“And legend has it that on a full moon you can still walk by the chapel and hear the souls of those who died before Grant could return,” Michael Wright, an admissions counselor at Mississippi College said when reenacting his favorite fact of information on campus tours.
Wright always makes a point to mention to prospective students the history of Provine Chapel, the oldest standing building on MC’s campus. Wright said the structure was built in 1860, just before the Civil War. The building was originally intended to hold church services for students as well as provide rooms for classes.
Charles Martin, author of “Mississippi College With Pride,” wrote, “It’s construction in the first decade of Baptist operation was a testimonial to the commitment to keep religious values at the heart of the institution”.
A proposal was created in 1855 to construct the chapel due to insufficient space for church services and classes. The proposal read, “We are also very inconveniently crowded in our regular daily chapel service. Our Sabbath bible classes also labor under great disadvantages”.
Along with this, the 1858 report to the convention said, “Our brethren have a Baptist church organized in Clinton, but no house belonging to them to worship in.
“Such a chapel as the college requires for prayers, for its Bible classes and for commencement can be built for nine thousand dollars.”
The price was high for the Clinton church, but it did its best to contribute as much as it could towards the construction of a new building. However, the contribution was still small.
The final cost of construction for Provine Chapel was nearly $25,000. After fund raising and borrowing for the final payment, the money was finally attained and the building was finished in 1860.
Shortly after the completion of the building, however, the Civil War began. This sent many of the students attending Mississippi College off to distant places, leaving the college and its new chapel relatively vacant.
Cole Gressett, a Scout for Mississippi College, said that Ulysses Grant and his men came through Clinton on their way to the battle of Vicksburg in 1864. Grant, an officer of the Union army, had many wounded soldiers traveling with him at the time.
To keep them off the battle field, Grant and his men occupied Provine Chapel and used it as a hospital to nurse the wounded soldiers back to health. Gressett said that when a skirmish began on campus in 1864, Grant’s men also used the upper floor of Provine as a firing point for snipers.
After the fighting in Clinton ceased, Grant and his men proceeded with their usual style of fighting—burning towns as they progressed through them. The campus went up in flames, leaving the grounds flattened and charred.
However, Provine Chapel remained untouched due to the fact that the wounded and immobile men of Ulysses Grant’s army still remained inside. The stranded soldiers waited for their leader’s return from battle.
Or at least that’s how Michael Wright tells it to prospective students, “Every tour needs a ghost story.”
– Lauren Rutledge, Contributing Writer