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The McCants Letters

This page covers the McCants notes that didn't fit in the McCants Family History .


John McCants and his brother, Thomas, came from South Carolina from the Darlington District about the year 1800
and settled in the lower edge of Wilcox County on the land now occupied by Mr. Daniel J. McCarty, a ruling elder in this
church. At this time John McCants had a son, Thomas, who was about four years of age, destined late to be a Ruling Elder
in the Presbyterian church for year. Near their home in or before the year 1816 a hewn log house was built for a church,
in which they worshiped until about the year 1819. Probably in the year 1819 a discussion arose as to the ownership of the
ground on which the log church was erected, originally settled by Thomas McCants, Sr., which was not legally entered by
him. A neighbor, Peter McArthur, procured government titles to the property and thus brought on a dispute. Tradition states
that the church session met to determine the true ownership of the land where upon Peter McArthur secured his claim. This
judgment so angered Thomas McCants that he withdrew from the Presbyterian Church and united with the Methodist Church.
This log church was then torn down and moved across the road to the modern Preston site where, after being used or a time
as a church, it was converted into the "McCants Inn."

     At a spring beside the road southwest of the modern Hybart post office or three miles from the original site and one
and one-half miles northeast of the present site stood a community church building known as "Union Church." The spot now
occupied by the negroes known as "Pine Flat Baptist Church, in which was a slave gallery.  To this the Presbyterian
congregation was removed where what services could be obtained were held until the fifties. The next move was to the
Magnolia Academy where worship was conducted until the next building was erected on the present location about 1885.
This building was utilized until wrecked by a storm May 10, 1927. Then the Ruling Elders, Daniel J. McCarty and Thomas
A. McCants, obtained the services of several members and neighbors and interested friends and restored the structure,
practically making a new house of worship. This building has not been dedicated to date, Feb. 12, 1932

     When the territory of Alabama was under the Presbytery of South Carolina, a minister named Morison was sent to 
Alabama to preach to the McCants. He had with him a son, Neill Morison, who married Elizabeth McCants, daughter of
Ruling Elder John McCants. He being one of the first Ruling Elders of this church.

     It is not known when the organization was actually effected. The Presbytery of Alabama was about seven years old
before we see a record concerning the Bells Land community. In April 1828, Rev. Francis H. Porter was appointed to "visit
McCants neighborhood" and supply the worshippers with preaching services as often as practicable. Mr. Porter was the first
Presbyterian minister ever to visit Alabama. This in 1817, when the territory had not been formed into a state. Next came
Rev. Isaac Hadden whom Presbytery designated in 1830 to visit the McCants neighborhood at his discretion. Probably about
this time the formal organization of "Union Church" was completed, for we read that on March 10, 1831, the Sessional Book
of Records was examined by South Alabama Presbytery in session at Montgomery. Six months later Rev. James Martin was
delegated to visit "McCants and Canton" as a supply minister, somewhat after the manner in which we designate ministers
in our time to conduct evangelistic meetings and to hold communion services in vacant churches. Mr. Martin had only
recently been ordained by Presbytery and accordingly must have [been] a young man, as were so many of Presbyterian
pioneers of Alabama.

     The first meeting of South Alabama Presbytery ever held in this church was in September 1834, when Rev. Samuel
H. Smith was moderator. Ruling Elder John Daily took part in its proceedings, becoming the first elder of whom we have
record outside of tradition. One of the items of concern to our forefathers at this session of the church court was the
instruction of the ":colored people." Governor John Murphy, an elder from Claiborne Church, was one of the members of
the committee directing their instruction and evangelization. Note that these people were not called ":slaves" in those ancient
records. Elder John Daily appears again in the Presbytery's minutes when it met in Claiborne in October 1836. At this time
Rev. Neill McMilan, the founder of Scotland Church and the forerunner of practically all the work in Monroe County and
even that down in West Florida, was pastor of Union. At the time of his death in the next year, Union was one of the poorest
churches on the entire list of South Alabama Presbytery. From this forward for a period of about twenty years the church
seems to have been utterly disbanded. Not until 1857 does Presbytery seem to have paid any attention to the presence in the
community of a band of Presbyterians by sending a visiting supply minister.

     It is likely that the congregation took on new life in this period immediately preceeding the war between the states; for
a new building for worship, the Magnolia Academy was utilized which lasted about thirty years. Then, too, in April 1859,
Presbytery was asked to organize the church. When the dissolution took place we do not know, but it was probably due to
the death of Rev. Neill McMillan in 1837 and the consequent dearth of ministerial oversight. Rev. D. D. Sanderson and
Ruling Elder, Alexander McLeod, were appointed to effect the organization. This took place within the next six months.
There were eighteen members in the reorganized body, with Dr. William Jenkins, Mr. Thomas McCants and Mr. David
H. Packer as Ruling Elders. Dr. Alexander McLeod was the grandfather of Mr. Jesse McIntosh McLeod of the Camden
church, while Mr. Thomas McCants was the grandfather of the present Ruling Elder and Clerk of Session, Mr. Thomas
Armstrong McCants. The name chosen was Bells Landing, as indicated by the fact that Presbytery at this same meeting in
November, 1859, dissolved River Ridge church and instructed the remaining members to unite with Scotland or Bells
Landing churches. Elder David H. Packer was a school teacher. In his hands as trustee of church property lay the deed which
was never recorded. Consequently when his home near the modern Coy postoffice burned these precious documents were
destroyed. After the death of Mr. Packer his widow taught school in the home of Deacon Samuel Joshua Grace.

     Rev. G. W. Boggs served the Bells Landing Church for about a year, coming down from Camden. The organization
was one of the weakest in the Presbytery, being far down the list along with Claiborne and Stockton. Due to the frightful
experience of the war between the states, like thousands of other churches in the rural south, it partook only occasionally
of a regular ministration of the word. While the soldiers were at the front the congregation helped to raise the funds which
the chaplains used to such good advantage in gospel work and in the supply of religious reading matter among the defenders
of their country. In 1864 Rev. G. W. Boggs and Rev. Isaac Hadden Salter were commissioned to give evangelistic oversight
for a season to Bells Landing. At the close of the war, with the Southland devastated, Mr. Agrippa Grace was appointed
by Presbytery in 1867 to inform Rev. James Watson of the needs of the people destitute on account of the war. Here we
see the initial touch of the Bells Landing church with the work that developed into the orphans home in Talladega, for it was
from this need of the families of Confederate Soldiers that the orphans Home had its birth. Mr. Agrippa Grace was a Deacon
in the Bells Landing church, the father of our present Deacon, Mr. Samuel J. Grace and of Mr. J. Alexander Grace who
for years was warehouse keeper at Upper Claiborne, a member of Claiborne church.

     In the fifties there lived in the community a Methodist, Mr. William W. Hunt, a tin peddler from New York. On land
presented by him the Magnolia Academy was built. When this institution ran into debt, Ruling Elder Thomas McCants paid
the debt, amounting to about $500, and made to the church a deed of gift of the house and grounds where the modern school
house now stands. When this old Academy building was wrecked about 1925 no deed to the property could be discovered.
Accordingly the Monroe School authorities denied the right of the Presbyterian church to the grounds and building and thus
they passed of church hands.

     As the old church records up to 1888 were burned, probably in the old Hunt Hotel in Brewton, Alabama, these items
of history are necessarily pieced together from tradition and the records of South Alabama Presbytery. It appears that
Archibald McDuffie, grandfather of Hon. John McDuffie, Congressman from the First District of Alabama, was one of the
Elders during the war period along with Thomas McCants, William Jenkins and David H. Packer. Mr. David H. Packer
married Miss Mary McNeill, a school teacher. The school fund was in debt to Miss McNeill for services. As the Magnolia
Academy was about to be sold for mortgage on this account Mr. Thomas McCants took up the debt. When he sold out to
go to Brazil, like so many others Southerners, disheartened from the ruin of the South, he deeded the property to the
Presbyterian Church. The ceremony of receiving the property was public, Rev. Paul C. Morton, noted evangelist, conducted
the dedication service.

     Another Elder of a former period was Mr. Charles B. Hunt, brother of Mr. William W. Hunt. After the death of
William, Charles married his widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Bell Hunt and became the father of Miss Clara Hunt, Annie Hunt Curry
and Minnie Hunt McMaster now living in Texas. Whose wife was Elizabeth Bell, of the family from which Bells Landing
got its name. The old father Bell owned a vast tract of land where Tinela, Tallatchee, Vredenburgh and Hybart are now
situated. Elizabeth married when about 13, William W. Hunt, and later Charles B. Hunt.

     Agrippa Grace married Elizabeth Davison of Scotland church. Her father, John Davison, came from Ireland. He was
the grandfather of James M. Davison and N. Edward Davison of Brewton. Agrippa Grace had a brother, Sam Grace, a
soldier of the Revolution War, who was the great-grandfather of Estelle Cobb Foster. Agrippa Grace was the father of
Deacon Samuel Joshua Grace.

     For about two years, 1868 and 1869 Rev. Isaac Hadden Salter ministered to the Bells Landing Church, a most godly
man he was. In 1870 Rev. John C. Stiles, D. D. visited the congregation for an evangelistic meeting and arranged for Rev.
Archibald McFadden to supply the pulpit for six months, in connection with Scotland Church. This seems to have fallen
through, as Rev. James Watson in the early portion of 1871 became Presbytery's evangelist and tried to infuse enough zeal
into Bells Landing to demand the services of a pastor. His efforts met no response, apparently, as a most distressing vacancy
lasted from 1870 to 1878. Dr. Stiles on his visit had the privilege of receiving on profession of faith a girl of 16, Pencye
Bigger, living with her parents in Blacks Bend, destined to be the mother of six Presbyterian children. One of these is Dr.
Edmund Rasha Cannon, still among the members. Also, Marion Cannon, the wife of Rev. James W. Marshall now of
Appalatcacola, Florida. Dr. Stiles wore a beaver hat and dress coat after the manner of Presbyterian dignity in those times.

     Previous to April, 1878, John Armstrong McCants was made Ruling Elder. Ere this, however, the church had shrunk
to the danger point, as Presbytery appointed a committee to investigate the feasibility of keeping it as a separate organization
for merging it with some other. Shortly after this Rev. J. Mentor Crane was obtained as pastor in a grouping with Peach
Tree. Most fortunately this pastorate lasted five years - until 1883. It is said, also, that William McCants, brother of John,
was an Elder. William died childless. John A. McCants was the father of our present Elder, Thomas Armstrong McCants.
He was diligent in leading his household in the study of the Scriptures, especially on Sabbath mornings. In the war between
the states he and three brothers, William, Thomas, Robert W. was a member of Company C, 5th Alabama Infantry, and
saw service at Gettysburg. Thomas was killed in the battle of Seven Pines.

     Following Mr. Crane came Rev. William H. McAuley, the consecrated home missionary, driving his gray horse all
the way up from Stockton in Baldwin county to minister to scattered sheep of his flock. Rain or shine, he met his
appointments once a month though having reached his three score and ten years. The Sabbath school reported only ten pupils,
an evidence that the constituency has for many years been limited in numbers.

     Rev. John C. Duncan came as supply in 1887 after a two year vacancy. He lived in Camden, as he was to be ordained
and installed in that church the first Sabbath in June 1882 and pastor several years. In the year of 1888 a committee was
appointed to visit Bells Landing and ascertain what the church wished to do about keeping him as their minister since
Presbytery had not renewed their permission to him to labor in its bounds. The result was another vacant pulpit for three
years.

     Following a visit of that indefatigable evangelist, Rev. Paul C. Morton, in 1890, Rev. W. D. Heath was obtained as
a pastor in connection with other Monroe County churches, Bells Landing to pay him a salary of $200 per year. This was
twice as much as Monroeville was to pay for his support. Mr. Heath continued to serve about two years. Some years later
he returned to the fold of the Methodist church and in the superannuate home at Prattville, Ala.

     The strength of the church financially declined and Rev. Luther Link's salary in 1893 was only $125. This figure was
maintained for a long season. Mr. Link's pastorate lasted about two years, when he moved to South Carolina in 1895.

     In the summer of 1895 came Rev. Neill B. Keahey from Columbia Seminary to Monroe County. In Bells Landing
through him we had a man of God whose labors in season and out of season were abundant. Over the extremely rough roads
of that day he drove his buggy with he faithfulness of an apostle. If ever a minister went into the hills and hollows Mr.
Keahey sought for the lost. Deeply evangelistic in spirit he conducted meetings under brush arbors as far as ten miles from
his church when opportunity presented to win people to Jesus Christ. Unfortunate it was that he seriously neglected the
training of his people in stewardship. In his day it was highly unwelcome for a minister to appeal o his people for
benevolence and church finance. Monthly collections were the rule, with practically no preparation therefore by way of
education of the people in tithing or development of the missionary spirit. Yet some of the most telling labors of Mr. Keahey
were spent in highways and hedges around the Bells Landing Church.

     When Mr. Keahey left for Marion Junction  in 1901 it was many a long year before another minister with his self-
effacing zeal came to track his footsteps. As proof of the strength of the Bell's Landing church at his departure the mission
apportionment of Stockton in Baldwin County which has since come to be one of he strongest churches in Mobile Presbytery.

     For six weeks in the summer of 1902 Rev. R. B. Morrow was engaged for evangelistic services in a group composed
of Bells Landing, Scotland, Burnt Corn, with missions at Beatrice and Cannon's Store. This last was about four mioes north
of the present saw-mill village of Vredenburgh. Through this mission, begun by Mr. Keahey, the church was kept in touch
with the Cannon and Kennedy family which are represented among us to this day. Thomas Campbell Kennedy is now serving
on the board of Deacons.

     Then a new grouping was formed composed of Camden, Peach Tree and Bells Landing, and we find Rev. Thomas
Parker supplying the field in 1904 before he left in October for the foreign mission field in India.

     Rev. Carl W. McCully, ordained by Mobile Presbytery in September 1905, served the Bells Landing Church from
Camden for three years, when again was the grouping changed with Monroeville, and Rev. W. H. Boyd coming from South
Carolina, was our next minister. He, too, was a young man just ordained as was Mr. McCully. In the summer 1910 Mr.
Murdock L. Murphy, candidate for the ministry, held our services. In 1912 Rev. C. W. McCully of Camden conducted an
evangelistic meeting Vredenburgh.

     Again group with Camden Rev. H. W. Wallace came from Mississippi in 1914 and stayed for three years. While he
still served Camden, the grouping was changed again so that Rev. Finley M. Gissett, a young man just out of Columbia
Seminary, supplied the Bells Landing church in 1917 in connection with Peach Tree and the west side of the river.

     Vredenburgh, a mission point of the Bells Landing church, was established as a regular appointment in 1919, having
been served by Rev. H. W. Wallace during his camden pastorate. This mission has been continued to the present time,
although the Presbyterians of the village are to a large extent transitory because of their employment in the mill.

     Rev. George F. Johnson of Athens Tennessee, then a theological student, came over from Peach Tree in the summer
of 1920 and Rev. Hugh E. Bradshaw from Texas, also a student, for the summer of 1921. When Mr. Johnson finished his
course in 1922 in Louisville seminary he located in Monroeville and ministered to Bells Landing and Vredenburgh for a year
before moving to Brewton.

     Our next minister was Rev. William C. Tenney of Texas, coming to Monroe County from Louisiana. He remained two
years. For the second time in the century of the church's existence, Presbytery [met] here in April 1924, ninety years having
elapsed since its former session with us. Rev. A. T. Taylor was the moderator and another of the constant regroupings
occurred. Rev. James W. Roseborough, Jr., pastor of Camden and Monroeville churches, consented to exchange with Mr.
Tenney so that Mr. Rosborough assured charge of Bells Landing and Vredenaburgh churches. Mr. Rosborough was gifted
as a musician, thus adding to the attractiveness of his public and private ministries.

     Rev.. Kenneth B. McCutchen, was with us from January 1926 to July 1927. He was married during his pastorate with
us to Miss Mecklin of Mississippi.

     Next came Rev. Thomas C. Delany from Florida, originally from Bristol, Va. He came to Monroe County as
superintendent of Home Missions of Mobile Presbytery. In 1930, Rev. C. A. Campbell who had been supplying Camden
church for severqal years, was obtained, and is now serving.

     The Ruling Elders who served the Bells Landing Church were: John McCants, John Daily, David H. Packer, Archibald
McDuffie, William Jenkins, Dr. F. L. Sewall, William James McCants, John Armstrong McCants, Charles B. Hunt, William
Lewis Hybart, N. Edward Davison, J. Eades Dunn. Now serving are Daniel J. McCarty, and Thomas Armstrong McCants.

     The only Deacons we have any record of are, Agrippa Grace who served from the late fifties to about 1882. Then his
son Samuel Joshua Grace was ordained, and Thomas A, McCants who is now serving as Ruling Elder. Those who are
serving with Mr. Grace are Mr. Hunter Lett McDuffie and Mr. Thomas Campbell Kennedy.

               *          *          *          *          *

Compiler's Notes:

     The above history was almost certainly written by Thomas Armstrong McCants (111 525 1)

     Rev. James Williams Marshall, mentioned in the foregoing history, has stated that the poor showing of the Presbyterian
movement in Alabama during the early days of statehood was caused to a great extent by the failure of the churches in the
Carolinas to supply the early Alabama settler with ministerial help. He cites as an example one congregation in the Carolinas
using their missionary funds for an expensive printing of a sermon which they hoped to sell.


1.   During the War of 1812 David McCants, one of General Andrew Jackoson's soldiers brought from Tennessee to defeat
     the Indians at Horseshoe Bend on 27 March 1814, is buried at Fort Williams in Talladega County, Alabama.

2.   Dr. John L. McCants, age 32, died 25 April 1837 at his residence in Livingston, Sumter County, Alabama. Article
     in Voice of Livingston published at Livingston on 25 April 1837, mentions his aged parents in South Carolina. His will,
dated 18 April 1837 and probated 28 April 1837, mentiions property in town of Livingston, his wife Mary Ann
(daughter of Francis Foard), his son James Frances McCants (under age of 21), his brother James J. McCants.

     Lydia McCants was married to William C. Land, Jeweller, on 14 August 1837 at the residence of Mr. Fish in Sumter
     County by Hon. Henry F. Scruggs.

     Mary A. McCants (widow of Dr. John L. McCants?) was married 9 December 1841 Sumter County by A. W. Jones
     to Turpin Atwood.

3.   Dr. J. S. McCants was licensed to practice medicine in Wilcox County, Alabama, in 1869. No furtheer record of him
in Wilcox County has been found. Dr. J. S. McCants arrived in Talladega, Alabama, in 1886. He is almost certainly
the Jason Samuel McCants listed in Mrs. Jones' history of the McCants family.

McCants Family History:
Introduction to McCants Family History:
Dr William C Stapleton's Genealogical Research:
Stapleton Genealogy: