Turkey Creek Community Closer To National Recognition

Volunteers are painting and polishing Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church on Rippy Road. It's a welcome sight for The Reverend Calvin Jackson. He helped build the church back in 1946.

"We worked out here in the audience here and put the rafters together for this building here, and they were bolted together," said The Rev. Calvin Jackson.  "It's a historical church."

The church, Turkey Creek Consolidated School Buildings and several historic houses are the cornerstones of the Turkey Creek community. The North Gulfport neighborhood, settled by freed slaves, is still home to more than 30 families.

"It was established in 1866, long before the city of Gulfport was even around," said Martha Snelling, a member of the Turkey Creek Homeowners Association. "So by it being established at that time, that long, an African American community, it makes it very historically significant."

Worried that planned business development would destroy the community's rich cultural and spiritual heritage, Martha Snelling and a number of families spent ten years fighting to get Turkey Creek added to the National Register of Historic Places. They are one step closer to their dream.

"There are very few historical sites left after Katrina, and to have us nominated through all of this time of fighting, and to actually get it, we hope that will help us preserve our community and stop the encroachment," Snelling said. "This is the most beautiful thing that could have happened to us because of our historical significance and somebody recognized it you know. We want the rest of the coast to recognize this and be a part of us."

"I feel good about it that my prayers were answered," The Rev. Jackson said. "This is my home and this is the church that I came up in, and this is important."

The recommendation will now be forwarded to the U.S. Department of the Interior for final review.

Gulfport Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines also worked on the project.  She thanked several agencies for their help, including the Mississippi Heritage Trust and the State Department of Archives and History.

In 2001, Turkey Creek was named one of Mississippi's 10 Most Endangered Historic Places by the Mississippi Heritage Trust.