Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Historical marker describes history of Presbyterian church in Demopolis

'First Presbyterian Church' historical marker in Demopolis.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH” marker in Marengo County, Ala. This marker is located near the entrance to the church at 300 North Strawberry Ave. in Demopolis.

This marker was erected by the Alabama Historical Association in 1990. There’s text on both sides of the marker, and both sides are unique. What follows in the complete text from the marker:

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“FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: Organized with nine members by Tuscaloosa Presbytery, on November 1, 1839, the Rev. Isaac Hadden officiating. Erected brick building still standing, on northeast corner of Public Square in 1843. Sold to Marengo County in 1869 for use as court house. Wooden church dedicated December 5, 1869, on present site donated by Dr. Cincinnatus Ashe. Major remodeling, 1905; steeple modification, 1936; Eastside addition, 1953; Northside addition, 1989.”

“FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: Demopolis, Alabama, Charter members 1839: John B. Cook (first elder), Mary S. Cook, Benajah P. Whitlow, Elmira Gaither, Eliza A. Whitlow, Eleanor L. Lucy, Ira Patterson, Mariah S. Tillinghast, Sarah Young. First resident pastor (1846-53): The Rev. William Flinn.”

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If you go to the church’s Web site,, you’ll find a timeline that adds a few more details to the historic marker described above. According to that timeline, the church building constructed in 1843 was confiscated from the church during the Civil War and was never returned to the congregation. Today, that building houses the Demopolis Fire Department, according to the church’s Web site.

During the 1905 remodeling of the wood church built in 1869, brick was added to the building. During the 1989 remodeling of the building, a kitchen, classroom, office, conference room and fellowship area were added. In November 1989, the church celebrated its 150th anniversary.

In 1998-1999, years after the historical marker described above was put in place, the church had extensive renovations done to the interior of the church’s sanctuary. The church’s bell tower was renovated in 2004.

A name on the marker that immediately caught my eye was that of the Rev. Isaac Hadden, who was born on Aug. 15, 1799 in Abbeville County, South Carolina. Hadden was one of Alabama’s first Presbyterian ministers and he was ordained an evangelist in Montgomery on March 24, 1825. Hadden eventually passed away at the age of 50 in Sumter County, Ala., and he’s buried Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery in Sumterville in Sumter County, Ala. Hadden Presbyterian Church in Boyd, Ala. was later named in his memory.

Another name that jumped out at me was that of Dr. Cincinnatus Ashe, who was born in North Carolina in May 11, 1815. Ashe attended the University of Alabama, the University of Virginia and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He began practicing medicine in Marengo County, Ala. in 1850 and later became a surgeon in the Confederate army. After the war, he resumed his medical practice and eventually passed away a short time later at the age of 52 on Dec. 17, 1867 in Demopolis. He is buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Demopolis.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below.

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