The New Hope Baptist Church and cemetery in Natchez, Alabama, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Established in 1855, the church building was constructed with heart pine, while the cemetery includes a marker for “The Bear Man,” who was allegedly killed by his trained bear in the 1890s. Located 4 miles west of Beatrice, the church and cemetery can be found by turning right on New Hope Church Road from CR50.
Dates on surviving church records indicate that the church congregation was established around 1855. On October 10, 1855, the church purchased two acres of land at $10.00 per acre. It’s thought that the church building was built soon afterward. However, some features of the building appear to be from a later period, probably around the 1870s. These could be replacements of original features (such as the front doors) or they could reflect a later construction date. The church building is constructed of heart pine, both its old foundation and its interior and exterior boards. The foundation consists of both logs and hand-hewn timbers serving as joists, resting on blocks of hewn logs.
Located beside the church is a cemetery where many of the past church members are buried. In the far corner of the cemetery there is a simple wooden cross with “The Bear Man” marked on it. According to local tradition, a Frenchman traveling through the area in 1891-1892 with his trained bear was killed when his bear turned on him. The bear was then shot and killed by observers, and both the man and bear were buried where “The Bear Man” marker is located.
From Beatrice, travel west approximately three miles on CR50 to the intersection of New Hope Church Road. Turn right on New Hope Church Road and the church is located 0.6 mile ahead on the right side of the road (GPS coordinates: 31.728377, -87.260948).
Sources: 1) NRHP “New Hope Baptist Church” Registration Form; 2) The Heritage of Monroe County, Alabama.