Collinsville honors Civil War soldier, church founder

COLLINSVILLE, Ala. - The city of  Collinsville will be laying a brick in their veterans memorial for a man who not only served in the 44th Colored Infantry in the Confederacy, he also founded a major church that still operates.

Many people pass by Pleasant Grove Baptist Church without knowing that it has stood since the Civil War era, founded by a soldier from the 44th Colored Infantry Confederacy. "We received a request from the Kerley family for several bricks and one of those bricks said Turner Kerley," says Jimmy Carter, organizer of the memorial.

Collinsville is selling bricks for veterans who served in armed forces to place in their veterans memorial. They were shocked to see a soldier from the Civil War era pop up in their applications. "Our committee said, 'Wait that sounds strange that he would be in the Confederate Army being black,'" says Carter. "So we did a little research and found out that the 44th Colored Infantry was a Union outfit."

Jimmy Carter says the Confederate Army captured men who fought in this infantry and held them captive as prisoners to fight on the Confederate side. After the war, many of them stayed in the area, like Turner Kerley did, seeking other ventures. "I feel proud of it. Knowing that down to my years that the church would even allow me to be the pastor," says his great-grandson, Herman Kerley.

Herman Kerley is the current pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and the great-grandson of Turner Kerley. "He was a handsome man, big and strong and I patterned my life after him."

Herman says it was his idea to purchase the brick to honor such an influential man in their city but also his family. "I wish I had known him. I wasn't born early enough. But I am proud to know he was my relative."

The city is excited to lay this particular brick for a person they consider to be a hometown hero.

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