Kingston Church History

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Kingston Methodist Church


                                     Photo by Frank Swayze







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     The current church was built in 1856 and was dedicated on Sunday 3 May 1857 by Rev. William Winans and Rev. William H. Watkins. Regular services have been held by Methodist ministers since then.

     The original Jersey Settlement Community was settled in 1773 by the families of Justus King, Obadiah Brown, Samuel Swayze, Nathan Swayze, and Richard Swayze. Caleb King surveyed the land, and laid out and established the town of Kingston about a mile from the original Jersey Settlement. See plat map of Kingston. Caleb returned to New Jersey to marry Mary Swayze, the daughter of Richard.  About 1775, he returned with his wife to the Jersey settlement.

     The first church in the settlement was a Congregationalist Church, organized around 1773 by  Rev. Samuel Swayze who had been a Congregationalist minister in New Jersey.  This church continued until his death some 12 years later. There was no meeting house, but the congregation met in homes, sometimes secretly for fear of the Spanish, who did not allow freedom of worship. Tradition states that Rev. Samuel hid his Bible in a hollow tree on the banks of a small stream still known as Sammy's Creek.

     In 1800, the Kingston Methodist Church was organized by Rev. Tobias Gibson.  The seven original members were Caleb King, Gabriel Swayze, Lydia Swayze, Prudence Cory, Deborah Luce, Prudence Varadoe and Eliza King. In 1803, Lorenzo Dow sold his watch to procure a spot of ground, 40 X 60 feet, located in Block II, Square II fronting on Claiborne Street, for a meeting house. This was the first ground in Mississippi deeded for a Protestant house of worship. The church on that lot was built of logs and served the community for about twenty years.

     In 1822 Daniel Farrar, son-in-law of Caleb King, donated a plot of ground about one-fourth of a mile from the present building, on which the second church was built of brick. The trustees of this second church property were Daniel Farrar, the donor of the land, Solomon Swayze, son of Richard Swayze, George Varnadoe and Daniel Fowler. The tornado of 1840 practically destroyed the Jersey Settlement and did considerable damage to the brick church, but it continued in use until 1856 when the present building was built.

     On 13 February 1856, Alexander King Farrar and his wife, Ann Mary Dougharty Farrar, deeded 8 acres of land for a church to trustees G. W. Baynard, W. O. Foules, T. F. Davis, A. K. Farrar and Alexander Boyd, with the stipulation that the property was to be used by any denomination with preference given to the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1874, he made a new deed to the church trustees.  This deed removed the clause that the property would be returned to him in case of non-use, and included a history of both the church and the community.

     Over the years Kingston has shared a minister with other Methodist Churches.  Those churches were Mars Hill, Maple Street, Pine Log (on Sandy Creek), Washington and, more recently, with Lovely Lane.

     In 1940, the Descendants of the Jersey Settlers held their first annual reunion at the Kingston Church.  The reunion continues to be held at the Church each year in April. Over the years, the organization and individual members have been of monetary help to the church, especially when the church was recently renovated.

     Kingston has usually had a small but dedicated congregation of people who strive to serve the community and maintain the building. In the 1950s electricity came to the area, and a fellowship building was added. In 1982, the church was placed on the National Register of Historical Places. In the 1990s, air conditioning was added to the church, and the old roof was replaced with a metal roof.  The fellowship building was enlarged and dedicated in 1998. In 2002, the shutters were replaced, and in 2004 gutters were added to the fellowship building and an awning was added to connect the church and fellowship building.  In 2006, repairs were made to the exterior of the building and in 2007 the interior was refurbished.  A Heritage Celebration and a rededication of the church building was held on 6 May 2007, marking the 150th anniversary of the original dedication of the church building.