Methodist Church

WFP Historical Society

Contributed from the 1972 Audubon Pilgrimage Booklet
by the WFP Historical Society

Many people coming to Feliciana in the early 1800's praised the country but decried the uncouth ways of the frontier. They saw in organized religion of a Protestant persuasion the only remedy. roman Catholicism was the established religion of the Spanish, but His Most Catholic Majesty was exceedingly tolerant of others faiths in his zeal to attract settlers to West Florida. One could keep his faith, though not in public, and even this edict was loosely observed. Lorenz Dow, the fiery Methodist zealot, is known to have preached in this area as early as 1803, and other itinerants passed in and out. James A. Ranaldson, a Baptist missionary, established a small church on the banks of little Bayou Sara in 1818. Withal, the country seemed godless to some. Archibald Davis, a young man from Kentucky who came down river in February 1819, to be an overseer, wrote home:

"I am very well pleased with the country though would be a great deal more so if there was any Society in it. People in this Country are very wicked as there appears to be no Revival of Religion. There are one Society of Baptists in this neighborhood consisting of about ten in number. I can hear of no other Society within twenty miles..."

The god-fearing did try. American Roman Catholics tried in 1817; Protestants of all stripes joined in incorporations -- the vehicle of faith was no issue --the same names appear on the charter of Ranaldson's Baptists, who purchased lots in St. Francisville in 1823, as on the sale of the same lots to the Presbyterians in 1830. In 1827, they appeared on the charter of Grace Episcopal Church, which, of all the attempts, was the most enduring one, probably because of the calibre of its early rectors.

In 1844, Methodists built a handsome, colonial-styled church in Bayou Sara and in 1899 built their present church in St. Francisville, using the bell from the old church. In 1882, Baptists organized a church in an old plantation cotton gin, and in 1939 relocated in St. Francisville. In 1901, the re-established Presbyterians purchased the former synagogue to the Jewish congregation. Many folds from a frontier flock.

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