Schools and churches were two institutions which formed the nucleus of the community in Vernon Parish.
They helped people establish "place" which people identified themselves. As Vernon Parish grew and transportation improved, churches became more numerous from the six in the antebellum period to about 114 today.
According to "Chamber Master", there are 86 churches in Vernon Parish. A second source, "LA Home Town Locator", says there are 92.
A third source, "Yellow Book", says there are about 114. Whatever the number, we can agree we have been blessed with many houses of worship.
On April 17 the Leesville Daily Leader printed an article listing the six antebellum churches of Vernon Parish along with the year of organization.
They were Holly Grove Methodist in 1835, Beech Grove Methodist (Burr Ferry) in abt. 1850, Enon Primitive Baptist (Pickering) in 1852, Old Anacoco Missionary Baptist in 1853, Good Hope Baptist (Anacoco) in 1854, and Mt. Pleasant Baptist (Burr Ferry) in 1855.
On July 24 an article was printed listing the ten postbellum churches along with the year of organization.
They were Mt. Olive Baptist (Pitkin) in 1862; Castor Baptist (Leesville) in 1868; Prewitt Chapel (Hornbeck) and Laurel Hill Baptist in 1869; Antioch (Slagle) in 1883; Pine Hill Baptist (Caney) in 1893; Simpson Church of God in 1897; and First United Methodist (Leesville), Leesville First Baptist, and Cooper Baptist (Pickering) in 1898.
In 1900 church attendance in Vernon Parish was high.
According to a survey, attendance was 2,844, which was 48% of the population.
Baptist was the primary denomination with 1,861, which was 65% of church attendance. Methodists were second with 605 which was 21% of the churched population.
The coming of the railroad in 1898 plus the sawmills that followed doubled Vernon Parish's population from 5,903 in 1890 to 10,327 in 1900.
With the increased population came an increase in the number of churches.
From 1900 to 1950 about 24 churches organized.
They were Simpson Church of God and New Willow Baptist (New Llano) in 1901; Rosepine Baptist, Galilee Baptist (Evans), and Bethel A.M.E. (Leesville) in 1902; Mt. Olive Baptist (Leesville) in 1911; Leesville Church of God in 1912; St. Michael Catholic (Leesville) and Assembly of God (Hornbeck) in 1913; Mt. Pleasant Church of Christ (Simpson) in abt. 1921; Silver Creek Baptist (Kurthwood) in 1923; Union Grove (Slagle) in 1924 (renamed Calcasieu Baptist in 1965); Barham (Hornbeck) in abt.1924; Old Welcome (unk.) in abt. 1927; Simpson Baptist in 1927; Mt. Bethel Baptist (Slagle) and Freedom Rest Baptist (Burr Ferry) in 1934; Slagle Baptist in 1935; White Park Church of Christ (Leesville) and Bible Missionary (Hornbeck) in 1938; East Leesville Baptist in 1946; Burr Ferry Pentecostal in 1946; and Douglas Memorial Baptist (New Llano) in 1948.
In 1900 church attendance was 48% of the population. In 1950 the population of Vernon Parish increased to 18,974 with church attendance at 4,494, which was 24% of the population.
As stated, according to "Chamber Master", there are 86 churches and 25 denominations in Vernon Parish.
Denominations and number of churches are Apostolic with three, Assembly of God with five, Baptist with 24, Full Gospel Baptist with one, Independent Baptist with one, National Baptist with one, Southern Baptist with seven, Catholic with one, Christian Disciples of Christ with two, Church of Christ with two, Church of God with one, Church of God in Christ with four, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) with one, Episcopal with one, Full Gospel with three, Independent with one, Interdenominational with two, Lutheran with one, Methodist with three, United Methodist with four, Non-Denominational with four, Pentecostal with eight, Presbyterian with two, USA Presbyterian with one, and United Pentecostal with three. Baptists and Methodists, which once made up 100% of Vernon Parish churches at the end of the antebellum period, made up 48% in 1950.
Which communities have the greatest number of churches?
Vernon Parish is divided into 26 USGS (United States Geological Survey) districts for mapping purposes. USGS districts cross state and county (parish) lines.
The districts are 7.5 x 15 minutes, or 64 square miles at 30 degree latitude.
Vernon Parish is 1,328 square miles large. If district lines stopped at state and parish lines Vernon parish would be 20.75 USGS districts large. They are named after lakes, streams, hills, communities, etc., located in the center of the district.
Using the maps, the following communities along with the number of churches are Leesville with 13; Rosepine with nine; New Llano and Slagle with seven each; Sugrue (between Ft. Polk and Cravens on LA Hwy. 10) and Dowden Creek (southwest corner of Peason Ridge) with six each; LaCamp with five, Simpson, Hornbeck and Pitkin with four each; Little Sandy Creek (Burr Ferry), Hurricane Branch (between Rosepine and Pitkin), Knight, Fullerton Lake, and Kurthwood, with three each; Sieper, Haddens, Burr Ferry, and Steep Gully (southeast corner of Vernon Parish) with two each; and Temple, Afeman (Rapides Parish), Evans, and Ft. Polk with one each.
Birds Creek and Jericho are the only USGS districts without a church.
When Camp Polk and Peason (Peavy+Wilson=Peason) Ridge were constructed in 1940 many churches had to relocate, as did the population. On Peason Ridge there were Bonnett's/Bonnie's Chapel and Oak Grove Church.
On Camp Polk there were Mill Creek Pentecostal Church, Red Hill Church, Big Creek Baptist Church, Whiskachitta Pentecostal Church, Davis Baptist Church, and Zion Hill Church. Three churches, Mill Creek Pentecostal, Zion Hill, and Davis Baptist had cemeteries.
Since 1950 many churches have organized in Vernon Parish and many have closed. Depending on the source, 46 to 74 churches have formed since 1950. In Vernon Parish, like in America, ethnicity has become more varied. Along with that mix, has come more non-traditional religions and denominations.
Even though our church history has changed, the house of worship is still a center of human activity.
Whatever your religion or denomination is or your house of worship, it is a place you can slow down, meet your neighbor, count your blessings, bury your dead, marry, and strengthen relationships with like-minded people.