The following is Drew County Historical Society member Beth Thurman’s account of the society’s May meeting held at the Sixteen Section Missionary Baptist Church where Bobbie presented a history of the church, organized shortly after the Civil War, and Luevert Rowlett shared stories about the community’s past history:
The Drew County Historical Society held its final meeting of the year at the Sixteen Section Missionary Baptist Church in Drew County where Bobbie Everett presented a history of the church which was organized shortly after the Civil War around 1865.
The first church building was located on the south side of the highway on land purchased from Anderson Briggs and his wife, Alwida. The church was organized and built by five young men and their families: John Rowlett, Anderson Briggs, Atlas Avery, Stepson Walker and Sam Everett. Many of their descendants still live in the Sixteen Section community.
Around the turn of the century, the deacons and members constructed a new building on the north side of the highway at its present location. The roof was made of rived boards, boards that has been shaped by splitting it along the grain instead of sawing it.
At that point, they tore the old building down. The new church was costly for the economy of the times, and members were paying ten cents per month for the church dues. It took about thirty years to complete the inside of the church. As with any structure, by the time the inside was financed, the outside needed more work. At that time, the shiplap was covered with brick siding, but this did not last long, so it was later removed and replaced with drop siding. A few years later a singing classroom was made larger and a room was added near the back door for communion.
About the 1940’s, Brother Will Everette started thinking of an appropriate place to serve food and introduced the idea of a cafeteria. The original structure lasted until 1968 when it was destroyed by fire. The present building was built between 1969 and 1979. All of the costs were met by the good stewards of the church, both men and women. Brother Joseph Sims had the idea of a brick building, and the Rev. Littleton brought this before the body, and it was budgeted at $16,000. Brother Littleton donated $1,000, and the members paid the balance over a period of years. Pews were purchased by Sam Everette and J. W. Everette. In 2003, the sanctuary was remodeled and a baptistery and ladies room was added. New pulpit furniture was added in 2005. The kitchen was upgraded in 2006.
During the history of the church, preachers from the congregation were ordained: William Briggs, Sr., Andrew Rowlett, Will Everett, William Briggs, Jr., Dave Everett, William Lucas, Paul Everett, Sr., Rev Wade Everett, Robert McCullough, and Malcolm Everett.
After Mrs. Everett’s church history presentation, Mr. Luevert Rowlett regaled the historical society members with interesting stories from the past about the Sixteen Section community. Rowlett said the community also started right after the Civil War. For the most part, it has always been an all-African American community. He told about how the Everett, Sims, Rowletts, Lucas, Briggs, and other families moved to the area in search of a better living after the Civil War. They came from Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina and various other places further east to settle in the area around 16 Section.
The older generation mostly worked in the fields, but they also worked public work in the pulp woods and timber industry. One of the stories Mr. Rowlett told was about his winning the chopping contests at the local fair each year because he was strong and young and did this sort of work each day. What he remembered with a little chuckle was his getting the prize money. He said there was a hill to the east of Monticello, and it often took more than one team of oxen to get the logs, which were huge back then, up the hill and to the mill in Monticello. He said the community had always been more or less independent because they did not have to depend so much on bosses that furnished them to make their crops as so many of them were independent land owners.
He also said that the school was not always the south Selma school, which is now referred to as the Rosenwald School. As a child, he had walked to that school initially, but his family thought he and some of the other children were too small to walk the three miles to the school alone. Therefore, they built another school right across the road from where the church is now. Later, everyone went to the all-black Selma school, but in the 1960’s, they were consolidated with the Selma white school. Finally, that school consolidated with Drew Central in the 1970s. He had been a school director at the black school and was also one while Selma still operated.
Rowlett also told about how they used to have fun when he was a boy. He said that they would have dances that lasted way into the night, and sometimes hogs would be butchered. For these dances, they would build a raised platform with tongue and groove lumber so that the surface would be flat. Rowlett went on to tell about how the families always worked together to help one another, and he stated that their community had always been peaceful and had never had any trouble with the whites in the surrounding area.
Following Everett and Rowlett’s presentations, there was a question and answer session.
Twenty members of the Drew County Historical Society attended the meeting.