message at the 7 p.m. services. Each service began with the sounding of the horn.
The echoing sound of the horn vibrated across the campground, letting everyone know that it was time for the camp meeting to begin. Worshippers, ranging in ages from three years to approximately ninety, came and gathered under the Arbor for the 3:00 p.m. service that was held on Tuesday, July 27.
The services began with Buddy Smith reading scripture from the book of Psalm and then asking the congregation to join with him in singing that old time favorite, The Lily of the Valley. Reverend Sam Dodd welcomed those that were visiting and gave a report on how successful this year's camp meeting had been, despite high temperatures and an occasional rain. Ron Harrison, Pastor of Ackerman First Baptist Church brought the message. Special music was shared by Buddy Smith, the camp ground children singing Father Abraham, and Rachael Fulce singing Precious Memories. Summer Lidell played the piano.
"I can remember when there were crowds of people standing around the Arbor because there was no place to sit," said Erin Moss, great-granddaughter of Reverend Archie Moss, one of the campground founders and Circuit Riders. "Now the number has decreased in attendance."
"At each side of the Arbor, there were scaffolds made out of wood," said Moss. "Shovels of dirt were on top with rich pine knot stuck in it. The pine knot was lit and that is what was used for light around the Arbor. It would light up the whole campground."
According to the Moss sisters; each tent was made up of two bedrooms, one on each side of the hallway, a kitchen area and an eating area. The men slept in one bedroom while the women and children slept in the other. Water was brought up from the spring, which was the only source of water then, that still runs near the campground. Although the tents and campground have been modernized to some extent, a trip to the spring is still a highlight for the campers. "Still today, as tradition, we bring our water bucket and dipper," said Evelyn Moss.
The Choctaw Chronicle
Ackerman, Mississippi Volume I - No. 5
Wednesday, July 21, 1999
On a parcel of land, ten acres, donated by Samuel Eastlerling Moss; five acres donated by Parham Pollard and an additional two acres that was obtained from J.M. Draper and wife, sets The Arbor. This is the last of three Arbors that were constructed on this site. The first Arbor that stood forty by fifty was constructed in 1872, after three South Union principals, the Reverend Archie Moss, the Reverend Humphrey Buck, and Parham Pollard held a prayerful meeting at the nearby, ever flowing spring known as South Union Spring.
From that August date in 1872 until this year, this has been the annual event. This year will be the 128th camp meeting which is now being held starting prior to the fourth Sunday in July and ends the following Wednesday.
Meetings originally were held on the third Sunday in August, apparently because at this time almost all crops were "laid by" and this is as a relatively quiet time on the farm until harvest began for some crops in September.
The first Arbor came to an end on April 23, 1883, when the skies darkened and spawned tornadic winds that not only destroyed The Arbor, but all of the tents and trees and damaged part of the monuments marking the graves in the nearby cemetery.
The Arbor was destroyed but not the spirit that built it. For, according to local historians, planning began the very next day and a new Arbor was built some thirty percent larger in size according to these same historians, the campground meeting was held late in August. Stave shingles were used to shield worshippers from the elements on this new structure.
On July 22, 1914, thirty-one years into the life of this structure, The Arbor, again was destroyed. Fire this time was the culprit. The fire destroyed The Arbor and eighteen of the forty tents. Again spirits were not daunted. Friends and patrons of the camp meeting immediately following this disaster began rebuilding the tents and this tabernacle and the regular camp meeting was held and still will be held this year.
In 1999, the 128th South Union Campground Meeting will be held eighty-five years after the fire; one hundred and sixteen years after the tornado and one hundred and twenty eight years after those three men in prayerful thought gave birth to the idea of the Arbor. The Arbor still stands, and the week of July 23rd through July 28th, members and friends will celebrate the spirit that has allowed this physical plant to exist, as they celebrate their faith in God.
A prayer service will be held at 7:30 p.m., Thursday night. This year's services will begin officially Friday evening, July 23 at 7:30 p.m. The visiting evangelistic team will be Reverend Jim Cox from Senatobia and Reverend Buddy Smith from Tupelo. Reverend Cox is pastor of Cockrum United Methodist Church and Reverend Buddy Smith is also a United Methodist Minister and Executive Assistant of the American Family Association based in Tupelo. Rev. Smith will be leading the music. The afternoon worship at 3:30 p.m. will have local pastors preaching. They are as follows: Saturday, the Reverend Jerry Lawson from Enon Cumberland Presbyterian Church; Sunday, the Reverend Greg Chamblee from Ackerman Church of God; Monday, Reverend Brian Carruba, from Saint Stephens United Methodist Church in Columbia; Tuesday, Reverend Ron Harrison form the First Baptist Church of Ackerman; Wednesday, Reverend Philip Cooper from Chester Baptist Church.
Sunday is usually a very special day. According to local historians, Sunday will be Homecoming and history will more than likely repeat itself with attendees from all areas of the United States and as far away as Canada, and a large crowd of local worshippers are expected.
Wednesday, also, will have a special function according to these historians when at 6:00 p.m., in the evening a fellowship supper will be held. Said one historian, "Come and join us." Bring you own food, or come and share ours.
Tradition has it that worshippers are called to the meeting with the trumpeting of a horn. The keeper of this horn, donated by Edward Buck, is Martha Ward. Listen for its call. Everyone is welcomed and invited to come to all of the services.
Families Make Revival A Long-Standing Tradition
Saturday, July 21, 2000
By Julie Whitehead
Special to The Clarion-Ledger
[ Julie is a free lance writer from Brandon, Mississippi. She attended Camp Meeting as a young person with her family - Linda & Terry Liddell of Ackerman. Linda & Terry remain as faithful participants in Camp Meeting and Julie along with her children (see below) still enjoys an annual visit. She can be contacted at 117 Summit Ridge Drive, Brandon, MS 39042. ]
Shortly after the Civil War, Choctaw County families gathered at South Union for a revival meeting in August 1872.
The tradition still endures today, making South Union the oldest camp meeting revival in the state.
South Union Camp-ground is holding its 129th annual Camp Meeting revival today through July 26.
The Rev. George Buell of New Hope United Methodist Church in Horn Lake will preach two services per day with Rachel Fulce and Summer Liddell, both of Ackerman, serving as music ministry leaders. Services are 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. each day of the revival.
The worship schedule goes back to times when families came to the meeting after harvest was over. Families arrived at the campground three miles outside Ackerman by a natural spring, an stayed for the duration of the meeting, camped around the church.
"The whole concept of the camp meeting is the foundation of the Methodist Church," the Rev. Keith Tonkel of Wells United Methodist Church in Jackson said. "All the Methodist Churches began out of camp meetings."
Families are drawn to the camp meetings, said Tonkel, a "spiritual and evangelistic experience. Camp Meetings are a great opportunity to hear different kinds of worship and different preachings to get other perspectives on things."
By tradition, the first service is led by lay people, with the visiting pastor preaching at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. The 3 p.m. service features local clergy from various denominations.
Union Campground was organized by William Parham Pollard, the Rev. Humphrey Buck, and Archibald Moss, according to J.P. Coleman's Choctaw County Chronicles, with Pollard and Samuel Moss donating land to build an arbor for worship and the surrounding tents.
On Sunday, April 22, 18883, a cyclone destroyed the original buildings. The present arbor is the third, built after the second was destroyed by fire on July 18, 1914.
The campgound is maintained by donations. Campers often donate services as well.
Although the tradition dates back to 19th century, campers have made concessions to modern technology. The grounds have been modernized with electricity, plumbing, and camper/RV sites.
South Union Camp Meeting even has a Web site with photographs, historical documents, and an electronic guest book, maintained by the Rev. Buddy Smith of Plantersville.
"My wife Carol and I grew up going to campmeeting with our grandparents," said Smith, Executive Assistant for the American Family Association. "I consider those times a foundational experience in my spiritual life."
Smith recalls leading the song services for the first time at 14 as a substitute for the scheduled leader. He has been back seven times to lead worship since then.
Smith added the Web site because "we really did need to preserve the history of this place."
He plans to add video footage of future meeting and a recorded interview with his grandfather Casey Smith, who helped rebuild after the 1914 fire.
Visit South Union Campground on the Web at www.southunioncampmeeting.org.
(Above photo courtesy of the Choctaw Plaindealer)
South Union Tradition Continues
The Choctaw Plaindealer
Wednesday, July 26, 2000
Volume 113, Number 30
By Allen Baswell
Picture the scene: a quiet, pristine wooden arbor, complete with old fashioned wooden benches, overhead fans and a few electric fans constantly running to stave off the sweltering heat that invades Mississippi summers.
The scene progresses as a group of God-fearing, God-loving people singing "The Old Rugged Cross" holding Cokesbury Hymnals accompanied by a songleader and pianist. A pastor delivers a stirring message as mothers fan their children with the old fashioned hand held fans, and a few "amens" are heard from the crowd.
No, it isn't a passage from a William Faulkner novel, a Eudora Welty short story or Willie Morris essay - though it could be. Instead, it is an actual happening as once again the South Union camp meeting returns.
For the 129th year, this camp meeting, which could be considered a tradition almost as old as Choctaw County itself, has made its way back to the serene area of South Union United Methodist Church.
"Some say this is the 128th meting, but it is the 129th meeting," said Miss Erin Moss, who along with her sisters have been attending camp meetings at South Union as long as they can remember.
For the Moss sisters, it could be more than safe to say that coming to camp meetings is a family tradition. After all, their great-grandfather, the Rev. Archie Moss, was one of three men who helped bring this event to fruition.
"He was a circuit rider," Miss Erin recalled. "He and Rev. Humprey, another circuit rider and and a layman, Parham Pollard started it."
Samuel Easterling Moss donated 10 acres of land, and Mr. Pollard donated another five acres. The other two acres were purchased from Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Draper.
A large wooden sign in front of the arbor gives a history of the church and the beginning of camp meetings. At night, the camp ground was lit with huge pine torches placed upon earth covered scaffolds. The women of the church donated the candles which were made from beef tallows.
In spite of tornadoes, burnings and difficulties that almost saw the small church close its doors for good, it has stayed open for those who love and want to worship the Lord.
As one walks along the grounds, not only do they see the church and arbor, along with a well-kept cemetery, they see many wooden buildings called tents. All during camp meeting, families and friends stay at the tents and bring rocking chairs and a few modern amenities, yet the tents are a reminder of a simpler time long ago before VCR's and the like.
Rev. Sam Dodd of the Ackerman United Methodist Church, who also delivers the word of God at South Union, described camp meeting at South Union as being around family.
"Everybody is family here. If you're not family when you get here, you will be before you leave," he said. "It is a unique place, it has tradition and a family atmosphere."
This makes the fifth year Dodd has attended South Union's camp meeting, which is one of at least six still held in Mississippi. Yet for others, such as Rev. George Buell of Horn Lake, this is his first one, one that has made an early favorable impression.
"I think it's a group of loving folks who love Jesus," he said. "It is refreshing to see folks take time to worship the Lord through fellowship, worship and praise."
Like other things, South Union is joining the rest of the world on the super information highway. Yes, there is now a website - it was started following the 1999 camp meeting - devoted to South Union. From the history of the church through information on who is buried in the cemetery, even pictures from earlier camp meetings. It is there on the South Union Web Page.
To get access to the web page, click on www.southunioncampmeeting.org.
The meeting began Friday, July 21 and continues through today (July 26). Each day, there are four services: a devotional at 8 a.m., then regular services at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.