Centenary college
Mississippi Magazine|March - April 2021
In the woods of rural Rankin County lies the history of Mississippi’s first medical college.
FORREST LAMAR COOPER

In the autobiography The Life of John Wesley (1703-1791) by Thomas Coke and Henry Moore, published in 1792, is the date of the building of the first Methodist church in the world in Bristol, England, “On Saturday, the 12th of May 1739, the first stone was laid with the voice of praise and thanksgiving.” The young, red-headed, 36-year-old Wesley personally paid for its construction. This building, known then and now as the “New Room,” is still in use and has been designated by Historic England as a grade 1 listed building.

One hundred years later, Methodists throughout America eagerly observed the Centennial of Methodism in various ways. There were special meetings and, of course, appropriate sermons in honor of the occasion. Here in our state, the Methodist Church’s Mississippi Conference took the anniversary a giant step further. They met in Jackson on August 7, 1839, where, according to an article in The Brandon News dated September 21, 1944, “They determined to commemorate the Centennial of Methodism by the establishment of a college [to be named Centenary College] to be located near the center of the conference. As a result, Brandon Springs [in Rankin County], located about six miles east of Brandon, was purchased for $30,000 [$8.5 million in today’s money comparison]. A building was erected, and the first session was held in 1841.”

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