Aug. 15—OXFORD — Around 30 firefighters and a dozen fire trucks were not able to save a historic church just north of Oxford Saturday night.
A passerby spotted a fire at the College Hill Presbyterian Church on County Road 102 on the evening of Aug. 13. They called 911 at 10:57 p.m. and reported flames were visible in the rear of the structure.
The first fire truck from the Lafayette County Fire Department arrived on the scene at 11:04 p.m. and found the rear of the building fully involved.
According to LCFD Capt. Ben Moore, the fire crews stretched one line to the rear and began fighting the blaze. A second line was carried to the front door of the church to attack the fire from the inside, in an attempt to save the nearly 200-year-old structure.
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When the firefighters got inside, they discovered the fire had already reached the attic and was rapidly spreading. At that point the firemen had no choice but to pull out. With the integrity of the structure rapidly deteriorating, firefighters switched to a defensive attack to keep it from spreading as much as possible.
A total of nine fire trucks and 25 men from LCFD responded. The Oxford Fire Department responded with three trucks and 9 men.
The fire was finally brought under control and firefighters were able to leave the scene by 3:20 a.m. Sunday. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The church held its regular Sunday worship service in the nearby fellowship hall. In a Facebook post, the church asked for the community's thoughts and prayers "as we celebrate our time as a church in the beautiful sanctuary, mourn its burning, and ask for the Lord's comfort and guidance."
College Hill Presbyterian Church was organized in 1835 and the building was constructed in 1844. It is reported to be the oldest Presbyterian structure in north Mississippi. Union troops camped on its grounds in the Civil War and author William Faulkner was married there.