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Millsaps College Expertise Assists the United Methodist Conference

by Web on November 16, 2016

Debra McIntosh, archivist for both Millsaps College and the Mississippi United Methodist Conference, knew with a glance there was something familiar about the handwritten manuscript before her.

With research, McIntosh confirmed that the manuscript discovered by Henry Scott and his sister Rosemary Scott Ainsworth tucked away in boxes of family mementos was indeed the two missing volumes that would complete the Mississippi Methodist history written by the Rev. John G. Jones. Scott shared the manuscript with his pastor, Rev. Phillip Dearman, and Dearman suggested he consult McIntosh.

“I recognized the structure of the writing, which was similar to the first two volumes John G. Jones had written about Mississippi Methodist history for the years 1799 through 1845,” McIntosh said. “He wrote in chapters, summarizing each chapter at the beginning of the narrative, and covering a complete year of conference activity per chapter. The dates, layout of pagination, and enumeration of chapters were further clues. We have manuscripts for the second volume in our collection and they had similar markups for printing.”

The last two volumes were presumed lost in a fire, and the Rev. John B. Cain (for whom the Mississippi Methodist Conference archive, housed at Millsaps-Wilson Library, is named) wrote the final volume in 1939.

The manuscripts were originally written between 1872 and 1876, with the first volume published in 1887 and the second volume in 1908. “It took over 100 years to find and publish the last two volumes of the original four-volume manuscript,” she said.

McIntosh supervised the publication of the long-lost manuscript, which contains more than 600 pages of handwritten narrative. She called the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for advice about document conservation and consulted Dr. Bill Storey, professor of history at Millsaps, to get a historian’s perspective about publication.

McIntosh worked with Millsaps student Lauren Hoth, Class of 2013, from 2012 until 2013 to transcribe the manuscript, and from 2014 until 2015 worked with Walter G. Howell, Ph.D., who wrote chapter notes, the introduction, and the epilogue. The book is professionally indexed.

The production of the book has been a long-term project that started when the manuscript was donated to the archives in 2009, McIntosh said. Conservation and digitization took place from 2010 to 2011, transcription in 2012–2013, and editing and indexing in 2014–2015.

The manuscript was published this year as A Complete History of Methodism in the Mississippi Conference, Vols. III & IV, 1846–1869, by the Mississippi Conference Commission on Archives and History.

McIntosh said many people at Millsaps College offered their expertise including Tom Henderson, then librarian at the College, and Kelley Matthews, graphic designer for the College.

The book is appealing to anyone interested in first-person accounts of Mississippi and southern history, as well as church history.

“John G. Jones was an eyewitness to the events and a contemporary of the people he was writing about,” McIntosh said. “He lived from 1804 to 1888, serving as a Methodist circuit-riding minister in Mississippi for his entire adult life.  He wrote factually, yet colorfully, of the controversies of the day and gave detailed accounts of pioneer churches, struggles with slavery, memoirs of ministers, camp meetings, love feasts, travails of wartime, perils of circuit riding, ministerial conduct, discipline of ministers, yellow fever, shouting revivals, conference politics, and family names.”

During her research, McIntosh discovered that Scott and Ainsworth were descendants of the writer. Scott and Ainsworth only knew that the manuscript had belonged to their grandmother, Mary Letitia Holloman Scott. She was the first female graduate of Millsaps College in 1902, and received a Master of Arts in 1903.

“It took a good bit of research and detective work to determine the family connection, provenance, and confirm that these were indeed the missing manuscripts,” McIntosh said. “I think that’s a really great part of the story.”

To purchase a copy of the book, call the Conference United Methodist Church office at 601.354.0515 and ask for David Stotts, or contact Laura Rollins or Debra McIntosh at the J.B. Cain Archives of Mississippi Methodism at 601.974.1077 or at archives@millsaps.edu. The book costs $49.95 plus $3.50 for shipping.