The Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church of Bolivar
Lisa Coleman Photography

The Bolivar Presbyterian Church is believed to be the oldest brick church building in Hardeman County.  The church was organized on November 12, 1852.  Dr. Thomas E. Moore (whose family lived for many years in the building that is now the Little Courthouse Museum), gave a deed to the lot on the corner of Main and Water Streets in January 1853.  The building that stands today was built at a cost of $2,116.00, with space on the first floor for worship services, and second floor space for use as a lodge by the local Oddfellows fraternal organization.  The second floor was later used as a lodge/meeting space by a local Masonic chapter.

The church building was used as one of the hospitals in the town during the Civil War and the town’s occupation by the Union Army.  Many Union soldiers worshipped in the church including General Lew Wallace, who wrote the novel Ben Hur.

The 1840 pipe organ came to Bolivar in 1874 and its donation is attributed to Judge and Mrs. James Fentress of Chicago.  The organ was originally pumped by hand by an employee of the church (he would also keep the coal stove burning during cold months).  The organ was converted to electricity about 1950.  The back wall of the church fell in 1982 and virtually destroyed the organ, but it was repaired – lovingly, after seven years of restoration.  The organ today has a rich, beautiful sound that echoes along the old walls and the church’s original pews and pulpit furniture.  The church membership dwindled in recent years and in 2006 the building was deeded to the Bolivar Historical and Community Foundation.

– Lisa Coleman