DEDICATION AT YOKENA,
Vicksburg, Miss., July 31, 1886.
Mr. Editor. ---Yokena, Miss., is a station on the Louisville. New Orleans and Texas Railroad, in Warren County Miss., twelve miles. south of Vicksburg. It is located at the foot of a long range of hills, from whose summit the beholder looks upon a landscape of rare beauty, within which lie the rich plantations of that portion of the Mississippi Valley.
The lawn, in front of the hospitable mansion of the lady who owns the lands surrounding the station, has for the past two seasons been used as a picnic ground for the Presbyterian Sunday-School of Vicksburg. And in that beautiful lawn, shaded by the magnificent native growth of the Mississippi forest, the children, having carte blanche from the accomplished hostess to go and do as they please, enjoy, as only they can, the delights of a day in the country.
For years, there was no Presbyterian church in Warren county but the one in Vicksburg, but, at last, about five years ago, the lady of whom I spoke—her"name, Mrs. Patty Gould, already well known in Presbyterian circles—determined, with God's help, to do something for the Master's cause in her vicinity. The task seemed almost hopeless. The people were by no means a God-fearing people. They cared but little for religion, and the Sabbath was not respected. This good woman had passed through deep trouble, but had come out of the fires of affliction purified, and with a zeal for the Master's cause which made her cry out, like Paul, '"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?" Her question seemed to be answered in the impulse she felt to work for her neighbors and the people among whom she lived, and whom she loved. The task seemed to be a hopeless one—an undertaking that few would have entered on. She started almost alone. Her husband dead, her brothers still mere boys and no man to aid or advise her. But with the courage born of conviction, and the tenacity of purpose which true faith always brings, she went to work to collect enough persons of the Presbyterian faith for a church organization, and, also, to build a house of worship. It would extend this article into a volume to tell of her labors in this behalf. Suffice it to say that .about a year ago, a church was organized by order of Presbytery, with a small membership, and on the 18th inst., a neat and handsome church' building, with a seating capacity , of several hundred, all neatly painted, .with pulpit and seats complete, was dedicated to the worship of God. Rev. Thomas Cummins, of Vicksburg, preached the sermon. A few months before, an excellent Sunday-School was organized, into which came as scholars many of the young gentlemen and ladies of the vicinity, many having to ride a long distance to attend the school, besides a number of children.
The dedication, sermon is described by those who heard it as a master effort. The building was well filled, some persons having ridden ten or twelve miles. The music was furnished by an excellent elder of the Vicksburg church, on an organ which he had secured for the church. The day was also availed of as a communion season—the first ever held in the building. There was a second service in the afternoon, with preaching by the same minister. The church building is nearly entirely paid for. It is hoped that regular preaching will soon be secured.
Thus has God rewarded the zeal of an
earnest laborer in His vineyard. In a neighborhood, where a few years since
religion was almost scoffed at, where the Sabbath was desecrated by both young
and old, a church has been established, the blessed Gospel preached, and the
neighborhood now as much noted for the respect shown religion as it had formerly
been for a lack of it. What must have been the feelings of that noble woman as
she sat in church that day! In a letter to the writer she says: "Sunday was
truly a happy day for me—full to the brim—realizing the dream of nearly five
years, yet in active work, something more than two. The result, so far, has
surpassed my brightest hopes, although I have been ever perfectly confident that
our Master required the effort to be made, and would recognize it and bless it
as His work. Feeling myself so humble and undeserving, my whole being at times
seems so happy—filled with a thankfulness that is
.indescribable." Again she says: "You must not fail to tell ot the eloquent
sermon, .indeed one of the best I ever listened to, and the best ever delivered,
within our region; and of its being our first communion service; the deep
interest and , perfect attention; the large and appreciative audience—some
riding ten or' twelve miles on horseback, others walking three or four miles—and
last, but by no means least, the splendid service rendered by Mr. Gilland—for a
large part of the success of the day was owing to the splendid music he gave us.
It was a day long to be remembered at Yokena!" The letter quoted from was
written in reply to one from the writer of this, which necessarily called out
the statements just given.
So much did this excellent woman inspire others with her zeal, that she revived .contributions from unexpected sources. Twice the employees of the L. N. O. T. R. R. made up purses out of their wages and sent the money to help on the work. The excellent manager and vice-president of the road also helped in affording her cheap transportation for lumber, etc. I have dwelt thus much on the work of a single person, not to glorify her (for prominent among her many charming virtues are her modesty and true. Christian humility, and she would be quick to condemn such a purpose), but to encourage others to go and do likewise! What a field for work is in this Mississippi Valley from Memphis to New Orleans! Filling up as it is with population—towns growing up at many of the stations on the railroad—what a work could be done for the Master by devoted Christian men and women! This field calls for the work of an evangelist. It is believed that the salary could be largely raised in the field. Let the Presbyterian Church awake, or this splendid region will be taken entire possession of by others. Sigma.