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Burns United Methodist Church

Burns UMC

Burns UMC

(current location)

Burns UMC

Burns UMC

(current location)

Burns Belfry

Burns Belfry

(inside after renovation)

Burns Belfry

Burns Belfry

(night view after renovation)

Burns Belfry

Burns Belfry


Burns Belfry

Burns Belfry


Burns Belfry

Burns Belfry

(renovation plans)

Old Burns Belfry

Old Burns Belfry

(Jackson Ave.)

Old Burns Belfry

Old Burns Belfry

(Jackson Ave.)

Burns Belfry Church

Burns Belfry Church

(history marker)

Harrison Stearns, the colored slave and faithful servant of William Stearns, the first dean of the University of Mississippi Law School, joined in an agreement on December 1, 1865, that would lay a foundation for building community which exists even unto this day.

William Stearns died September 8, 1867, before the actual document was filed on September 30, 1867. Mary Stearns, wife of William Stearns, completed the land conveyance on December 19, 1867. Harrison Stearns' property deed from Mary Stearns was recorded January 2, 1868.

Burns United Methodist Church has undergone several name changes across the years. The Third Session of Mississippi Mission Conference referred to it as M.E. (Methodist Episcopal) Oxford. The conference met in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1867. M.E. Oxford, according to the journal of the Mississippi Mission Conference was a member of the Holly Springs District. M.E. Oxford had one pastor, one building valued at $1,900, and gave $200 in missions.

The May 5, 1868 Oxford Falcon Newspaper  published an invitation by the pastor, Alexander Phillips, "to the dedication of M.E. Oxford to be known as the Colored Church at Oxford on Sunday, May 10th, at 3 o'clock p.m." The Presiding Elder A.C. McDonald brought the message. The entire community was invited. Alexander Phillips said, "We tender our thanks to the white portion of our poulation for the liberal contribution which they have made and are making toward our church. The names and deeds of those gentlemen will never die out of my membory while the church is in existence and I live. I believe this was the Lord's design, when He created all mankind that man should be help to man, and for each other stand."

Harrison Stearns conveyed part of lot 472 to himself and trustees of M.E. Oxford on March 20, 1869. The deed was filed on October 21st and recorded on October 22, 1873.

The members of M.E. Oxford according to records in their own handwriting called themselves Sewell Chapel from 1892 to 1901. The name probably came from their affection for a former pastor, Richard Sewell, who served them in 1888-1889.

On March 24, 1901, during Rev. W.H. Whitlock's tenure as pastor, the church was renamed Bishop Francis Burns Chapel. Records written in their own handwriting verify the name change. The name change was probably in honor of Bishop Francis Burns who was the first black missionary bishop elected by the M.E. Church of the Liberia Annual Conference in 1856. Bishop Burns died on April 18, 1863.

S.T. Taylor presented the idea of a new brick church. Rev. J.C. McGee, acting chairperson of the March 7, 1910 Trustee Meeting motioned and carried that we secure the money on church property for building a new church." The building committee met on March 21, 1910, with the recommendation to borrow $2,000 from a member of Burns Chapel, W.R. Boles. He was directed in the April 4, 1910 meeting to deposit the sume of $2,000 in the M&F Bank and work began on the new church.

We believe that the new church was finished by October 10, 1910, because it is the Building Committee's last meeting according to the minutes. In 1914, the name was shortened to Burns Church.

"In 1954, the growth of the old church necessitated an extension to include educational facilities...The pastor, W.N. Redmond, Jr., proposed the building of a new structure to meet the present needs of the church and its people...New church property was purchased on 600 Molly Barr Road." The present site on the corner of Molly Barr Road and Washington Avenue was purchased when Rev. J.W. Richmond was the pastor. The cornerstone was laid when Rev. J.H. Marshall was pastor. After the merger of the M.E. Church and the United Methodist Church in 1968, Burns Church became known as Burns United Methodist Church.

Attorney John Gafford purchased the old Burns Church on Jackson Avenue from Burns UMC in 1978. Roscoe and Dorothy Newton purchased it from Attorney Gafford, and it was given the title "Belfry" by Mrs. Newton. Dave Fair purchased The Belfry from the Newtons. Author John Grisham purchased the Belfry from Dave Fair and deeded it to The Heritage Foundation with reference to the Oxford Development Association.


(This history was adapted primarily from the 2010 Worship Experience commemorative booklet.)

Pastors Through the Years

Alexander Phillips, 1867-1870

J.W. James, 1871-1872

A. Arnell, 1873-1874

J.M. Shumpert, 1875-1877

Peter Blue, 1878-1879

Samuel Cowan, 1880

Miles H. Foster, 1881-1883

B.L. Crump, 1884-1887

Richard Sewell, 1888-1889

A.G. Houston, 1890-1891

B.F. Woolfolk, 1892-1893

N.H. Williams, 1894-1896

W.M. McDonald, 1897

J.W. Winbush, 1898

W.H. Whitlock, 1899-1901

N.R. Clay, 1902

F.H. Henry, 1903-1904

E. F. Scarbrough, 1905-1906

N.H. Williams, 1907

J.M. Marsh, 1908-1909

J.C. McGee, 1910-1911

J.M. Thompson, 1912

W.C. Conwell, 1913

L.A. Armstrong, 1914-1915

G.M. Chesholm, 1916

E.C.F. Troupe, 1917-1918

W.N. Redmond, 1919-1920

C. V. Heffner, 1921-1922

J.P. Watson, 1923-1924

J.L. King, 1925-1927

M.J. Stalling, 1928

S.J. Mack, 1929-1930

A.G. Marshall, 1931

W.N. Redmond, 1932-1935

W.C. Norwood, 1936-1937

B.H. Ashford, 1938-1939

F.A. Blackwell, 1940-1942

S.W. Allen, 1946-1947

S.W. Bankhead, 1948-1950

J.W. Campbell, 1951-1953

W.N. Redmond, Jr., 1954-1963

W.B. Spencer, 1964

O.L. Rencher, 1965

J.W. Richmond, 1966-1968

R.H. King, 1969-1970

T.V. Triplett, 1971-1973

J.H. Marshall, 1974-1983

Lester Graves, 1984-1985

Roswietha Elliott, 1986-1988

Arthur Herod, 1989-1993

Robert E. Brown, 1994-2001

Elbrist Mason, 2002-2003

Deborah Mingo-Palmer, 2004-2011

Marjorie Walker, 2011-2013

Christopher C. Diggs, 2013-June 11, 2016

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