Way down in the southern part of Simpson County, where it and Jefferson Davis and Covington Counties meet, is Hopewell Church. Maybe just over into Jefferson Davis County if I am reading my maps right.
Hugh Hubbard showed me around a few years ago.
“It was organized in 1830 and it was organized about five miles down the road," said Hubbard. "Most of the people were in this area so they decided to move it here to Janesville. This is the old Janesville Community. There used to be two grocery stores and a doctors office and a drug store and a racetrack and two saloons.”
The church had a tree go through the roof during Hurricane Katrina. The congregation met on the porch while a group of volunteers from New Jersey and New York rebuilt the roof.
There was one other major disaster, a tornado in the 1930s. They put in the big posts in the center of the room to support the ceiling after that.
Hugh says the posts get in the way sometimes but are good to sit behind if you happen to nod off during the sermon. The preacher can’t see you.
Janesville was a big community back in the day. But the same railroad that made Mendenhall and D,Lo and Magee, bypassed Janesville to the east, through Mt. Olive. Mt. Olive grew and Janesville shrunk to where the church is about all that’s left of it.
But unlike a lot of country churches who’s communities evaporated, Hopewell didn’t evaporate with it.
“Since 1830 there’s been no dry-up and not have services. It’s been every Sunday," added Hugh. "Well, sometimes there’d be a Sunday skipped, but I mean basically it was every Sunday.”
To reapply a quote from William Faulkner, not only has Hopewell survived, it has thrived, to the point it was actually planning an expansion a few years ago, and that has to do with the shift in demographics that the automobile has brought about.
We can live where we want to nowadays. And a bunch of people has chosen to go home to the Piney Woods at night, no matter where they work in the daytime. And they still go to Hopewell Church, and that speaks well for it.
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