The Presbyterian Church in Holly Springs was founded in 1836. The original Presbyterian Church was built in 1837, on this same spot. It was later moved, along with the Mississippi Central Railroad Office, which was also located on this lot, in 1859/1860 when this present church was constructed. Between 1848 and 1860 the Presbyterians met in their second church building, the old Miller’s Department store on the square.
Construction began on this church in 1860. By the end of the year, the walls and the roof were constructed, but the coming of the Civil War delayed the completion of the church. During the Union occupation of Holly Springs, Union soldiers desecrated the building, using the half-completed structure as a stables for their horses. After the end of the Civil War, the Presbyterians attempted to complete their great church. In 1869, the Reverend Henry H. Paine traveled across the north of the United States, seeking donations from fellow northern Presbyterians (who undoubtably felt guilt from the treatment of the church by the Union soldiers). Paine returned to Holly Springs with $2,005 raised. These funds were used to install the Bohemian glass windows, completing the church. The church was dedicated on March 28, 1869 by the Reverend Benjamin Palmer, from New Orleans.
The entire church cost $21,196.44 ($380,889 in 2016 dollars) to construct. It was built largely using slave labor, and is a testament to the technical skills of the African-American slaves who built this church. 35,000 shingles were used on the roof, and $6,000 of bricks and $1,300 lumber was also used in the construction.
The Presbyterians have had a strong congregation for 180 years in Holly Springs, and have weathered war, plague and depression. The church, along with most other Presbyterian congregations, split from the mainline American Presbyterian church during the Civil War and did not reunite with the main church until 1983.
The church is built in the Romanesque Revival style, and is a two-and-a-half story gable-front building, with recessed central tower, stepped polygonal buttresses, and polygonal towers at the corners. Semi-circular windows with cast-iron hood molds and found along the facade, and there is an arch over the double-leafed entrance door. There was originally a massive Romanesque tower on the church, but it was damaged in a storm in 1897 and removed (see historic picture above).
The historic pictures of the Presbyterian Church are courtesy of Hubert McAlexander’s local history, A Southern Tapestry: Marshall County, Mississippi, 1835-2000.