|New Tuscahoma A.M.E. Church,
according to history shared by Rosalee Topps, was founded in August 1851
by the Rev. Willis Reynold and the Rev. William Walker on an acre of land donated by J.K
Ash. (Later the Rebecca Reed Elementary School at Holcomb was named for one of his
daughters, who was a teacher. It was near this school that Freedom Riders rested overnight
during a civil rights march in the summer of 1966.)
The earliest converts at the church
were 21-year-old Jordan Martin, who was still a member when he died at age 94, and Lucinda
Ross, who remained a member until she died 70 years later. Among the early families in the
church were the Ashes, Washingtons and Williamses.
The original building was framed of unfinished wood planks with a wood stove for heat
and oil lamps for lighting. Gas heat and electricity came later. The old building was
replaced in 1973 by a new church built of concrete blocks and running water and restrooms
were added. In 1994, this church was remodeled to add a kitchen and dining room, pastor's
study and baptismal pool.
New Tuscahoma's bell could be heard all over Holcomb on Sunday mornings, ringing a
half-hour early to call people to Sunday school and tolling for funerals. The early church
cemetery was on nearby Ash land, but this has fallen into disuse.
Saint Peter Missionary Baptist Church, near the Oxberry community,
also has a long history. According to information collected by Karolyn Bridges
and provided by Diane Kincaid, the first church was built on a hillside
around 1899. The structure was of unmilled lumber. Oil lamps and lanterns hung from the
In 1926, the church was relocated lower down in a valley to make access easier. The
builder was a man named Bohannon from Leflore. Lumber from the old church was salvaged for
the new construction. New lumber was milled by hand. The roof was covered with cypress
shingles donated by Ed and Will Harbin and Jasper and Louella Perry.
Church members rode to services on mules and in wagons and buggies. Some walked many
miles. The church's deacons provided wood for heating. Facilities included an outhouse at
the rear of the church and a cistern for water. To help support the church, women sold
basket meals of fried chicken, egg custard and sweet potato pies and vegetables in season.
Wednesday night prayer meetings and revivals were integral parts of community life.
When weather made it difficult to reach the church for prayer meetings, members often
gathered in each other's homes. In times of flooding, the church served as a place of
refuge. It also provided education. Revivals traditionally began in the last week of July
and lasted until the first Sunday in August, when baptisms were held. These occurred at
the "highway pond," a serene pool reflecting fields and cypress trees, as the
congregation gathered singing and the pastor and deacons led candidates into the water.
The church now has a new concrete block building on Highway 35 near Oxberry. Behind it
rises the Saint Peter Hill Cemetery.
Mount Zion A.M.E. Church also is more than 100 years old. Located on
Old Highway 35/Oxberry Road, the original church is described by 93-year-old Edd
Topps as a wood frame building heated by a wood stove with oil lamps for
illumination and a nearby well for water. Early families included the Scotts, Reeces,
Hughes, McKinleys, Lotts, Bridges, Davises, Adamses, Pittmans and Topps.
This building, about six miles from Holcomb, was abandoned in the 1950s and replaced by
a new structure of concrete block and wood at a site about 2 miles closer to Holcomb on
the same road. The new church has a paneled sanctuary and fellowship hall and gas heat.
The Mount Zion Cemetery lies on a hillside not far away, its mellow old stones a landmark
to the church's deep roots in the community.
If you can provide additional information on Holcomb's churches, message email@example.com.