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So Where Did Buzzard Roost Get Its Funny Name?

Buzzard Roost, Miss. is exactly what its name implies – a place where buzzards roost.

A handful of good folks roost here too, and in winter months deer and fowl hunters perch themselves amongst pines and swamps in this community bordering the Pascagoula River.

Buzzard Roost was originally known as the Davis Community and inherited its funny nickname more than a hundred years ago as a joke. “A bunch of buzzards roosted in an old tree,” the late Laree Rouse told me years and years ago. She had a second-home camp on the riverbanks. Legends claim the named tree stood at the Double Branches bridge crossing towards Pierce Lake at what old-timers referred to as the “Lonesome Cypress” site.

Today, few people in George County know the crossing at Old River Road and Old Highway 26 as the Davis Community. Old River Road runs north and south. The old highway runs east and west (parallel with “new” Highway 26) and at the intersection the old highway it turns into East Wilkerson Ferry Road. The primary landmark left of the family name Davis is the voting precinct located at nearby 103 Mountain Music Road.

Decades ago, two old-fashioned country stores faced one another at the community’s signature crossing. Kohler’s Country Store and Gladys’ Grocery carried general merchandise goods ranging from gas to fishing poles as the area is near a river boat launch. One could also purchase a Buzzard Roost tee-shirt or ball cap. In those days, the area drew enough motorists to justify a traffic light at the intersection. Today stop signs handle the duty.

In 1939 the Rev. G.A. (Ollie) Davis organized Buzzard Roost’s first church. Crossroads Free Pentecostal Holiness Church began underneath a brush arbor. The church has always drawn crowds, especially during summer camp revivals.

The late Millard T. Howell was the respected pastor there for many years. Howell, a native of the area, preached at Crossroads three years in the 1940s and then returned in 1974 where he stayed until retirement. Pastor Warren Slay and his wife Alisha have ministered the church for the past 10 years. Congregation numbers had slipped but are now climbing again.

“We run around 200-250. We have grown pretty exponentially since Covid,” Alisha said. “When we started pastoring 10 years ago, we had about 80 members. The Lord has been gracious to us.”

The church’s popular camp meeting started in Mobile and moved to Buzzard Roost in 1951. The first two gatherings took place under a tarpaulin tent accompanied with traditional dinners-on-the-ground. In 1953 church members built a dirt-floored, tin-roofed tabernacle beside their little white clapboard sanctuary. The original church, later remodeled and bricked, burned in 1976; an enormous brown brick facility went up in its place the following year.

Beginning in 1979 the church camp meetings took place in a newer tabernacle capable of seating a thousand hand-clapping Christians. That tabernacle was enclosed in 1997. Nowadays attendants keep cool with modern-day fans and air conditioning while electricity permits high-powered amplifiers to transmit the sound of enthusiastic singing and gospel testimonies. Tents are no longer needed as most motor to the services. Nightly numbers range from 200 to 400 congregants. Services are just as lively as they were back in 1951.

Revival happens each July. You’ll find a lot of good folks, and you might even spot a buzzard roosting in a nearby tree.

*Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

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Written by Nancy Jo Maples

Nancy Jo Maples is an award-winning journalist who has written about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. A former daily staff news reporter for the Mississippi Press, she currently writes for various media and teaches communication at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Reach her at [email protected]

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