The first Mississippi Baptist associations and state convention
Copyright by Robert C. Rogers and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
In Mississippi, five of the six Baptist churches organized the Mississippi Baptist Association in 1807, with a total of 196 members. By 1819, the Mississippi Association had 41 churches and more than 1,125 members. The association covered the entire 14-county area of Mississippi that was settled at that time. This prompted the formation of two new associations in 1820, the Union Association and the Pearl River Association.1
Eight churches from Mississippi Association organized the Union Association in September, 1820 at Bayou Pierre church near Port Gibson, including the mother church, Salem, and the church in the largest town, Natchez. Prominent leaders of the Union Association included David Cooper, D. McCall, L. Scarborough, John Burch, Elisha Flowers and Nathaniel Perkins. One of its first actions was to create a fund for traveling preachers, and “Brother John Smith is requested to travel for one year, and preach the gospel, as our missionary, through the state.” For this mission work, they paid him $10.2
The same year, the Pearl River Association organized at Fair River Church in November, 1820, with 23 churches, which included 14 churches from Mississippi Association, as well as other churches that had never been in an association. Located east of the Pearl River in southeast Mississippi, this was a rapidly growing section of the State. By 1836, there were 33 churches and 982 members in Pearl River Association. Among its new churches was an African church. The first moderator and prominent leader of this association was Norvell Robertson, Sr., pastor of Providence Church, founded in 1818 a few miles north of the location of the future city of Hattiesburg.3
A national organization of Baptists, commonly called the Triennial Convention, was organized in 1814, as a society to support foreign missions. This sparked many States to also organize conventions, including Mississippi in 1823.4
In 1823, the Pearl River Association invited the other two associations in the State to form a Baptist state convention. Both associations accepted the invitation. The Mississippi Baptist State Convention was organized at Bogue Chitto Church in Pike County in February, 1824. A constitution was written, and the second session was held the same year, in November, 1824 at East Fork Church, Amite County. Dr. David Cooper was elected president, and officers were elected representing each of the associations. However, it disbanded in 1829. I will share that story in a later post.5
1 T. M. Bond, A Republican of the Minutes of the Mississippi Baptist Association (New Orleans: Hinton & Co., 1849), 70; 264.
2 Leavell and Bailey, A Complete History of Mississippi Baptists from the Earliest Times, 2 vols., (Jackson, 1903), I, 72-74; Minutes, Union Baptist Association, 1842. The minutes of 1842 was citing from the original minutes of September 18, 1820, noting the 1820 minutes were “worth preserving” since the 1820 minutes were already “very scarce” in 1842.
3 Minutes, Pearl River Baptist Association, 1820, 1836.
4 Richard Furman, “Address at Formation of the Triennial Convention,” Proceedings of the Baptist Convention for Missionary Purposes (Philadelphia, n.p., 1814), 38-43; Jesse L. Boyd, A History of Baptists in America Prior to 1845, (New York, 1957), 186.
5 Leavell and Bailey, I, 134-135; Bond, 84; Minutes, Pearl River Association, 1824; The Second Annual Report of the Mississippi Baptist State Convention in Session at East Fork Church, Amite County, Nov. 12th and 13th, 1824 (Natchez, 1825).