ZION SEMINARY GIVES BIRTH TO THE TOWN OF SEMINARY
When Williamsburg began it's 79 year reign as county seat of Covington County, several churches established themselves there. While only a few of the churches remain today, it was the Presbyterian church's members and it's pastor that had a vision that played a pivotal role in the formation of the town of Seminary.
A native of Saratoga, NY, Rev. A. R. Graves was the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Williamsburg in the early 1820's. Inspired by a vision and with his church members' support, he established Zion Seminary in 1845. It was located on 25 acres near the falls on the Okatoma, now known as Seminary Falls, that was given to the church by W. A. Leggett. While there were more than 70 one-room schools in the county, Zion Seminary provided education beyond the smaller schools throughout the county. First built of pine poles and split-pole floors with dirt chimneys, the Zion Seminary grew under Rev. Graves' watchful eye, constant promotion, and the nationwide recruiting of the highest quality educators. When he was given money for the support of the school, he would invested it into a sawmill and a brickyard. After several years, the pine pole school had grown into a two story school of lumber and brick with two dormitories. Due to his vision and his diligence, Zion Seminary was said to be ahead of its time by 40 years for the southern United States of its time. In its heyday, Zion Seminary had nearly 500 students from all over Mississippi and adjoining states. Children with their servants were sent to learn in the prestigious Zion Seminary, and families built 20 or more three-room cottages on the grounds for their children.
In 1861, while the Civil War was raging, all the buildings but one were burned. The one building that was saved was the auditorium. Rev. Graves became a chaplain for the Confederate army. After the Civil War ended, Rev. Graves moved on to pastor another Presbyterian church, and Zion Seminary's future fell into the hands of other pastors of the Presbyterian church. It was rebuilt and continued being one of the premier educational institutions of the area until it burned again in 1890. In the late 1890's, Mississippi's public school system was created, and when the building was again rebuilt, it was rebuilt as Seminary Attendance Center, which is still in operation today.
With the growth of Zion Seminary, a town grew, too. The town had a post office as early as 1857; although, the town was not incorporated until 1899. When it was incorporated, the town took the name of Seminary to keep the memory of its origins alive. Around the turn of the 20th Century, three churches cemented Seminary's future as a town. Before the school severed it's ties with the Presbyterian church, it served as the Presbyterian church when school was not in session. The Seminary Baptist Church was organized as Concord Baptist Church in 1886. Seminary Methodist Church was organized in 1907. The school also served as a public building housing court proceedings. Somewhere around 1936, the Seminary Presbyterian church gave up it's charter and ceased to exist.
SEMINARY TODAY AND . . .
Seminary today is a small but busy town. It is the launching point for Mississippi's top white water canoeing and kayaking creek, the Okatoma. The town has moved into the 21st century with continued economic development, a new water project for the town, and with entrepreneurs beginning a new upscale housing development. The town has continueS to grow due to the leadership of Mayor Billy Karolyi and Aldermen Freddie Bullock, David Daniels, Mike Wilcosky, David Aultman and Rick Hux.
In addition Seminary High School's Bulldogs continue to be a force with which to be reckoned in Group 3- A athletics. The Seminary Bulldogs were the Undefeated Group 2-A State Champions in 2003.
Picnicing, fishing and fun can be found at Lake Mike Connor, located just outside of Seminary by taking U. S. Route 49 to MS State Rt. 589 toward Sumrall to Lake Mike Connor Road.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT SEMINARY
Over it's 111-plus years, the town of Seminary has been the home of numerous events in Covington County's history and the home of two native sons that left their giant footprints on the history of the state, and the music world.
MISSISSIPPI'S 44TH GOVERNOR, MARTIN SENNETT (MIKE) CONNER
Seminary resident, Democrat Martin Sennett (Mike) Conner came with his family to live in the town when he was nine years old. Born in 1891, Conner, who finished his early education at Seminary School, was a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Yale Law School. He was voted the "greenest Freshman" when he entered the University of Mississippi at the age of 14. After attending Yale and passing the bar exam, he returned to Seminary and began a law practice. Politics was also in his blood, and he ran for the state legislature in 1915, and was elected Speaker of the House while in his first term.
After two unsuccessful tries, he was elected Governor of Mississippi in 1931. He took office at the height of the Great Depression. The state was more than $13,500,000 in debt, and the treasury had $13 and change in it. Men often knocked on the back door of the Governor's mansion asking for food and a handout, which they received. However, when he left office four years later, he was not one of the state's more popular governors, but the debts were payed and the state treasury held more than $3,243,551 due to his idea of instituting the first sales tax levied anywhere in the United States. Although he ran for governor again, he was never re-elected to the Governor's office. in the later part of his life, he was the first Commissioner of the N.C.A.A,'s Southern Conference. When he died, a list of his many contributions to Mississippi and personal accomplishments were read into the Congressional Record of the United States Congress on September 15, 1950.
DALE HOUSTON (1940-2007)
Another native son of Seminary was recording artist Dale Houston (1940 - 2007). He and his singing partner, Grace Broussard, formed the duo Dale and Grace. They made it to the top of the Billboard Charts in 1965 with the song I'm Leaving It Up To You. They also made it to # 8 in 1964 with Stop And Think It Over. In his later life, Dale and Grace were honored by the Covington County Board of Supervisors and the Seminary Board of Aldermen. In 1998, Houston was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame and the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was awarded the Louisiana Living Legends Award from the Public Broadcasting Service. In 2007, they were inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame. Finally, in October 2007, Dale and Grace were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Sources and Links:
Covington Crossroads: A History of Covington County, Mississippi, by Gwen Keys Hitt, University of Southern Mississippi Printing Center, November 1985
Governor Martin Sennett (Mike) Connor, 44th governor of the State of Mississippi -- http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/index.php?s=extra&id=144
http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/conner.html and http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/conner.html
Dale Houston, of the 60's singing duo Dale and Grace -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dale_Houston ,
What's Goin' On In Seminary, MS? , FACEBOOK, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=252455049168
Seminary Bulldogs, (athletics), FACEBOOK, http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/pages/Seminary-High-School-Football-Team-Official-Fan-Page/378188708745
Seminary Bulldogs, (school), FACEBOOK, http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/pages/Seminary-Bulldogs/139344249416100