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Miles Chapel – Then and Now

23 Mar
Then - Miles Chapel (2013)

Then – Miles Chapel (2013)


Now - Miles Chapel (Feb 2016)

Now – Miles Chapel (Feb 2016)



Image Source – My Own


Lost Ripley – Miles Chapel

3 Sep

I first featured Miles Chapel on this site under a header titled “If Walls Could Talk”. It was my way of calling attention to important African American sites in Lauderdale County. It is with great sadness that I now write about Miles Chapel and refer to it as Lost Ripley, which is my way of letting people know about African American institutions in Ripley that are no longer standing. Last April I discussed with one of my professors my idea of adding Miles Chapel to the National Register of Historic Places and he was all for it. The church as well agreed that they would like to have it added. It would have been the fourth site in Lauderdale County to be added. This past August my professor and I were headed to Ripley to start the process of having the church added to the National Register. Unfortunately, due to a mold problem the existing chapel will be demolished. Thankfully, they do have plans to rebuild.

As someone who studies African American spaces I consider the demolition of the building as a great loss, but of course I hate to see any old structure torn down.


Miles Chapel (2013)

                                                        Miles Chapel (2013)


You can revisit Miles Chapel’s first appearance on the website here -> If Walls Could Talk – Miles Chapel

– Tiffany

The Night the Stars Fell

16 Jan

If you have had the chance to read any of the WPA Slave Narratives you might have come across stories from slaves recalling what is known as the Night the Stars Fell. I’ve been fascinated by this night because often times it has been used by genealogists to guesstimate the ages of those who did not know their age, but who had witnessed the event. The Night the Stars Fell is formally known as The Leonid Meteor Shower and it occured on the night of November 12 – 13, 1833. I’ve always been drawn to this story and the way that former slaves spoke of their experiences that night. Some stories I have read have indicated that slave owners came out of their homes to “make things right” with their slaves by telling them their history, where their parents had been sold to etc. because they thought it was the end of the world. I came across the telling of this night by Sidney Green, a former slave of Lauderdale County. He recalled that,

“One night they witnessed a biblical historical night, when the stars fell from the heavens”

Sidney Green belonged to Judge Green and lived on what was known as the Walker Farm. Judge Green had come to Lauderdale County from Virginia that same year. I decided to do a search on Sidney Green and discovered that he was born about 1828 – 1830 in Virginia. I am going to go with 1828 since he had memories of the Night the Stars Fell. It is also possible that he had memories of what he had been told by his parents or others about this night.


Have you all heard stories of the Night the Stars Fell?


Source – Kate Johnston Peters “Lauderdale County from Earliest Times” page 254.

If Walls Could Talk: Morning Star Baptist Church

6 Oct

“In the year 1914, a faithful group of about seventy assembled themselves together on Russell Lane, using Sister Maggie Russell Burns’ lot as a place of worship, under the leadership of the late Rev. G.L. Harris, the organizer” – Lauderdale County From its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters (p 89).

Morning Star Baptist Church received its name from Frank Williams who also served as an officer of the church. Deacons of the church included, Frank Reed, Clarence Rucker, Abe Partee, George Roll and Frank Williams. Pastors of the church included Rev. G.L. Harris, Rev. M.L. Young, Rev. Anderson, Rev. J.W. Lee, Rev. R.L. Reed, Rev. G.W. Tyus, John Maclin, Sol Huddelston, and Robert Washington. By 1955 the church was under the leadership of Rev. J.R. Halliburton.

In 1916 the church relocated from Russell Lane to a lot on what was known at the time as School Street which they purchased for $75.00. Church members and friends worked together to clear the lot and dig the basement of the church which they used for worship services. Sanborn Maps also reveal that the Morning Star Church building was also used as an annex for the Lauderdale County Training School.

Records indicate that School Street was renamed Handsome Street and was then renamed Spring Street, which it is still known as today. Today, Morning Star Baptist Church can be found on Scott Drive, not too far from its previous location on Spring Street.

In the 1980’s Mother Goose Daycare could be found in a building behind Morning Star Baptist Church.

Do any of you all have memories of attending Morning Star Baptist Church? Do any of you all currently attend there?

– Tiffany

– Source: Lauderdale County from its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters, Google Maps

If Walls Could Talk: Miles Chapel CME

3 May

Miles Chapel CME was the second African American church in Ripley, TN. It was founded after emancipation and I have found dates of 1873, 1876, and 1886 as its dates of origin. The church first held meetings under a bush arbor on land owned by Chaney Jeroe on College Street. A location for the church was soon secured on Elm Street right near College Street, but when the railroad came through the church had to be relocated. It eventually found itself back on College Street, not far from the original location.

According to the plaque on the wall of the church it appears that this building was rebuilt in 1943. It is unclear if that was due to the forced move by the railroad or something else. Today it appears that the church might be inactive, but can you imagine what went on here when the church was active? Imagine all of the Sunday worship services, the church dinners and fellowships, the weddings, the baptisms, and even the funerals. As I stood outside of the church taking photographs I could almost feel the energy of all of the happy times that must have taken place there.

Miles Chapel

Miles Chapel

Early members of the church include Chaney Jeroe, Elias Clay and family, Alex Norvell, Ned Fuller, Richard Byrn, Smith Carson, Lawrence Tyus, Lewis Bord, Hester Burns, Hannah Sutherland, the Halfacre family, and many, many others. Interestingly it seems that a few members of this church also moved to Paducah, Kentucky and established a Miles Chapel CME church there as well.

I also found an ad placed in the Lauderdale County Enterprise on October 22, 1926 regarding Miles Chapel.

“Attention Colored Mid-Wives
Dr. M.E. Coleman, field agent of the vital statistic department of Public Health State Board, is in the county getting the vital statistics of colored babies and instructing midwives (colored).
All that do not get in touch with her will not be recommended
to the State. She will hold a meeting Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Methodist
Church in Henning at 1:30, Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 1:30 at Miles Chapel
Methodist Church in Ripley. All midwives are urged to be present at one of
these meetings if they want to continue doing their work without getting into
trouble. adv.”

Do any of you have fond memories of Miles Chapel CME? If so, please share!

– Tiffany
Sources: Google Maps, church cornerstone photo my own, Lauderdale County From its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters, Lauderdale County Enterprise October 22, 1926 edition via Lauderdale County, TN GenWeb