Leander Moore preaches at Central Church of Christ (Deaf), 1960s

Several years ago I was given a few photographs and other paper items from the estate of Owen Pryor, one of the early ministers to the deaf at Nashville’s Central Church of Christ.  Among them is this photograph of Leander Moore preaching to the deaf congregation.  It is as fine an example of chart preaching as I have seen.

Photograph, Leander Moore at Central Church of Christ (Deaf), 1960s. Nashville, Tennessee.

Photograph, Leander Moore at Central Church of Christ (Deaf), 1960s. Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville Churches of Christ in 1885

I have at hand Year-Book of the Disciples of Christ, Their Membership, Missions, Ministry, Educational and Other Institutions. Cincinnati: General Christian Missionary Convention, 1885.

This was not the first attempt to gather statistics, but we may regard as the first of its kind and scope.  Earlier attempts did quite well to list preachers and names of congregations. The 1885 Yearbook lists congregations in 38 American states and territories plus Canada, Great Britain, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.  Under each state, territory or country, the congregations are listed in nearly alphabetical order by the name of the church.  At least all the names starting with the same letter are grouped together.  Not truly alphabetical, but close.  Also included are lists of preachers and descriptions of mission activity, higher educational institutions and literary output.

What sets the 1885 book apart from its sporadic predecessors is that for each congregation it also provides names of elders, Post Office [the closest thing in 1885 to an address as we know it], the frequency of preaching [tri-monthly, monthly, semi-monthly, weekly, irregular or no data provided], number of members, number of Sunday School pupils, number of officers and teachers [presumably within the Sunday School arrangement], value of church property, the amount raised in 1883 for local work, the amount raised in 1883 for missions, and the name of the regular preacher in 1884.

At 159 pages the document is by a large margin the largest and broadest such directory undertaken thus far among the Stone-Campbell movement.  However, it has significant limitations.  The compiler, evidently Robert Moffett of Cleveland, Ohio, states in the first sentence of the General Introduction that “It can not be too forcibly enjoined on all who examine this Year-Book, that no pretensions to completeness are made for it.  On the contrary, it is expressly claimed that its statistics are very incomplete.”  He cites the organizing committee’s utter lack of financial resources and serious disorganization as factors mitigating against a fuller or more accurate compilation.  As a ” work of purely voluntary goodwillI…” Moffett states, “it may well be regarded as surprising that they have accomplished so much.”

The committee relied upon the personal-informational network put in place by advocates of missionary societies to gather their statistics: “That only in States having well-established and vigorous State organizations–such as Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia–has it been possible to obtain even approximately full lists of the churches; and much less their statistics.”  In short, the advocates of the Society kept track of the churches in their area.  Some states, such as Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Texas and Arkansas, “there has not been the same pains taken by the State organizations to gather statistics.”  Finally, “in other quarters–such as Tennessee and the majority of the Southern and far Western states and Territories–they have been obliged to depend on individual aid–generally on such preachers as were known to them.  Hence their work must be regarded as merely a beginning.”

There are 264 Tennessee congregations listed.  None of those in Nashville are among this number.  Not Church Street or Second Christian downtown nor Woodland Street in East Nashville.  Outlying county congregations like South Harpeth, Philippi, and on out to Lavergne, Franklin and Owen Chapel are also missing.  Tucker’s Crossroads or Bethlehem in Wilson County is there, along with Bush’s Chapel in Sumner County up on the ridge and Sycamore over in Cheatham County.  But no Nashville congregations, not a one of them.

The list of preachers for Tennessee was hastily added late, after the majority of preachers were compiled into the main listing.  Of the 2620 preachers listed, here are those with Nashville addresses: R. Lin Cave [who was at Church Street in downtown], J. P. Grigg [who preached all over but chiefly in 1885 at the infant North Nashville, or 8th Avenue North congregation], David Lipscomb [a member at Church Street in 1885], William Lipscomb [listed in Brentwood, but still very close], W. J. Loos [who was at Woodland Street in East Nashville as a regular preacher], J. C. McQuiddy {who was at the infant Foster Street mission in North Edgefield], a Rawlings [who knows?], E. G. Sewell {an elder at Woodland Street], Rice Sewell [listed as Donleson, in Davidson County], and E. S. B. Waldron [listed as Lavergne, on the Davidson/Rutherford county line].  No other Tennessee city has as many resident preachers as Nashville.  One one African-American preacher was listed in Tennessee, H. Hankal in East Tennessee.

The Block River [could be Black River] church in Connersville, reported 250 members with no pupils in Sunday School; they did not report the amount spent in local or mission work. They heard preaching monthly by Joseph Hill.

The Catby’s Creek [almost surely the Cathey’s Creek] church, at Isom’s Store, reported monthly preaching by T. I. Brooks.  A congregation of 300 members, they had 25 Sunday School pupils, taught by four teachers.  With property valued at $2000, this congregation spent $100 for local work and $40 for mission work in 1883.

The McMinnville congregation, meeting weekly for preaching by George W. Sweeney, had 350 members, 125 in a Sunday School taught by five teachers.  Their property was valued at $5000.  They spent $2500 at home and $100 for mission work in 1883.  I have a neat old photograph of the McMinnville meetinghouse.  It reads ‘Church of God’ in the stone tablet high above the front door.  I will have to post it here sometime.

There are a few other congregations reporting memberships between 100-200, but in Tennessee, the Block river, Cathey’s Creek and McMinnville are the largest as recorded in the 1885 Year-Book.  The McMinnville congregation tied with Fayetteville in terms of the value of church property ($5000) and with the Memphis congregation for the amount spent in local work ($2500).  A few other churches show property valued above $1000, but McMinnville and Memphis are far and away the leaders in expenditures, as reported in this book.

Today in Restoration History: 17 June 1810

After a long hiatus, I intend to resume blogging on a fairly regular basis by the end of the summer.  In the mean time, here is a little gem from Herald of Gospel Liberty of Friday morning 22 June 1810, p. 192.


Hymn on Baptism.

The following Hymn was composed by a Brother, in Portland [Maine], and sung at the water side, Lord’s day, June 17, 1810, where 4 were baptized:–

1 Constrain’d by Love we come,
Down to this water side,
To imitate God’s only Son,
The CHRISTIANS only guide.

2 He has commanded us,
To be Baptiz’d with him;
And cheerfully take up the cross,
Renouncing ev’ry sin.

3 Here then we would begin,
His blessed cross to bear,
In token of our death to sin,
We would be Baptiz’d here.

4 Here we would shew his death,
And resurrection clear;
And him through grace while we have breath
We’ll worship, love and fear.

5 O all that love him come,
What now can hinder you;
Here’s water, you believe the Son,
Then be baptized too.

6 Sinners this is the way,
Christ and th’ Apostles faith;
Believe and be baptiz’d to day,
We’re sure you will be bless’d.

7 As servants here we sing,
And that for joy of heart;
We have believ’d, and will obey,
O God thy grace impart.

22nd Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

Among the Churches of Christ recently (within the last 40 or so years) closed in Nashville is the 22nd Avenue Church in North Nashville.

Begun as a mission from Twelfth Avenue, North Church in the early 1920’s, Twenty-Second Avenue was always a rather small congregation and never a wealthy or affluent one.

The earliest record I can find of it in the Nashville city directories is in 1926 when it met at 1609 22nd Ave. North.  The 1937 City Directory lists the congregation as meeting at 1626 22nd Avenue North.  On 14 October 1932 the building, presumably at 1609, burned.  In debt and poor (“our membership is composed mainly of people who have little of this world’s goods…”), they met in private homes and a former automobile repair shop on 21st Avenue until funds were raised to buy the corner lot at 1626 22nd Avenue and Osage Street.  Upon it they constructed with donated labor and supplies a small frame meetinghouse. See Gospel Advocate 1933:93.

The photo below is, I assume, of the second building at 1626 22nd Avenue, North:

in 1933 the congregation had three elders, W. T. Phillips, H. V. McCool and A. B. Sweeney, with G. A. Helton serving as Treasurer.  They supported, partially, a “Brother Jones” in Metropolis, Illinois and maintained a “small fund for foreign mission work” in addition to local benevolence ministry.

From 1933 to 1979 my trail grows cold.

By 1979 I understand that 22nd Avenue relocated north of the Cumberland River to 3903 Milford Road.  Alas! I see from Google Maps that whatever structure existed at 3903 Milford Road, it has very recently seen the business end of a wrecking ball.  Milford Road Church of Christ does not appear in the 1983 Where the Saints Meet. A Google search turns up Rose of Sharon Primitive Baptist Church using that address.  Yet if Google Maps is any indication, there is no one meeting in any building at 3903 Milford Road today.  I may have missed my chance to photograph the Milford Road building by a few months.

Who might have information from 22nd Avenue Church of Christ: bulletins, directories or photographs?  Who could fill in any information, at all, in the forty year gap from 1933-1973?  Who has a photograph of the first building at 1609 22nd Avenue? Or of the Milford Road structure?  Who preached for this congregation?  Where did the members go when they disbanded?  Are any former members still living?

New Shops Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

On 29 June 1964 W. N. Loyd and J. E. Smith, Trustees for the 27th Avenue Church of Christ, transferred property at the corner of 27th and Torbett Street to William E. Davis, Jonas E. Nance, Mrs. Myrtle Seay and Mrs. Novella Horton, trustees of Hosea Temple Cumberland Presbyterian Church, for the sum of ten dollars.  Thus closed the final chapter of sixty years of ministry of the New Shops Church of Christ.  In February 2013, just before I left for Nashville for Abilene I snapped a couple pics of the Hosea Temple Cumberland Presbyterian Church, home in the long ago to New Shops Church:

New Shops, 2.6.13, front and side

New Shops, 2.6.13 front with sign

New Shops, 2.6.13, front left side

New Shops, 2.6.13, Hosea cornerstone

On 2 June 1905 Alex Perry (an elder with David Lipscomb at South College Street Christian Church) with William Stackman purchased a corner lot in near-west Nashville from Mr and Mrs. M. B. Pilcher.  By June 1905 a small band of members from Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church had met for several months in a vacant store on Stewart Street, on Mrs. Jim Robertson’s front lawn on Clifton Pike and in the J. W. Thomas School.

The lot Perry and Stackman acquired was on the southwest corner of 27th Avenue (then known as Winston Avenue) and Torbett Street.  On Thanksgiving Day 1905 several men spent the day working on a building. Dora Wyatt wrote, ‘as soon as there was enough flooring laid to hold a few seats, we moved in and started worshiping in the new building.  It was a happy day!  After the building was completed, a two weeks’ revival was held by T. B. Larimore.”  Thus began the Winston Avenue Church of Christ.  Located about a block north of Charlotte Avenue, this neighborhood is north of Centennial Park and two blocks east of present-day I-440/I-40 interchange.  Using Charlotte Avenue as a point of reference, remember that West Nashville Christian Church (later renamed Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ) stood at the corner of 46th Avenue and Charlotte, some 20 blocks west. The sponsoring church, Jo Johnston, stood—the building still stands!– at 17th and Jo Johnston, about ten blocks east toward downtown.  Here is the Jo Johnston building in 2010, not long vacated by Friendship Missionary Baptist Church:

Jo Johnston 002

Jo Johnston 003

Jo Johnston 004

Jo Johnston 011

The focal point of the neighborhood was the railroad repair shops for L&N Railroad built along Charlotte Avenue just north of Centenntial Park.  These shops, the ‘new’ shops as opposed to former location near downtown, were a hub of activity.  Among the most efficient anywhere, purportedly the most efficient south of the Ohio River, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad shops when opened were valued at $300,000.  It appears then, that the constituents of the neighborhood churches, New Shops Church of Christ among them, were the working class whose skilled labor kept a Southern railroad machine humming.

Here are the Shops ca. 1940 from Tennessee State Library Archives online digital photograph and image database.  The road cutting from 9 o’clock on your left up to the 12 o’clock position is Charlotte Avenue.  To your right past 3 o’clock is Centennial Park.  New Shops Church was located just out of sight of the photo in the 11 o’clock position.

New Shops, TSLA 15518

The 1908 City Atlas knows of New Shops Church, but identifies it only as ‘Campbellite Ch.”:

New Shops from 1908 atlas

I assume the school above (in pink…it was brick) on Torbett is the J. W. Thomas School to which Dora Wyatt refers in her 1939 historical sketch.

New Shops Church first appears in Nashville city directories in 1906.  As you can see by browsing the 1908 Atlas, the neighborhood is emerging.  There are many vacant lots, presumably having only recently subdivided.  The yellow structures indicate wooden or frame buildings.  The houses are modest, and they are frame.  You will not see many large brick homes in this section of town.

It appears that Jo Johnston Church had her eye on an emerging neighborhood to her west, and got in early with a church plant.  Meeting at the southwest corner of Winston and Torbit (notice the spelling variant, Torbit/Torbett) Avenues, they had “no pastor” and met for worship at 11 am.  Twenty years later, the city directory lists Sunday services at 11 am and 7:30 pm; in 1926 they do not appear to have a regular minister, which is not surprising as most Churches of Christ even in the city did not regular salaried ministers.  Wyatt says that “several years later this [frame] building [pictured above on the atlas] was torn down and the present building erected.”  The second building took the place of the first on the same lot.  By December 1939 New Shops Church of Christ was a congregation of 250 members.  Wyatt mentions several times the work of their Bible school.  Evidently this was a significant focus in the earliest years at Winston Avenue.  In December 1939 Johnny Goins was in charge of this ministry.

By 1943 Jo Johnston Church, citing a ‘changing neighborhood’ (that is, changing from mostly white to mostly black), sought to liquidate the church property and disband.  At that time Friendship Missionary Baptist Church acquired the old Jo Johnston property and met there until just a few years ago.   I would like to make contact with someone at Friendship Church to see whether they have any older photos of the building.

My hunch is that just as the neighborhood at 17th and Jo Johnston ‘changed’ so did the area north of New Shops when the shops closed.  The Hosea Community Church now occupies the former 27th Avenue Church of Christ building.

Now, who might have any old paper from New Shops Church of Christ? It was known also as Winston Avenue Christian Church or Winston Avenue Church of Christ and later as 27th Avenue Church of Christ.  Who might have anything from Jo Johnston Church of Christ; known also as Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church and earlier as Line Street Christian Church?  Who might have an old photograph of either of these houses of worship?  Who might have a directory of any of these congregations?  When these congregations disbanded, where did the remaining members go?

Their closure is within living memory; the time to preserve what remains, if it can be located, is now.


History of Nashville, Tenn. H. W. Crew, 1890, p. 332. available online here.

Dora Wyatt, “New Shops Church” Gospel Advocate December 7, 1939.

Metro Nashville Property Assessors Office, online records accessed 8 August 2010.

Atlas of the City of Nashville, 1908. accessed 3 February 2013.