Thyatira Church of Christ
 
Oldest Church of Christ In Mississippi
1836-Present

Old Building - 1856-5.1.1939
 
 


New Building - 1939 to Present

 
 

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34.632047052468835, -89.76146042346954


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The Old Church At Thyatira, Mississippi
 

     There are many purposes for writing this article and one to be in next month's issue of The World Evangelist about the church at Thyatira, Mississippi, which some believe to be the oldest church of Christ in the state. Church history is all important in understanding our past so we can better prepare for the future. These facts help to provide more information about the restoration movement in the state of Mississippi and the surrounding area. We need to show honor to those where honor is due. These men and women migrated from Tennessee, Kentucky, and other states to this wilderness to start the New Testament church.

     The land in northwest Mississippi, where Thyatira is located, was once part of the Chickasaw Indian domain. Land cessions to the United States first began in 1786 with the Treaty of Hopewell—a tract on the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, five miles in diameter was for a trading post. By the year 1836, the once proud Chickasaw nation had ceded 6,422,400 acres to the Federal government, with the signing of the Pontotoc Treaty at Pontotoc, Mississippi.

     With the signing of the treaties in the 1830s white settlers began moving and claim this cheap fertile land and the red man started his trail of tears westward.

     The movement for the restoration of the New Testament Christianity in this part of the state began in 1836 in what was then DeSoto County and now is Tate County, when a group of settlers, mostly named Cathey, from Maury County, Tennessee moved to Mississippi to a location someplace on the Jim Wolf Creek about 5 miles southeast of the present meetinghouse of the Thyatira church. They were known to be members in good standing of the church of Christ which met at the Old Isom Schoolhouse on Cathey's Creek about 12 miles west of Columbia, Tennessee. Tradition that has been handed down through the family is that the Cathey's began meeting when they first arrived in 1836. However, there are no records to substantiate this. In the year 1843 several families began meeting for the first time together to form a congregation on the Jim Wolf Creek and began to keep excellent records. On the opening page of this historic old record book, the Christians state their names and purpose in organizing the church. 

     The writer of the books states:

     “The congregation of Jesus Christ on Jim Wolf Creek on the County line between Marshall and DeSoto counties Mississippi, was organized on the 31st day of December, 1843. It was composed of the following persons, James N. Brown, Alexander Cathey, William Cathey, Matthew B. Cathey, Anderson C. Brown, Francis Locke, Frederick Meredith, William C Malone, Eli Askew, Nancey Cathey, Jane Locke, Sarah A. Brown, Luisa Malone, Alice Askew, Margaret Locke, Alice Cooke, Matilda Cathey.

     “Nearly all of these persons have previously been members of the church of Christ on Cathey Creek and Maury County, Tennessee, who were known to be of good morals and Christian characters. In coming as a congregation having already been immersed upon a confession of faith in the Messiah as the only begotten Son of God, they declared it to be their full purpose and determination to accept no leader but Christ, no infallible teacher but the Old and New Testaments and the latter containing their faith and their rules of behavior as Christians.  

     “Regarding all Protestant sects as building upon human opinions equally with the apostles’ testimony, and in some instances making void the word of God by their traditions, and being resolved to stand perfect in the knowledge and practice of the revealed will of God; also regarding the church as built only on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; and it being the duty, honor, and happiness of the church, to preserve the unity of the Spirit, by the bond of peace!  There being but one body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all.  They have declared before God and to each other, that they are determined do the whole will of God as far as they can understand—to bear with one another, when they may differ in matters of opinion—to contend only and earnestly for the faith, formerly delivered to the saints—to be ever vigilant for truth—and to walk in obedience to the word alone, as their prophet, priest, and king. Thus giving themselves to the Lord and to one another, according to the will of God. They have agreed to walk together as members of the family of God, under the government of the Prince of peace, to whom be honor everlasting. Amen.”   

     The services of Levi Davenport, as evangelist, were procured for the first Saturday and Sunday of each month. He would work with the church for 12 months for the amount of $75, about $1.50 each time he preached. After completion of one year, ten recorded converts were made and a new preacher was hired by the name of Joseph Greer. During the years of 1845 and 1846, while brother Grier was there the membership grew to sixty-nine. The church met in a new meeting house on the second Sunday in October, 1847. By this time the church had been meeting for four years, and it is possible that this was the first meeting house which the church built. It seems likely that a member’s home was used in the early years for meeting place. The county land deeds do not record this site, because it was likely on one of the members property on the Jim Wolf Creek.  

     Frequently on frontiers such as northern Mississippi the community physician also served as the preacher or Bible school teacher. On the second Sunday in April, 1848, Stark Dupuy, Jr., began preaching for the church and continued until his death in 1857. According to the Thyratira church records, brother Dupuy was received by “letter” from the church in Memphis, Tennessee where he had finished medical school in 1847.  

     At this time the congregation was given the new name, Thyatira.  Also, the first elders and deacons were appointed on May 13, 1848. They were Alexander Cathey, Matthew B. Cathey  (elders); Josiah G. Cathey and Alexander Burford, (deacons).  

     Another event that took place at Thyatira in the year 1848, was a co-operation meeting. The brethren of North Mississippi and part of Tennessee held a meeting commencing on 13th of September and continuing six days to adopt measures for the advancement of the churches and the promotion of truth. The affairs of the Cooperative program were handled at a meeting once or twice a year. Delegates were sent from each participating congregation and they pledged specific amounts of money to finance the program.   

     A report on this meeting and congregations that sent delegates to Thyatira was sent to the Christian magazine in Nashville, Tennessee and is as follows.  

     “During the latter part of the meeting we had a numerous audience.  The brethren were refreshed and eleven persons about in allegiance to the Son of God by being immersed; another confessed the Lord and three others united with the church by letters of recommendation.”

     The delegates from the churches organized by appointing elders Matthew W. Webber to the chair and J.L. Etheridge secretary. Reports from the following churches were then received: Memphis, Tennessee members 47, 2 pro tem elders, 3 deacons, 1 recorder—contributed $25; Union, Shelby County, Tennessee—members 45, 2 elders, 3 deacons, $60; Nonconnah, Fayette County, Tennessee members 49, 2 deacons, contributed $50; Thyatira, DeSoto County, Mississippi—members 75, 3 elders, 2 deacons, contributed $27; Bethel, Tippah County, Mississippi—members 25, 1 elder, John Smith, 1 deacon, A.F. Thompson, 2  evangelists, Joseph Greer and J.L. Etheridge, contributed $15; Liberty, Tippah County,  Mississippi—members 30, contributed $15.  

     One of the resolutions adopted was that brethren Miles Wells and Joseph Greer be appointed to evangelize in the bounds of this co-operation. Also, that each one be allowed $20 per month until $182 be exhausted, and is much longer as means can be obtained, at the same per month.  

     Though means of travel were slow in those days, these congregations were united together with the same purpose in mind to spread the gospel and to help those who were faltering and needed aid.  

     Here are some insights on how the church carried on its affairs. Preachers were hired on a year-to-year basis, which was a safeguard to the church. On November 12, 1853, elder Alexander Cathey prayed about the reappointment of Stark Dupuy for another year. Afterwards the church elected him and agreed to raise his pay to $100 for the year of 1854. The manner in which they went about raising the money is most interesting. Clearly opposed to tithing, the elders supported the practice of giving from one’s prosperity. They proposed a prorated tax to be paid by each man according to what he was worth. Whether the elders decided what each man was worth or allowed each member to assess his own value is not stated.  

     Discipline in the Thyatira and church was strict, without respect to persons. Conduct of the members was expected to be Christ-like and if it wasn’t, swift action was taken. Mrs. Lucy Cathey Dandridge (born 1881, died 1953) made this statement. “Intemperence  seems to have been the prevailing sin—with immoral conduct a close second. Also unbecoming language, falsifying, dancing and non-attendance of church services were grounds for reproof and withdrawal of unless the offender give evidence of repentance and a desire to reform his conduct.”  

     The procedure of discipline seems to have been threefold: (1) A person was charged with having committed a certain offense. (2) He was called before the elders as soon as possible to answer the charges. (3) If He did not repent, the church immediately withdrew from him. Here are some examples taken from the record book.  

     Saturday before 2nd Lord's day in January, 1855, brother William Pogue having a short time before engaged in dancing and having been involved in a misunderstanding between himself and brother James  Norfleet made acknowledgements for his offense which was received and the two brethren were reconciled to each other.  

     Two months later brother J.B. Dalton was charged with having made an unbecoming advance upon Mrs. Nowlin with a view as he states of satisfying himself as to her virtue and viewing such conduct as unjustifiable and immoral and his brother Dalton made no confession of wrong but attempted to justify himself it was therefore decreed that the church should withdraw from his fellowship. However at the next meeting he came forward and confessed himself sensible of having done wrong, asked for forgiveness of the brethren and was restored.  

The Growth of the Church    

     A drive to relocate and build a new church building was started in 1856. The site that was selected was about 5 miles northwest of the Jim Wolf Creek location of where they had been for thirteen years. The elders accepted the bid of Jack Rogers for the sum of $1,150 for the construction of the new building. A cemetery was also laid out behind the church. This meeting house lasted 83 years, until the night of May 1, 1939, when it burned.    

     The years of the war between the states were filled more with political and military efforts than growth of the church. Some of the members of the Thyatira Churchill who died during the war were T. D. Smith, killed at Shiloh, John Minor, died in the Army, Harris Cathey died in prison at Fort Delaware, and Joseph Cathey was killed at Perryville, Kentucky.    

     During the years of 1867–1868, well-known evangelists such as T.W. Caskey and W.J. Barbee  and B.F. Manire preached at Thyatira  to help rebuild the congregation after the war. The church seemed to awaken in the summer and fall 1868. About this time R.A. Cook and B.W. Lauderdale of Tennessee held a protracted meeting with the converting of twenty-three persons. By the years 1871 the membership was 161 and by 1873 it was the largest church of any faith in Tate County with 192 members.

     In the year 1892 B.F. Manire, who had been the state evangelist in 1868 wrote a series of articles in the Messenger, which were later reprinted by M.F. Harman. Brother Manire says of the Thyatira church: "Thyatira is one of the oldest churches of the state. It was in a healthy condition when I first visited it in February, 1868, and has remained in a healthy condition ever since. Of those who were the leading members of 1868 but few are left, some have died and others moved away. R.W. Locke is there, and to his faithful, watchful oversight the present prosperity of the church is largely due. Thyatira has been a fruitful mother of churches, and still numbers about 300. I do not remember that I ever held a meeting there without some additions and the largest number I ever had at one meeting was there."

Slavery In The Church

     From the beginning of the church at Jim Wolf Creek, it is quite clear that slavery was practiced by at least a dozen families in the congregation. During the first year of the church's existence ten recorded converts were made, nine of these being slaves of members of the church. Slaves were not only owned by members of this early church, but they also attended worship services with their masters. The early church building had a special gallery for slaves at one side of the auditorium.

     By the year 1846 there were fourteen slave members in a total membership of sixty-nine, or approximately one slave to every four whites.

     The civil war and the emancipation of the slaves did not, however seem to have aroused any difficulty in the church, in that the Thyatira church did not split over the slavery issue.

     After the civil war the church still accepted colored people into the fellowship. In August, 1867, T. W. Caskey and W. J. Barbee held a meeting at Thyatira with the record stating, fourteen white persons and two colored were added to the church by confession and immersion and three reclaimed from the world.

     The colored members gradually left the white church and formed their own. In 1882, Alexander Cathey donated a piece sof property to them for a meeting house, although some colored remained at Thyatira until in the 1930's. Some of the charter members of this black congregation which is also called Thyatira where Isaac and Susie Cathey, Edmond Cathey and his wife, Ben Cathey with wife Rene, Emmanuel Carter and Blunt Sesson. They are now in their third building, which was built in 1963 with an attendant smelled of about 200.  

Elder R.W. Locke  

     Thyatira has had many fine leaders down through the years, but without a doubt R.W. Locke was the most significant one from the time of the Civil War until the turn-of-the-century. Born in 1829, he died in 1904. R.W. Locke was the most significant one from the time of the Civil War until the turn of the century. Born in 1829, he died in 1904. R. W. Locke distinguished himself in the Confederate Army, served as a sergeant and then as a captain of a company of soldiers from independence, Mississippi. He was made major just before the battle of Gettysburg in which he was wounded. After the war he returned to farming and was elected to serve as a deacon of the church. In 1891 he became an elder and served in this capacity until moving to Senatobia, Mississippi in the early 1900s to help establish the church there. His determination to oppose any missionary societies was a protection for the Thyatira church. He was described as a person to whom everyone came for advice, as well as a friend to all his fellowman. Older residents of Thyatira would tell of elder Locke riding a white horse to visit all the members who had been absent from the worship services.    

     The congregation’s hearts and spirits were broken when the church building burned in 1939. A there were so many memories connected with that old building, of those who were once near and dear to the whole community that it was natural for all to sorrow when it was gone. For the next several months the Thyatira church worshipped with the Looxahoma church, which is about eight miles west of them. During these months a new school building was completed in the community of Thyatira, and the congregation met there until 1941 when they built a new church building. This building was used until 1985, when the Thyatira school was bought and refurbished with a floor space of 12,000 sq. ft. with a preacher’s home next door, located 12 miles east of Senatobia, Mississippi on Highway 4. Attendance today is 135, with Danny Jackson the preacher. The elders are Ed Dandridge, Winford Meredith, Winfred Oglesby, David Sanders, and George Williams.    

     This past summer brother John Pigg of Greenville, Mississippi preached in an area-wide campaign in the East and of Tate County with the preaching at the old Thyatira church. The six churches that worked together in this good work were Looxahoma, Independence, Oak Grove, Wall Hill, Thyatira (Tyro Road) and Thyatira (Hwy. 4, East). Campaign workers came from Salem Church, Florence, Alabama; Vicksburg church (I-20); S. Main church, Greenville; and West President church, Greenwood, Mississippi. During the week of August 5-10, workers knocked on 2,389 doors with 91 signing up for Bible correspondence courses and 20 home Bible studies set up. As a result of all this hard work, there were ten baptisms and 21 who requested prayers.  

Conclusion    

     Many of these early congregations would prosper for a few years and gradually disappear. Others, like the one in Memphis would go the way of missionary societies and instrumental music in worship. Here are some reasons I believe why the Thyatira church has lasted so long. These Christians from Maury Co., Tennessee, who first settled in Northwest Mississippi in 1836, were determined to make New Testament Christianity a lasting reality in this wilderness. They were people of the book (the Bible), who taught strict adherence to the New Testament as the all sufficient rule of faith and practice. Gospel preachers were acquired, meetings were held and the word was taught to faithful men, who were able to teach others. Another reason is because of an efficient eldership. Within five years of its establishment both elders and deacons were appointed. Morals of its members were expected to be high. Discipline in the church was strict for all members. When there was sin in the church, one would confess his wrongs or the elders would take swift action!    

     I thank the following for helping me in per pairing to write this history of the fire tower church. First, my godly mother Lessie Dupuy of Waterloo, AL,  who has so many fond memories of the Thyatira congregation’s back to 1921. She remembers many who have gone on.    

     I thank brother Lynn A. McMillon a who wrote a thesis entitled  “A History a of the Churches of Christ in Tate County Mississippi.” Much of this material came from his thesis. Also, I thank Hayley C. Dandridge and also Ed Dandridge, who is a fourth-generation elder at Thyatira church.    

     My hope and prayer is that my brethren in Mississippi will continue in this good work that was started so long ago, and that they will be steadfast, unmoveable always abounding in the work of the Lord.

     It is so true that our past and future are drawn together in the present, as we today are warmed up bonfires we did not build.

(Editor's note: It pleases me to publish the following by my friend and brother in Christ, Arvy G. Dupuy, Jr. His middle initial stands for Glenn. His father, Arvy Glenn Dupuy, Sr. was named after Arvy Glenn Freed, a great preacher and co-founder of Freed-Hardeman University. Brother Dupuy's story on the Thyatira church adds a great dimension to church history and the Restoration Movement)

 

-Arvy G. Dupuy, Jr., The World Evangelist,  1991, February, page 1, 18  March 19, page 5

 
 
History Of The Church at Thyatira
 

     CORRESPONDENT: N. N. House, Star Route, Senatobia, Miss. The congregation now known as the Thyatira church of Christ was first organized on December 31, 1843. Their conception of the church and their purpose for organizing themselves together as a congregation is best set forth by their own recorded statement of the matter:

     The congregation of Jesus Christ on Jim Wolf creek on the county line between Marshall and DeSoto counties, Mississippi, was organized on the 31st day of December 1843. It was composed of the following persons: James N. Brown, Alexander Cathey, William Cathey, Matthew B. Cathey, Anderson C. Brown, Frances Locke, Fredrick Meridith, William C. Malone, Eli Askew, Nancy Cathey, Jim Locke, Sarah A. Brown, Luisa Malone, Alice Askew, Margaret Locke, Alice Cooke, Matilda Cathey. Nearly all of these persons had previously been members of the church of Christ on Cathey's Creek in Tennessee who were known to be of good morals and Christian characters. In coming together as a congregation, having already. been immersed upon a confession of their faith in the Messiah as the only begotten Son of God, they declared it to be their full purpose and determination to acknowledge no leader but Christ; no infallible teacher but the Apostles and Prophets; and the latter as containing their faith and their rules of behaviour as Christians.

     Regarding all protestant sects as building upon human opinions equally with the Apostles' testimony, and in some instances making void of word of God by their traditions, and being resolved to stand perfect in the knowledge and practice of the revealed will of God; also regarding the church as built only on the foundation of the apostles and prophets-Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; and it being the duty, honour and happiness of the church, to preserve the unity of the spirit, by the bond of peace-there being 'but one body and one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all.' They have declared before God and to each other, that they are determined to do the whole will of God as far as they can understand it-to bear with one another, when they may differ in matters of opinions-to contend only and earnestly for the faith formerly delivered to the saints-to be ever vigilant for the truth–and to walk in obedience to the Lord alone as their Prophet, Priest and King. Thus giving themselves to the Lord and to one another according to the word of God, they have agreed to walk together, as members of the family of God, under the government of the Prince of Peace, to whom be honor everlasting. Amen."

     The record adds, "The next day Elizabeth Cooke was added to the church upon her confession of the Messiah and being baptized into his name."

     In listing those members who first made up the church, it is said of William Cathey that he since “fell asleep in Jesus on the 11th day of August, 1844. He was one among the first in the reformation in Tennessee." "In 1843, the church procured part of the time of Levi Davenport as evangelist first Saturday and Sunday following in each month for twelve months for which they gave him seventy-five dollars.” In 1844, in (Dec.) as Brother Davenport was about to “leave the church”  the services of Brother Joseph Greer were “procured”  for the third Saturday and Sunday. The church gave him about $75 or $80. Bro. Greer was used again in 1845, for a salary of $70. Bro. Greer left in Nov., 1846. The membership was 69. On the second Lord's Day of October, 1847, the church met in a new house that had been constructed.

     Beginning the second Sunday of April, 1848, Bro. Stark Dupuy, (a physician) began preaching for the church once each month. At this time the new meeting house was named "Thyatira." If is interesting to note that the servants {slaves) were a listed among the membership. Charges were brought against sinning members, and upon their refusal to repent they were no longer fellowshipped by the church. Those who did repent were forgiven. In Dec., 1848, there were 90 members. On the second Lord's Day of August, 1849, fourteen members "petitioned for letters of recommendation for the purpose of forming a church at Temperance Hall (DeSoto County).”  Their request was granted. In May, 1848, elders and deacons were appointed “by fasting and prayer and laying on of hands."

     In 1849, the church "appointed a protracted meeting to commence  Friday before  the 2nd Lord’s Day in September next to invite preachers and brethren from a distance to attend.” Just who did the preaching in this meeting cannot be ascertained. In September of 1852, a Brother Webber and a Brother Cooper conducted a protracted meeting for which each was paid $5.00.

     Brother James Holmes was the preacher after Bro. Dupuy. His salary was $250.00 per year. Following this a Brother Barbee preached for the church. The church set apart the Saturday before the second Lord's Day in June in 1866, for the purpose of bringing forward and registering the names of the members of the church in order to know "who has died and moved away since the war commenced." (Civil War.)

     The church at Thyatira has had continuous existence since its beginning in 1843. The horrors and ravages of the Civil War did not end its organized existence. The Thyatira church is one of the few in the state that was not led away in the digression. Some of the preachers who preached for the church, later espoused the cause of the Missionary Society and Instrumental Music. But as far as can be determined from records of the church, they did not influence the church to digress. The church has never used instrumental music. Our only knowledge concerning missionary societies is that they were opposed and not aided. It should be noted that there have been Lord's Days on which the church has not assembled since the beginning in 1836. However, these are isolated instances due to varying circumstances. The church has considered itself a continuous body since 1843.

     Alexander Campbell was to have preached here on his tour of the South. The audience had assembled expecting him, but for some reason he did not come.

     The present membership at Thyatira numbers 150. Elders are N. N. House, C. S. Dandridge, Jeffrey Stewart and J. F. Hyde. Paul C. Keller is the present evangelist. He was preceded by Plato Black and Clyde M. Miller.

 
-Churches of Christ in Mississippi, 1836-1954, Joe K. Alley, pages 59-62
 
   
 
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