Re-Birth of a town – Farmington, Mississippi – October 12, 1997
The Spanish flag had flown over the “Great Bend” area of the Tennessee River from 1512 to 1699. DeSoto had claimed land taken from the Cherokee and Choctaw Indians. France raised her banner in 1699 and held claim until 1763. In the name of the king of England, Col. Abraham Wood raised the English flag in the area in 1763. Indians tried to resist the white men along the “Tenese” (Tennessee River). (1) Spain could not withstand the pressure during the Revolutionary War and later withdrew. Earlier, Georgia had claimed all the land south of the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers as their own. In 1795 the land was divided into plats of the new Burbon County and sold to speculators.
“The people of the United States became indignant and the Georgia Legislature passed a Rescinding Act in 1796”. But the speculators refused to give up their bargain. (2) War almost broke out several times between the “settlers” and “speculators”. The area pass,e into the young hands of the U. S. Government.
And so, the land of present-day Mississippi was divided between “West Florida”, “the Mississippi Area”, and north of the 32nd Parallel to the borders of the State of Tennessee, formerly claimed by Georgia and now under the United States Government. The Territory of Mississippi was organized out of the Mississippi Area and land north of the 32nd Parallel was under the jurisdiction of Mississippi Territorial Governors. Choctaws and Chickasaws in North Mississippi disputed the claim. In 1832 the Indians gave up their rights to Mississippi land. (3) Settlers from the North and the East moved here to build homes, till the fertile soil and hunt the plentiful wildlife. Among the earliest settlers were large numbers of Baptists from North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. A group of Baptists moved into the Farmington area. The number of members is uncertain, but Farmington Baptist Church was established near 1800. (4) Research done by Paul Flowers of the Commercial Appeal suggests Farmington Baptist existed prior to 1803 (5), and markers in the adjoining cemetery give suggestions of burials as early as 1809. (6) The location of the church was beside a wilderness road just north of the thriving community. The church was located on high ground, but the land was level enough for teams of oxen and horses which brought the settlers to worship services. The Farmington Cemetery was located one-fourth mile north of the church at that time.
Worship services were held regularly and various pastors and traveling preachers shared their ministries with the Farmington settlers. The building was made from logs, as were the settlers’ homes. In 1851, logs were rotting, proving the church building was 40 to 50 years old then. Farmington is thought to be the oldest Baptist Church in North Mississippi.
As the “Madison County of the Mississippi Tea”, Farmington was governed by the laws of the Mississippi Territory and the United States territorial governors and appointees governed the “legal affairs of the white man”.’ The first “white man’s law” was established by a judge hold in court under a tree in Troy, south of Farminqton. (7) In 1817 Congress admitted the territory of Mississippi as a state and by 1832 the northern part had become part of the state as well. At that time, this area was within the limits of old Tishomingo County.
Farmington prospered, as did the church. Through the Articles of Association, the twenty-acre town of Farmington, Mississippi, came into existence on May 1, 1837, and was located just south of Farmington Baptist Church. A legislative act incorporating Farmington, Mississippi, was signed February 15, 1838. More successes caused the town limits to be increased in 1839 and again in 1842. The extension in 1842 “included a provision that residents within the corporate limits were only required to give work to the roads within the town six days per year, and not to have to work other roads at all”,. (8)
Another act of the Mississippi Legislature established Farmington Academy at Farmington, Mississippi, on January 30, 1839.’ The purpose for the school was the “encouragement of learning amongst the students”. It is likely this was established on the site of the present Farmington Baptist Church office, since in December,’ 1842, Thomas Dobbins gave an acre of ground to the church, bounded on the west by the eastern line of the school property. (9) Now the Town of Farmington had a church, several homes, general stores, a U. S. Post Office, blacksmith shop, a school, a saddle and harness shop, and a ‘wheat-fan’ manufacturing plant, which sold goods all over the state. Ten years later, on February 5, 1849, a Masonic Lodge, Farmington No. 116, F & A. M., was chartered. (10) – In 1855, the Mobile and Ohio, and the Memphis and Charleston railroads crossed four miles west of Farmington. Because railroads were the chief transportation of the era, many merchants and shops moved into Crosstown, later to be known as Corinth.
However, Farmington Baptist Church continued its growth, as did other churches in the state. By 1835 there were 10 Baptist Associations in the state, representing 107 churches with membership numbering 4,865, both whites and blacks. By 1845, statewide, there were 25 associations of Baptists, representing 400 churches with 21,485 members. It was said church leaders preferred ministering in rural areas. Continued growth of the area prompted the General Association of Baptists in North Mississippi to be organized in 1859. (if). Farmington Baptist Church hosted the 17th Annual Chickasaw Baptist Association September 14-17,’1855. And in 1853, Mark Perrin Lowrey, later a Civil War hero and founder of Blue Mountain College, had been ordained into the ministry. (12) Because Corinth was growing, the Masonic Lodges of Danville and Farmington consolidated in 1987 to form Corinth Lodge No. 116, F. & A.M., which had been the Farmington Lodge.
Despite impending war, the few slaves held by Farmington citizens continued their work, and worshiped with their masters as well. Records show that 79 whites and 21 slaves were in the membership of the Baptist church in 1856. The representatives of old Tishomingo County were split on the vote concerning secession, but decided to yield to the majority vote of the state, and Mississippi became the second state to join the Confederacy. Area residents became part of the more than 80,000 Mississippi troops serving the Confederacy. (13)
The Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson set the stage for Shiloh. Guns from one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles could be heard in the area on April 6 and 7, 1862. Another stand was intended at Corinth, and the survivors, dead, and wounded were brought through Farmington. Farmington’s first skirmish was on May 3, 1962. Other skirmishes were fought May 4 and May 8.
“The Farmington Races” brought full battle to the community on May 9, 1862. The Confederates were led by Major General Earl Van Dorn and the Union forces were under the command of Major General John Pope. One account of the battle relates that General Pope commanded the Federal Army to move up with two full brigades to occupy Farmington. Confederate General Beauregard at once moved out to attack. Generals Bragg and Hardee were to attack the right and center, while General Van Dorn attacked the left and rear. Another Confederate, Price, was able to move out to within an easy march of the rear of Pope’s men, “without even knowledge of the enemy”. On the morning of May 9, signal guns were fired and the whole army began to advance. Pope and the Missourians “came in contact with one of those Mississippi swamps that is almost impossible”.
Pope made a safe retreat, leaving his telegraph operator and office headquarters, tent, other tents, wagons, and his dead and wounded in Confederate General Halleck’s hands. Though he had twice as many troops as the Confederates, Pope refused to come out into the open ground and give battle. Beauregard withdrew inside the fortifications of Corinth. The casualties were: Union, 16 killed, 148 wounded, 192 missing; Confederates, 8 killed, 189 wounded, and 110 missing. Most, if not all, of the stores and homes in Farmington were destroyed. (14) Two large oak trees still stood on the church property in 1944 and church members said that their tops had been blasted by cannons during the Civil War. (15)
The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, states that additional skirmishes took place at Farmington on May 10, 12, 19, and 22, 1862. Farmington Heights, Mississippi, experienced a skirmish with the Union on May 4, 1862. With the stores destroyed, :the church building was torn down and used as flooring in the tents of Union soldiers encamped there with their wounded. Membership in the church dropped from 64 in 1860 to less than half that number in 1866. As the land was restored, the church site was moved to the site formerly occupied by the school, beside the cemetery. The Baptists set about building another church for worship. This second church building was a “shanghai’ frame at the present site of the church office. By 1870 Farmington’s membership almost equaled its pre-war high 102.
Yellow fever took its toll on the community’s residents, as well as on church membership. The community witnessed the address of “Private” John Allen in 1884. At various times during this era the church house was also the school house for the students of the community. In 1904, because of natural deterioration, a new building had to be erected. The new building was build along the same style, with a ‘ship-lap’ exterior. (16) “The Big Freeze” of 1909 was another memorable event for the community. (17) In March, 1948, during the Sunday School hour, Farmington Baptist Church burned. Cried the wife of one of the deacons, “Look, the church is burning!.” “No,” her husband replied, “Only the church house is burning. The church will be there when we all get there”. The church raised $700.00 that morning to begin a new building and by fall, the building was finished and paid for in full. (18) As the community fared, the church elected a full-time pastor in 1948 and a parsonage was built in 1948 or 1949. The community survived the Ice Storms of 1951 and 1994. (19) Most of the area is familiar with the arson burning of Farmington Baptist Church and Fraley’s Chapel Church of Christ on June 3, 1987. As was the spirit of the Farmington families long ago, the church pulled together and dedicated a new building on June 12, 1988. Two weeks later the church voted to accept a written apology from one of the arsonists.
Residents and businesses alike look forward to the incorporation of the “new” old town of Farmington and her growth in the area. “The past is glorious, the present is heartening, and the future is bright”. (20)
1. M.N. Walters, The Farmington Story, 1967-1972.
5. Paul Flowers, the Commercial Appeal
6. The Daily Corinthian, May 16, 1954
7. M.N. Walters, The Farmington Story, 1967-1972.
11. A History of Mississippi, Vol. I, PP. 378-387. McLemore.
12. M.N. Walters, The Farmington Story, 1967-1972.
14. History of Mississippi, Vol. I, p. 412, McLemore.
15. American Baptist, August 10, 1944.
16. M.N. Walters, The Farmington Story, 1967-1972.
17. The Daily Corinthian, March 29, 19.91 & March 14, 1994.
18. M.N. Walters, The Farmington Story, 1967-1972.
19. Mrs. Lottie King, Homecoming Services at Farmington Baptist Church,
20. M.N. Walters, The Farmington Story, 1967-1972.