Shiloh community church part of area history

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

The name Shiloh researched takes one deep into Biblical history. Joshua 18 of the Old Testament tells us that the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled and set up the tabernacle of the congregation at the site. Much later the name becomes prominent as the site of the 1862 Civil War Battle in Southest Tennessee. The Shiloh we drove to on our trip up through North Louisiana was a few miles east of Bernice. It is south of Corney Creek, a small stream beginning in the northwestern part of Union Parish turning and twisting its way down where it flows into Lake D'Arbonne.

Edna Liggin writes in the North Louisiana Historical Association Journal, "Cornie Creek was used by early settlers who homesteaded as near the stream as possible for transportation. Since 1839 flat boats, keelboats, canoes, and steamboats had traveled up and down the stream. Thousands of bales of cotton were shipped down this historic stream. This waterway encouraged settlers to push farther inland and start a village that would gain much fame as Shiloh. Later much of the traffic on the creek carried goods to this town. Warehouses for trade were built at the Shiloh Landing."

Lignin's, who describes the life and times of an earlier age goes on to say. "Shiloh grew and prospered for a time having doctors, merchants, and farmers. Shiloh Baptist Church was organized in 1849 and Shiloh was incorporated as a town in 1870. The Concord Institute, a Baptist College, boarding school type was founded in 1875. The town suffered from several fires during the latter part of the century with businesses re-building at the new town of Bernice. The first Baptist Church building burned in 1937 and a new building was dedicated in 1938. A landmark of the old church is the original bell, now on a stand in front of the cemetery. The old land donation to Shiloh church in 1852 stated the five acres included the cemetery, which has markers dating back to the early 1850s."

We stood before the old bell for a time on the day we visited then noted that the sun was drifting down toward the horizon. We hadn't kept track of our mileage but knew that our time for day light sightseeing was quickly ending.

Traveling back down through the hills over a different route took us past a sign saying Kudzu Patch Christian Campground. Since I knew that Kudzu was the name of a vine introduced during the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a tough vine difficult to get rid of once started, I wanted to stop and learn more. I later learned that this campground was a part of a Ministry established in 2005 for treatment of those suffering from addictions.

We drove back across the Bienville Parish line just before night fell. Continuing south down Louisiana Hwy 4 toward home, we passed a sign directing us to Shiloh Church. A sign told us that it was established in 1875. History writers say that it was once called Freetown and has a story all its own.

The following from Bienville Parish History written by Hester and McCleish relates the following:
Freetown or Shiloh Church
Shortlly after the war between the states a group of manumitted negros in the region were given government homesteads near the present site of the Shiloh Negro Church. They named their settlement Freetown.

Independent for the first time in their lives, they began farming and started a few minor industries such as making baskets from oak splints, raising gourds for containers and dippers, and the manufacture of pottery from local clays. The white people of the area encouraged the colonists by buying their farm produce and their handicraft, but when government aid was withdrawn, the colony disintegrated. It is said that after the negroes had lived apart from white people for some time, they began to drop the use of the English language and spoke in a dialect.

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