Vicksburg Sunday Post, Vicksburg Miss., Sunday, June 24, 1984

Old Court House Comments
  by Gordon A. Cotton, Director
When the sun comes over Vicksburg on time with the Court House clock,
Tis the same that saw slaves labor to build it, block by block.  Eva W. Davis

Yokena Church To Celebrate 100th Anniversary

"Folks will think we're having a protracted meeting with all these cars out here," Mrs. Susie Ogle quipped one Sunday morning recently after services at Yokena Presbyterian Church.

Though the country church some 12 miles south of Vicksburg has only nine members on the roll (and some of them live away from here), there were 25 people present for morning worship.

Folks in the Yokena vicinity (everyone, not just Presbyterians) are justifiably thankful for the old church, for it is a place of beauty and an historical landmark. And well there should be community pride, for the church has an ecumenical background: the idea for starting it came about at a Methodist revival, and the church was organized in a Baptist sanctuary.

Tradition has it that the Rev. Charles A. Hyland and John B. Wright were attending a revival at Redbone Methodist Church when they had the idea for starting a Presbyterian congregation. A petition was circulated and approved by the Presbytery and the organizational meeting for the new congregation was held at Bogue de Sha Baptist Church (the church was located near the present-day Grace Baptist).

Presbyterians of the community didn't have a sanctuary of their own, though they had the right to worship at Redbone one Sunday out of every four. Redbone's slave-built sanctuary had been constructed in 1854 with labor from two Hullum plantations; one Hullum family was Methodist, the other Presbyterian. The Methodist Hullum contributed three-fourths of the cost and the Presbyterian Hullum one-fourth, so a corresponding arrangement was made for worship at Redbone three Sundays for the Methodists, one for the Presbyterians.

There were only six charter members when Yokena Church was organized on March 11, 1884: Mrs. Cynthia Wells Wright, Miss Fannie and Miss Sue Hullum, John B. Wright, the Rev. Charles A. Hyland, and Mrs. Martha Hyland Gould Hankinson, better known as "Miss Patti." Before the end of the year the following names had been added to the roster: George Torrey Hullum, Dr. Whitley Hemphill, Mrs. Florence Hemphill, James Simrall, Mrs. Pheobe Barton Simrall, Aubrey H. Russell, Clara Eugenia Rawls, Sara Eliza Rawls, and Zillie DeFrance Phillips.

Miss Patti was the driving force behind
Yokena Church. It was she who gave the land for the building, who ordered the materials for its construction, and who played the organ and taught the Sunday School for many years. For four years, Yokena had no regular pastor, but in 1888 the church called the Rev. C. P. Colmery, who served for over 49 years, or almost half of the church's existence. Today the church is served by Dr. David Daniels of Port Gibson.

At its peak, Yokena had about 55 members in the late 1920s, and though membership has dwindled, they are a dedicated group. Several years ago, when the rolls listed a dozen, Josephine Hyland Alexander reminded me that "Christ had only 12!".

Those determined Presbyterians have shown their spunk several times of late. When the State Highway Department contemplated encroaching on the land and possibly moving the building as they considered it "of no significant value," the congregation went en masse to visit Commissioner Sam Waggoner. State officials quietly backed away from any plans that would disrupt Yokena Church.

Recently the exterior of the building has been painted and the shutters repaired and the front restored to its original design, all at considerable cost. Annie Marie Head Smith and Dee Hyland, with the assistance of Mrs. Ron Miller of Natchez, have completed documentation to have the church placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a nomination that passed the state review board unanimously.

Members, former members, and neighbors were generous in underwriting exterior restoration, and now the congregation plans to restore the interior of the building, relying once again on contributions from members, friends and neighbors.

When the sanctuary was dedicated on August 4, 1886, people came by buggy from 10 and 12 miles away while others walked for several miles to fill the edifice. A newspaper article at the time described it as "well- filled" and described the sermon as "a master effort."

Next Sunday, July 1, Yokena Presbyterian Church will most likely be filled, for the church is celebrating its 100th birthday with services at 11 (usually they meet at 8:30), followed by dinner on the grounds.

You're invited to visit Yokena Church any time but especially on this anniversary. Come and help our community celebrate this significant date.

(Copied from our Church History Binder - Charles Rule - Yokena Historian)