Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Bethel Church, c 1939

Gail Newton Carter, granddaughter of John Gainey Sloan of the Peaceful Valley community, shared the above photograph with me last Labor Day.  She didn't know any of the people pictured, but when I showed the photograph to my Aunt Tootsie (82 her next birthday and still going strong - was baling hay yesterday) she named nearly every person.   

According to Tootsie, whose real name is Clara Nell Pennington Wardlaw, the photo was made about 1937-1939 in front of New Bethel Baptist Church.   She remembers when the church was built, or remodeled, about that time.    The man standing front right with his hat in his hand was the preacher, Bro. Darling, who lived in Tupelo at the time.  Bro. Darling (Tootsie couldn't remember his first name) started the church.  He first preached at Uncle Joe and Aunt Zadie's home, then the sermons were moved to a brush arbor constructed nearby.  

Aunt Tootsie remembers the brush arbor meetings and describes the brush arbor as being made of small tree posts with pine branches on top for a cover and old benches underneath.  Folks from the community would gather there to hear various preachers of various faiths, although mostly Baptist.  She said that while her father, William Hugh Pennington, and her uncle, John Gainey Sloan, would help prepare the brush arbor, they didn't attend the meetings held there.   Hugh, known as Big Daddy, and his wife Dee Sloan Pennington, attended church at Emmaus Primitive Baptist Church.   According to Tootsie, Hugh and Dee liked Brother Stegall, a traveling minister who preached in the community, and because of him, they became Primitive Baptists**.   Emmaus Church is no longer standing, but it was located at the present intersection and corner of Carolina-Van Buren Road and Dozier Road, almost in the Carolina community.    Enon is another Primitive Baptist Church located in the same part of the county, and many of the Emmaus folks and their descendants moved their membership to Enon when Emmaus no longer was a congregation.

Back to the picture.  That's Tom Malloy standing on the far left.  John Thomas "Tom" Malloy was the song leader, and he was married to Hugh's first cousin, Laura Pennington, daughter of Greenberry Pennington.  Tom and Laura's daughters, Aminee and Icie, also attended the church at New Bethel.  Standing immediately behind Tom, over Tom's shoulder, is an unknown person.  His face was too much shadowed to be recognized by Aunt Tootsie.  Next to the unidentified man is Clyde Powell, and in front of Clyde on the front row is Aubrey Sloan.

Standing behind and between Aubrey Sloan and Bro. Darling appears to be Jimmie Sloan, daughter of Uncle Cliff and Aunt Minnie Sloan, but Aunt Tootsie couldn't be certain.    The woman on the other side of Bro. Darling, holding a baby, is Tibbie Blake Hood, possibly holding baby Fay.   The woman with the bonnet on her head appears to be Aunt Zadie Blake, but again Aunt Tootsie wasn't completely sure.   The children standing in front of Aunt Zadie couldn't be identified.   

On the scaffolding in the rear, from left to right:  Rich Sloan, Ogal Sloan, Buddy Hood and Dewey Bethay.

I am amazed that Aunt Tootsie can readily identify most of the people in this photograph.  She was about ten years old at the time, maybe younger, and that was seventy years ago!  

**  Hugh's parents, Jim and Laura, were likely Primitive Baptist.  Hugh has an infant sister buried in Emmaus Cemetery in Lamar County, Alabama and the church associated with this cemetery, no longer standing, was Primitive Baptist.  Hugh was born in 1881 in Lamar County and moved with his family as a young boy when he was about 9 or 10 years old.  Several families from Lamar County moved about the same time to the Lost Corners area of Itawamba County, and they likely named their new church Emmaus after the one in Lamar County, although this is just an assumption on my part.

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