In 1828 Jeremiah Chamberlain, a young Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania, came to Mississippi as a missionary, locating in Rodney. His first step was to organize a church. The church was dedicated on January 1, 1832. Constructed in the Federal style of architecture, the two story brick building has stepped-parapets on the galble ends. The bell tower houses the "buckey Bell," which was purportedly cast with the inclusion of 1000 Silver dollars that had been donated by church members.
Bypassed by the Mississippi River and by history, the sleepy little town of Rodney lies tucked away along the back roads of jefferson County, Mississippi. Although the town consists of just a few residents, a church, and a general store, it has a long and fascinating history. First known as Petit Gulf, to distinguish it from the larger port of Grand Gulf, the site of the town had been used by Indians for a river crossing for many years before the coming of the white man. Records show that it was settled as early as 1722. As settlements along the Mississippi grew, so did the importance of the port of Petit Gulf. In 1814 the name of the town was changed to honor Judge Thomas Rodney, the territorial magistrate.
RODNEY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
MISSISSIPPI DIVISION SHRINE
During the 1840's and 1850's, Rodney was the busiest port between New Orleans, and St. Louis. The Natchez and Robert E. Lee steamboats made Rodney one of their chief ports of call.
After the fall of Vicksburg, during the War Between the States, the Union Navy controlled the Mississippi River. The gunboat Rattler was stationed at the port of Rodney to keep order in the town.
The admiral had left strict orders that on one was to leave the ship, but on Sunday morning, September 12, 1863, twenty-four of the sailors, including a lieutenant and a captain, decided to attend services at the Presbyterian church. They entered just before services began, dressed in their best uniforms, and quietly seated them selves in the congregation. As the minister announced his text, a Lieutenant of the Confederate cavalry walked up the aisle to the pulpit. Apologizing to the minister, he turned and announced that his men had surrounded the church and demanded that the Union sailors surrender. One of the sailors jumped behind a door and took a shot at Lieutenant Allen. There was pandemonium, as the citizens dived under the pwers for safety. The skeleton crew left aboard the Rattler hear the commotion and began firing their guns at the church. The church and four homes were hit. One of the cannon balls was imbeddded in the facade of the church. It was never removed from the brick and is still visible today.
Around 1870 the Mississippi River, which had flowed past Rodney, began a gradual change of course. By 1940, Rodney was a full three miles inland from the river. Cut off from the river and hurt by the decline of the cotton trade after the War, the town slowly began to die. Along with it died the congregation of the Prebyterian church. On July 29, 1966, the remaining members deeded the church building to the Mississippi Division of the UDC. It has been designated the the Division's state shrine. The building has now been restored and was rededicated in October of 1990.
The church as been used for memorial services, reenactments by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, period weddings, and other events of a historical nature.
Rodney has been placed on the Port Gibson, Mississippi, tour during spring pilgrimage and can be toured during that time. At other times, visitors may make and appointment to tour the interior of the church by contacting the Mississippi Division UDC President. Visitors can make a drive-by tour at any time. The Mississippi Division invites you to visit the church when you are in the Natchez - Vicksburg - Port Gibson area.
- Myrna H. Lazenby, Mary Ann Randolph Custis Lee Chapter # 2583, Purvis