St. Andrew’s brings back 19th-Century feel

Published 10:54 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The building rests comfortably on a small, quaint property, in the same spot where it was constructed some 150 years ago. The view of the “little red church,” as it is known to many around the Demopolis area, is obstructed from US Hwy 80 by the presence of the much larger, more modern Gallion Baptist Church.

However, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church still boasts the same look and feel as it did so many years ago.

The history of the church is as fascinating as the building itself. The parish in Prairieville first found its roots under the direction of a Rev. Caleb S. Ives in 1834, before being organized more fully by a Rev. Francis R. Hanson in 1843.

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Construction on the building itself did not commence until the 1850s. While the design of the building was done by a member of the Upjohn family, who was regarded for its ability to produce skilled church architects, the actual construction of the church was done by slaves belonging to the members of congregation.

Now, some 150 years later, the “little red church” still consists of the same woodwork, pews and turnbuckles as it did when it was first built. The interior of the building even still boasts the same tobacco stain that originally tinted its walls.

“We’ve been through several tornados and several hurricanes. The only thing it did was knock the little white crosses off it and we put them back,” says Jim Mayberry, a Demopolis resident who inherited the job of serving as St. Andrew’s caretaker approximately 15 years ago. “My wife’s uncle was one of the trustees of the church, Bobby Matthews. He asked me if I’d help him out and I’ve been here ever since.”

The exterior of the building has seen some routine maintenance over the years, but Mayberry said that the church has actually required very little work.

“There’s really very little maintenance to it,” he says. “They built it good back then.”

The largest maintenance project the facility has seen over the century and a half since its construction was the temporary removal of its front wall.

“For years, as long as I can remember, there were honeybees in that wall,” Mayberry explains. “They eventually got real aggressive, so we took the wall down and got rid of them.”

That project took place 10 years ago, yet the evidence of the honeycomb’s former presence still remains on the front wall.

The church now serves primarily as a historical site, a reminder of the way things once were. It frequently welcomes bus tours and plays host to only one service a year, although it will reportedly go back to witnessing two in the calendar year of 2010.

“Some of the families can trace their roots to this church,” Mayberry says. “There’s a lot of family relations down through the years.”

While St. Andrew’s no longer serves as a primary meeting place for a congregation, it is a fixture in the local community and a link to a bygone era.

“You talk about the little red church and people know what you’re talking about if they are from anywhere around Gallion,” Mayberry says.