First Presbyterian Church
of Port Gibson, MS
The First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson has its origins in a church founded at Bayou Pierre, approximately three miles southwest of the present town of Port Gibson in Claiborne County, Mississippi. In 1800, three Presbyterian missionaries dispatched by the Synod of the Carolinas, the Reverends James Hall, James H. Bowman, and William Montgomery, arrived at Bayou Pierre and established a preaching station in a log building. In 1807, the Reverends Joseph Bullen and James Smylie organized the Bayou Pierre Church on the site of that preaching station. The Bayou Pierre Church remained active until the 1820s. By this time, the development of the neighboring communities of Port Gibson and Fayette, in Jefferson County, offered more convenient sites for worship. Some members joined the Bethel Church, established near Fayette in 1826. The rest of the congregation chose to relocate the church in Port Gibson.
As early as 1824, subscribers for the building of a new church in Port Gibson were sought. By 1826, a list of subscriptions and promised donations was developed. This subscription drive may well have involved more members of the Port Gibson community than the Presbyterians, since the list specified the new church would be open to services for other denominations as well. The following year, the Mississippi legislature approved the incorporation of the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson and designated trustees to receive the funds and land donated for the church; the land for the new church was deeded to the trustees in 1829. Leadership for the new church was provided through the recruitment in 1827 of Zebulon Butler, who was ordained as minister of the Bayou Pierre Church in 1828. By the end of that year, Butler was presenting a petition from a church elder to the Mississippi Presbytery requesting a new church name: the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson. Initially meeting in a courthouse, the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson possessed a fine enough church by 1834 that it could host the meeting of the Synod of Mississippi and South Alabama.
By 1859, the congregation had grown to the extent that a new church was required. The present brick building housing the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson was completed in 1860. The Romanesque Revival church was created by James Jones, apparently a local architect, and bears a distinctive 165-foot high steeple crowned by an upwardly pointing gilded hand. First carved of wood by Daniel Foley in 1859, the original hand was replaced by one of sheet metal about 1901.
This book should be kept in the possession of the Pastor of the Church, by whose own hand all entries should be punctually and carefully made.
On the death or removal of the Pastor, the book should be returned to the Session, for the use of his successor.
The Register should be kept with great care; and the entries should be made punctually, in a neat and legible hand, particular care being taken to spell names correctly, and to insert dates plainly, as in many cases the issues of important lawsuits may depend on the evidence derived from this source. It is a gratification also to families to know that there is in the possession of the Church an accurate registry of this kind.
The Book is divided into six parts, viz:
III. THE REGISTER OF COMMUNICANTS