Franklin Church

February 17, 2017 § 4 Comments

Franklin is a once-thriving community in Holmes County. Settlers, primarily from South Carolina and Virginia, arrived in the area in the early 1830’s, soon after it was ceded by the Choctaws. They developed cotton plantations worked by the slaves they had brought with them.

Still standing is the church built east of Franklin in 1841 with slave labor.

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The church has two front doors, one of which is obscured by a tree in the picture above. Originally, one door was used by men, the other by women.

The cemetery behind the church is filled with graves of the early settlers, many of whom had been born in the 1700’s. Many of the tombstones remark that the decedent was from the Abbeville District in South Carolina.

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The photo below shows the gravestone of Benjamin W. Russell, who immigrated to the area from North Carolina two years before his death in 1857 at only 21 years of age. The intriguing inscription recites his tragic history, which sounds like treachery in a business deal, and perhaps a duel: “Here lies entombed an honest man whose courage forced him from a distant land, by fortune’s wheel untimely thrown, this grave bespeaks his solemn moan. Let youth in future great caution take, and never join in business for fortune’s sake, for hearts today in manly friendship beat, tomorrow in a warlike attitude may meet.”
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In the waning days of the Civil War, on January 2, 1865, only three months before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, 1,100 Confederate Home Guards led by General Wirt Adams attacked a column of 3,300 mounted federal troops near the church. The union forces included some of the Second U.S. Colored Cavalry, which consisted of black men recruited from Mississippi, according to a nearby Historical Marker. The battle resulted in heavy Confederate losses, and many were taken prisoner. None of the soldiers who died there are buried in this cemetery; at least none is so noted. Some sources state that the church still bears bulletholes from the clash, but none were visible to us when we visited recently. The historical marker incorrectly states that the battle was part of Grierson’s Raid, but that action actually took place in 1863, and Grierson’s force, which numbered only 1,700 men, did not come near Franklin.

So, who were these people? Who were the farmers, the slaves, the shopkeepers, blacksmiths, homemakers, the soldiers, cavalrymen? What did they hold dear, and what did they care nothing about? What filled their days? What did they dream about? What were their stories? What did they leave behind to mark their time on earth other than tombstones?

There are many communities in Mississippi in decline and on the way to their own extinction. It’s hard to grasp how places that were once so vital, pulsing with the lives and endeavors of people, can simply wither away and return to wilderness, but they do. It’s a sort of cultural entropy. Franklin reminds us that what can seem so important and even critical to us today will be forgotten and faded to nothing over time. Sic transit gloria mundi.

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