BETHEHELM CHURCH

I loved the article re the Bethlehem Cemetery – a Kappa sorority sister of mine from LSU days (lives in Baton rouge now) had sent it to Lyda Madden to give to me.  (as a matter of fact, I’m having lunch with Lyda and Joyce Carey and Lyda’s siter, Elizabeth from Oklahoma today).  I so enjoyed the article.  My son and his wife have a plot at Bethlehem beside Jack’s and mine and I’m sure Jenna will probably want to be buried there, too.  It’s such a special little piece of heaven. 

                                               Jeanette Woodard Moreland (Jenny) Kennon

                                                                        January 21, 2008


                            Bethelehem Church and Cemetery where Jack Moreland was born


Here's my Dad, Edgar E. (Jack) Langheld standing beneath the sign and gate to Bethlehem Cemetery.. Dad cut these letters from sheet metal, using a pattern burner...After cutting out the letters, he then welded them to this sign.. How did he got this heavy sign up... is a mystery...Perhaps a couple of his brother that were living near by. Billy and I think he made this sign in the early 1970's before his retirement in 1973 from Clement Braswell Trail Mfg, Co.. He operated the pattern burner for a number of years...

LeVerne Langheld Kidd, CLass of 1957


Special to the December Baton Route Morning Advocate Magazine
Published: Dec 23, 2007

                                     Submitted by Billy Hathorn, Class of 1966

I often recall the first time I visited Bethlehem.

Bethlehem, Louisiana.

It’s peaceful there, out in the country, very little traffic, not too far from where some of my family members lived. The problem is you have to know what to look for. I discovered this unique little place several years ago while out looking for old cemeteries to index. That was back when I was actively collecting new and previously unpublished materials for my columns. I often roamed the back roads searching for these sites. This is the kind of place that depends on interested researchers or descendants to preserve. It is worth remembering — a place, a heritage filled with loving memories.

Claiborne Parish is located in the north Louisiana hill country, and the wind whistles through the pine trees on cold winter days, much like it did at my old home place in DeSoto Parish. It makes you wonder sometimes why certain areas were settled, but that is a part of the history of our ancestors that we constantly research. We seek. We find. We enjoy.

Bethlehem in Claiborne Parish (named for W.C.C. Claiborne, Louisiana’s first governor) has almost disappeared. What used to be a settlement of some 400 pioneers who moved there from the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee is now no more than a church and a cemetery. A few houses are scattered about but not within sight of the church which was probably located near the center of the community. 

It was on one of my research trips that I took a step back in time and visited Bethlehem, and I’m glad I had the experience. That’s when I discovered the historic old Bethlehem Methodist Church and Bethlehem Cemetery. From Homer, take La. 2 west and turn south on La. 543. Go five miles. Turn east onto Bethlehem Road. The cemetery is on the left about .2 miles from the highway. The church is on the right.

I was surprised at all the history I uncovered, and I was even more astounded when I actually found old buildings hidden away along the road. The one that I recall in addition to the church (which is well cared for) was the old post office, now in ruins. I recall a couple of burials in the cemetery for people killed in the New London school explosion. It was unsettling for me because my mother had told me so many times about my brother attending that school when my dad worked in the oil fields there. They had just moved when the explosion occurred that killed so many students.

Bethlehem Methodist Church is a neat, painted structure, and the grounds are immaculate. The grass was dormant when I was last there, but I’m sure the spring rains brought everything back to life for another beautiful growing season. This rural church was at one time both a school and a church. The 400 residents were not clustered around the church but scattered throughout the area and serviced by a post office established on Oct. 30, 1891, long after many of the residents settled the area.

The land for the church and cemetery was donated by James Curry after the Civil War. The first structure, a rude, one-room log hut was the beginning of the structure that now houses the Methodist congregation. In the beginning, and being a union church, any denomination that wanted to worship there could do so. David Wade, with help from Joe Maddry, Jim Miller and others, erected the first structure, and it became the center of life in Bethlehem.

The names of the early preachers and settlers are emblazoned on the pages of silent history — “Hollenshead, Maddry, Harris, Wade, Curry, Wingfield, Jackson, Warwick, Harp, Stoneciper, Cox, Lowdermilk, Owens, Sherman, Nesbit and Moreland.”

Somewhere in my files I have pictures of everything I discovered in Bethlehem, and I even did extensive research on a basketball player buried in the cemetery. I don’t even recall how I learned about him, but it prompted me to learn more.

Jack Wade “Jackie” Moreland was born March 11, 1938, and died Dec. 19, 1971. He was one of the outstanding high school players, and this was his final resting place. I never met this man, but somehow this chance discovery of his gravesite interested me, and I did a thorough search.

Moreland played for the Detroit Pistons and the former New Orleans Buccaneers. He was originally from Minden in Webster Parish, adjacent to Claiborne Parish, and he played for the Minden High School Crimson Tide under Coach Cleveland S. Strong in 1955 and 1956. He was the school’s first player to be named All American. After leaving Minden, he played for a semester at North Carolina State University. He then excelled on the court at Ruston’s Louisiana Tech University (which was called Louisiana Polytechnic Institute at the time). He was again named All American here in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

He was the only Minden High School graduate to have played with the National Basketball Association. He was selected by the Pistons in the first round in the 1960 NBA Draft, and he remained with this team until 1965.

He was the fourth selection in the 1960 draft behind only Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, and he played for the Buccaneers from 1967 to 1970. He scored 5,030 points in his career and had an average of 21.3 per game. His 1,419 collegiate points was the fourth highest in the history of Louisiana basketball, and he played three instead of the customary four years for the Bulldogs.

Basketball wasn’t the only thing that Moreland excelled in. At Minden High School, he garnered many awards, including annual honors in U.S. history. He graduated salutatorian in 1956. At Tech, he got his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.

After retiring from basketball, he was a project engineer on the Louisiana Superdome, having been employed for the preceding year by Shilstone Laboratory.


January 18, 2008

Things really move fast in cyberspace... In yesterdays snail mail I received a letter with a copy of the Little town of Bethlehem story .. you spoke about it in today's MM update...Jenny Kennon told me Lyda Madden had mail her a copy.. Don't have a clue how Lyda came by it..

  After reading the story, that brought a tears to my eyes, I have a number of Langheld relatives buried there and  Bethlehem Methodist was the first churcj I attended as a small child.  Grandmother Langheld attended this church and other family members. So did the Moreland family.. Mr. Veach talks about the church in his story.  I noticed an email address at the bottom of the page, so I send a brief message to MR. Veach and a picture of my Dad, standing beneath the Bethlehem Cemetery's entrance sign..  Dad made this sign a number of years ago, he'd cut for sheet metal...

Below is a reply to my message... Small world as they say... LeVerne Langheld Kidd, Class of 1957

From: "Damon Veach"
To: "'LeVerne & Billy'" kiddbh
Subject: RE: Little town of Bethlehem
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2008 16:25:19 -0600

Hey,   Thanks for your note.  I no longer go to Claiborne Parish.  All of my kin have passed away, and I have no reason to return unless I'm just out and about collecting material for my articles.  I still have relatives in DeSoto and Caddo parishes, but that's about it.  I'm busy now cataloging my genealogical collection of books which I'm donating to the DeSoto Parish Historical Society.  The library will be housed at the Mansfield Female College and dedicated to my parents.  It will be open for research so I'm hoping this will help many individuals in their search for their ancestry.  They are going to have a big open house when the collection goes onto the shelves, but I'm not sure when that will be.  I'm filing your material in case I do any follow-up articles in Claiborne Parish.   Damon Veach From: LeVerne kidd
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:10 PM
Subject: Little town of Bethlehem

Hi Mr. Veach,  Wanted to let you know how very much I enjoyed reading your article about the Bethlehem Cemetery...if you care  to add just a little more history to your files... my Dad, Edgar E. (Jack) Langheld, made the sign you walked under when you entered through the gate of this quaint little cemetery... My grandparents and one great grandmother and a host of aunts and uncles, most all the Langhelds are buried there.. My Grandparents, Ben and Maggie Langheld attended Bethlehem Church, and I might add that was the first church I attended as a small child...Recall eating "dinner on the ground"... My grandmother Maggie always took a huge chicken pot pie.. she's add dumpling to it.. so it was a double treat..

  Please feel free to email with any question I have lots of picture taken there over the years. My first 2 years in school at Harris located in Claiborne Parish I attended with Jackie Moreland.  I would go to his home to play with his older sister...  My parents moved to Minden, by 3rd. grade and I was a class-mate with Jack wife, Jeanette (Jenny) Woodard Kennon...The Moreland and Langheld families go back a long way.   Jenny mailed this article to me, she'd received from another friend and classmate.. Thanks for doing such a swell job and sharing it with others in our wonderful state, where we have so much reach history, if one just stopped to listen and learn..   Keep up the good work. LeVerne Langheld Kidd



  January 25, 2008

Today was a clear, cold, pretty day…..high of 41 degrees.  Drew Chreene went with me this afternoon to Bethlehem Cemetery.  It is 12.2 miles from my house in Minden straight out the Germantown Rd. to Bethlehem Rd. and the cemetery and church.  Drew really enjoyed it.  He knew about half the people buried there.  We walked up and down every row and read every grave marker.  He frequently said, “I knew him!”

Ann Mays Harlan