Historic church and cemetery restoration project underway in Russell County

Updated: Sep. 14, 2022 at 9:00 AM EDT
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RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WTVM) - Uchee Chapel Methodist Church and its cemetery sits on what was once called the historic Old Federal Road now known as Russell County Road 22.

What currently stands was constructed in 1859. Services were actively held at the church for 130 years until 1989.

So, of course there’s major wear and tear to the building.

Historical Commissioner Mary Jo Persons says still the church has great potential.

“Right now, the main thing is the windows, possibly the electrical and plaster on the inside,” said Persons.

While the church needs some TLC, its cemetery needs some logistical assistance.

Bringing in historical experts from around the state Like Collier Neely from Montgomery.

“We might be able to actually help them list the cemetery that’s related to Uchee Methodist Church to the Alabama Cemetery Registry,” said Neely.

The historical commission successfully added the church to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, now it’s time to recognize the cemetery.

Collier Neely explains how the Landmarks Foundation will assist.

“Deed research, church records research, talking to people, and just kind of building relationships,” said Neely.

While the group helps Mrs. Persons sort out details, her dedication to the Uchee churches restoration project is a personal one.

“A lot of the people who founded the church are buried here,” said Persons. “My grandfather, my great-grandfather is there.”

The goal, is to preserve the rich history for the next generation.

“So, you have this deep embedded history here and as we lose these rural places, and as are society changes it’s important that we gather as much information as we can so we can better tell our story,” said Neely.

In the future the Russell County Historical Commission sees the old church being totally restored and used as a tourist attraction, showing the areas history and using the building as an event space.

Commissioners are currently waiting to see of they will receive a grant for funding, but people can donate as well.

Individuals/organizations may make donations to Russell County Historic Commissions.

They ask that you please earmark for Uchee Chapel Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3411, Phenix City, Al. 36868. For more information, send email to mary.jpersons@live.com.