Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stephen Presley


Father Stephen Presley was born a slave in Darlington County, South Carolina in 1820. He was owned by Boykin Witherspoon, a prominent planter from Society Hill. Presley was a carpenter by trade. He married another slave by the name of Phyllis McIver Presley. Welsh Neck Baptist Church records indicate that the couple fellowshipped there as slaves but were dismissed i­­n October,1854 along with 6 other servants of Boykin Witherspoon to “join some church in Louisiana.”
  Witherspoon, like many other Darlington District residents migrated west in search of fertile ground idea for planting. They settled in a then virtually unoccupied area of Desoto Parish, Louisiana which was previously inhabited by the Caddo Indians, bringing with them over 200 slaves including Presley, his wife, Phyllis and 5 of their 8 children, Isam, Alfred, Caroline, Mariah, Elsie, Sophia, Peggy and Celia.  

As a carpenter, Presley along with other
slaves helped with the building of
Witherspoon’s Buena Vista Plantation which
 was designed by Architect, M. Robbins in
1859 and was used as a Confederate Hospital
 during the Civil War.

After slavery, Presley founded, built, and

pastored 3 churches in Desoto Parish

including Bethel Baptist Church in Frierson,
Morningstar Baptist Church in Gloster and
Mechanicsville Baptist in Caspiana,
Louisiana. The later was named for the
church and town in his native Darlington
District, South Carolina.

In the words of his great-grand-daughter, the
late, Aletha Jackson, “although he was born
a slave in South Carolina, he resolved to
 show that in spite of circumstances,
changes, crises, confusion, conflicts and
even chaos, he would live a life that would
help build a Christian community that would
foster justice and peace in the hearts of
men and in the lives of the community.”  To
that end, all of the churches he founded in
Louisiana are still serving the community
over a 100 years after his death in 1904.

His many descendants gather every other
year for a Reunion to celebrate his legacy
and their Louisiana/South Carolina roots. His
great-great-great grand-daughter, Karen
Burney, a Genealogist from California makes
visits to Society Hill to research and honor
her ancestors.

Presley was a man of great faith and a true
son of South Carolina.