Presbyterian church gets facelift

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 11, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

A piece of history has been restored.

The exterior of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church has undergone a facelift. The restoration project has been years in the making.

Email newsletter signup

Michael Vaughn Sims, author of &8220;Pleasant Hill, Alabama During the Antebellum Years 1813-1805,&8221; has been project manager since 1998 for the restoration of the church, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For this work he was the subject of a feature in Preservation Magazine.

Now living in New York City, interest in the restoration of Pleasant Hill continues. Under the aegis of the Pleasant Hill Cemetery Association and the Alabama Preservation Alliance, work on the exterior of the church, the roof and cupola have been completed.

The South Dallas Historic Preservation Association has been formed to carry out further repairs. The board will decide if and when the interior should be restored.

On Saturday, April 19, the annual Pleasant Hill Church fund-raising barbecue begins at 11 a.m. The price of the barbecue is $10. The proceeds will go towards the restorative efforts.

Church history

Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church, also known as Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church, was built of logs, probably between 1819 and 1822.

How long the congregation met in the log house is unknown, but it is likely it was replaced with a simple, wood-framed house in the early 1830s, following suit of other churches in the area.

By the late 1830s, cotton production was enjoying increased profits, putting Pleasant Hill at its height of prosperity by 1850. And in 1851, Mount Carmel Church circulated a subscription to pay for building a large wood-framed church, the same building standing today. Seventy-four subscribers pledged a little more than $1,500, and slave labor was used in its construction, which was completed in 1852.

Following the Civil War, Pleasant Hill began to receive the ministries of the South Alabama Presbytery of the United States, and in 1873 a new PCUS congregation was organized with 21 members, who transferred their membership from other churches. Having no church house, the Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church used the Mount Carmel Church House for its worship. The two denominations, Cumberland and PCUS, shared the building into the 1890s, also sharing a Union Sunday School.

Membership in Mount Carmel declined to extinction during the 1890s, as did that of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian, which was officially dissolved on Jan. 15, 1963, by the Tuscaloosa Presbytery PCUS. And the historic building began its inevitable deterioration.