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Little Bahala celebrates 200

Lincoln County was officially created by the state legislature just over 148 years ago. Formed from portions of Lawrence, Franklin, Copiah, Pike and Amite counties in April 1870, it was named after the country’s 16th president a few days before the fifth anniversary of his assassination.

By the time Mississippi achieved statehood in 1817, the territory was filling with Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and other Protestant evangelical faiths. Salem Baptist Church, the first Baptist church in the territory, had been established in 1791 just off Hwy. 61 in Fayette, 26 years prior.

Just one year after Mississippi became a state, a small group of people established a church on Faith Lane in Wesson and christened it Little Bahala Baptist Church. It’s the second-oldest Baptist congregation in the county. A trio of brothers — Christian, Jacob and Henry Furr — first settled the area beginning in 1816, having arrived from North Carolina, and were part of the group to come together and form the church.

“A lot of the current members are descendants of the original families that founded the church,” said church secretary Delores Furr.

They named the church for the creek that runs through the area. Though “Bahala” was thought to mean “muddy water” in Choctaw, more current research translates it as “mulberry tree standing.” Either way, the name has stuck with the church for two centuries.

The original church building for LBBC was erected in 1820 — a log structure constructed by church members. Fifty years later, it was replaced with a 40-foot by 60-foot lumber building that would seat approximately 500 people. A bell was hung at the church on May 11, 1907 — a gift from deacon L. G. Hutson.

That building remained until 1950, when the 200-member congregation voted to build the present building and Sunday school rooms. The structure was completed and paid for within a few months. In 1989, a steeple was added.

Little Bahala has been led by 33 pastors since its founding, beginning with Rev. T. J. Hutson. Rev. Bendon Ginn is the church’s current pastor.

The majority of church congregations established 200 years ago do not exist today, and Little Bahala has not been without lean times. But individuals and small groups persisted in gathering for worship, and the church remains today as a testament to perseverance and to the God congregants there worship.

If not for Mrs. Catherine Pierce Furr, the church would have disbanded in the early 1850s due to rough, sometimes impassable roads and other deterrents. But “Aunt Katie” asked to be allowed to continue to worship in the building. One by one, members began to return, and the church grew.

Church secretary Deloris Furr compiled the church’s history in anticipation of the bicentennial. Furr will be on hand at the church on Nov. 6 during voting hours — the Beat 2 voting precinct building sits in the church parking lot — to allow visitors to tour the church’s history room and see some relics of its past.

“Our family, the Beard family, has been going here since the 1940s,” Furr said. “My grandfather is Clarence Beard and I’ve been going here since I was a baby.”

At 10 a.m. on the Saturday prior to Veterans Day — Nov. 10 — the names of the 33 veterans buried in the Little Bahala Cemetery will be read aloud to honor their memory, then a flag and a luminary will be placed on each grave. Members of church families will talk about their family histories in relation to the church. Sunday, services and activities will be from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

“I’ve invited everybody,” Furr said, “and we hope a lot of people will come out to celebrate with us.”