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The Valley Was Cradle of State’s Methodism

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good week.  

It seems incredible that the Watermelon Carnival is only a week away.  In next week’s column, as always, I’ll reprise the beginning of the carnival 79 yeas ago.      

I’ve missed attending the last two due to other commitments, but I do plan to be at this year’s event and look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones.  

Old P. T. Barnum was right when he said, over a hundred years ago, that there is a sucker born every minute.  In a recent auction of Elvis memorabilia,  mortuary toe tags caught my attention.  

When I worked at the old National Funeral Home, which is now Memphis Funeral Home, it was the largest funeral home in the country under one roof. We averaged about 10 funerals every day. The embalmers worked in a prep room with four tables.  

Since they never went out on a call, they did not know one body from another. Therefore each body had a tag attached to the big toe with the name on it.  

While I’m not accusing anyone, a tag would be easy  to counterfeit, who can really vouch for the authenticity of an Elvis toe tag. I am not a collector and I don’t understand people who pay outrageous sums for a lock of hair or a handkerchief that he used to wipe the sweat off during a concert.  

I can just hear someone saying, “Cooper’s started meddling again,” so I’m going to stick to the facts – just like Jack Webb said on the old Dragnet programs. Webb started in radio and, with his radio-trained voice, it was great. But when he switched from radio to TV it left a lot to be desired.

When Jamie was young, he was watching reruns  and  Webb  was saying, “This is the city, Los Angeles, California it’s warm and slightly overcast.”

Jamie asked me, “what’s he doing a police story or the weather forecast?”

Young people today can see though the imperfections that got by in those days. It was interesting to see the 50th anniversary of the release of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The movie  came out two years after the book, and is already the most-loved classic all over the world. It even passed “Gone With The Wind.”  

I saw “Gone With The Wind” when I was a kid and it wasn’t until years later I realized that it was really just a soap opera with the War Between The States as a back drop.  

I’m glad that an effort is being made to preserve the old buildings on Main Street.  In too many cities old historic buildings were torn down in the name of progress. Once they are gone they are gone forever.  The Presbyterian and North Main Street Methodist are the only old churches left, and I hope they will be preserved.  

I can remember when the old Wood Street Methodist Church was still standing, but it had become a residence and Mrs. Burns lived there. Great-grandfather Elijah Badley, Jr. was a charter member.  

The Sand Springs Presbyterian church at Orwood dates back to 1854 and Great-grandfather Jim Spears, my dad and all his brothers and sisters, and Grandpa and Granny Cooper all were members.  The structure is basically the same with the exception of a balcony that was removed years ago, The original bell is outside.  

The first Methodist church in Water Valley was organized in 1845, in a log schoolhouse with 18 members. The Wood Street Methodist church was built about 1866 on land purchased from Will Carr. In 1870, the North Mississippi conference  was organized in Water Valley with 104 ministers and 24 laymen in attendance.  

Water Valley was known as the “Cradle of Mississippi Methodism.”  The longer I write this column, the more I find out about the proud heritage of Water Valley.

I’m researching other historic churches and I hope you will enjoy reading about them.  Any input about any of the churches in this area will be greatly appreciated.  

My email address  is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week and I hope to see many of you at the Watermelon Carnival.

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