North Edgefield Remembered: Story of a Nashville Neighborhood

North Edgefield RememberedI contributed to this neighborhood history short sketches of three Churches of Christ (Foster Street Christian Church/Grace Avenue Church of Christ, Joseph Avenue Church of Christ and Lischey Avenue Church of Christ) a biographical sketch of Henry Leo Boles and short write-up of a Catholic aid effort under the name of Little Sisters of the Poor.

North Edgefield is northeast of downtown Nashville across the Cumberland River and I-65.  It is north of Edgefield as you make your way up Dickerson Road towards Goodlettsville.  Edgefield is directly east of downtown Nashville and was its own city until annexed into Nashville in 1880.  After the Civil War this area was heralded as a quiet, healthy, genteel respite from the dirt and noise of the city.  Edgefield was an upper middle class neighborhood.  As far as Stone-Campbell history goes, E. G. Sewell moved to Edgefield in 1870 when he joined ranks with David Lipscomb at the Gospel Advocate.  Also living here were J. C. McQuiddy and A. M. Burton (Burton’s ‘city home’ was here; he also had a farm (Burton Hills) in the heart of what is now Green Hills).  In Edgefield the first two Stone-Campbell churches are Woodland Street Christian Church and Tenth Street Christian Church (later Russell Street Church of Christ).  From this pair emerged other East Nashville churches of Restorationist persuasion.  I have blogged briefly about these East Nashville churches…with photographs…here.  Chris Cotten has done us a great service in beginning to chronicle some of their story in this paper.  Edgefield was home to the upper classes of working folk until the great fire of 1916 about wiped out all of the neighborhood (including the old Woodland Street Christian Church building…built with brick donated by David Lipscomb).  After 1916 the wealth of Nashville shifts west to Belle Meade and resides there even now. 

The emergence of North Edgefield parallels in time the growth of Edgefield, save for the wealth of its residents.  The city was expanding after Reconstruction and middle-class families found the new suburb an attractive place to settle.  As the city grew and families streamed in, the Disciples took the Restoration Plea into the neighborhood early on and in a span of twenty years grew several large thriving churches: Foster Street, Joseph and Lischey Avenue churches in North Edgefield and Woodland and Tenth St. in Edgefield.  Woodland Street Christian Church merged to form what is now Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Tenth Street moved a block west to Russell Street (they are now defunct).  From Woodland St. came Seventeenth Street Christian Church, which is now Madison Christian Church (Independent, or Christian Churches/Churches of Christ).  Grace Avenue disbanded in 1977.  Joseph Avenue moved further northeast in the early 1970’s and is now Kemper Heights Church of Christ.  Lischey Avenue, through a move and a merger, is now Northside Church of Christ.  In this one neighborhood we have a cross-section of the Stone-Campbell movement: Disciples, Independents, mainstream and non-institutional Churches of Christ. 

I will post my research on Foster Street Christian Church/Foster Street Church of Christ (later Grace Avenue Church of Christ), Joseph Avenue Church of Christ and Lischey Avenue Church of Christ over the next few days.  I will follow then with Henry Leo Boles and save the Little Sisters for last (but not least).  How did I come to have that assignment?  Bill McKee, editor of the book, needed someone to do it and asked me.  I accepted.  An archivist at the Catholic Diocese of Nashville improved my work, so what I will post here and what you see in the book will not be identical.  Also…as the weather here in Nashville has improved, I will shoot some photos to include along the way.

Stay tuned.

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12 thoughts on “North Edgefield Remembered: Story of a Nashville Neighborhood

  1. Question from Mark Tucker: Is there a way go get at the history of the Russell St. Church of Christ, also in the Edgefield neighborhood whose bldg. was destroyed by the 1998 tornado and which subsequently never recovered?

  2. Mac (and Carisse),

    Correct me if I’m wrong (or simply forgot something obvious), but I did not come across a single written account of the entire history of Russell St. beyond what was done in the 7 Dec 1939 Gospel Advocate and scattered mentions in other GA articles.

    The congregation’s earliest days (i.e. the initial split-off from Woodland St. Christian Church) are discussed in E.G. Sewell’s Gospel Lessons and Life History (1908), as well as a number of GA articles from roughly 1890-1910. It was a nasty affair; Lipscomb and Sewell bring it up alot. The Advocate also has an article devoted to the building swap with the Russell St. Cumberland Presbyterian Church (May 1913, I think).

    The Historical Society has some Russell St. bulletins from the late 1970s.

    One other note, the building was not destroyed by the 1998 tornado. One of the steeples was lopped off, but the building still stands, a little worse for wear. (It’s currently for sale — a steal at ~$900K).

    C.

  3. I would add that, it seems to me, that the tornado was only the final straw. Russell Street was down to ~100 members at the time of the tornado, the result of a steady decline from at least the early 1980s, if not before.

  4. Carisse, Chris and Mark,

    I think Chris has covered the bases. From what I have been told, there were precious few records left at the Russell St. building for the 1998 tornado to destroy. Most of what was there wasn’t really old at all (later 1970’s forward). Ten years of retrospect nags me often that I did not visit Russell Street once while a student at Lipscomb. i wish I could have seen the inside of the building prior to its current remodeled appearance. As to membership numbers, again, from what I am told the attendance was nearer to 30 at the time of the tornado.

    What could possibly have happened to the mountain of paper generated by this congregation from 1890 to the end of SH Hall’s ministry in the early 50’s boggles my mind. We can hold out hope for a young boy throwing stones at attic windows in East Nashville…

    Mark, I would like to see your father’s papers at ACU on my next visit. I wonder if he has anything from/by/about Russell St?

  5. Pingback: a few links « Anastasis

  6. Mac:

    What is interesting about Lischey Avenue is that, when Parkwood and Lischey merged in the mid-70s, the combined congregation was able to sell the Parkwood building pretty quickly. Parkwood was started in the late 50s as one of those congregations following the expanding suburbs in Davidson Co. My folks started attending in the early 60s, and my Dad is still a member at Northside. John Hurt of bookmark and correspondence fame was the minister there until shortly before the merger.

    When the Parkwood building sold first, we all moved to the Lischey building. At that time, the neighborhood had changed on the original congregation and most – if not all – of their members were commuting. Bro. and Sis. W.H. Brown were members there (he was an elder at Lischey and continued as one with Northside). If those names don’t ring a bell, they’re better known as Pa and Ma Brown of Short Mountain Bible Camp near Woodbury. Here’s a link to that history here: http://www.shortmountaincamp.org/history.html. The original board of directors is a snapshot of Middle Tennessee church history in the mid 20th century. I went to camp there a few years in the 70s; always got homesick. One hour of bible study every full day we were there. Some poor young souls spent the entire summer there. Also learned what real cooking from scratch was like.

    But I digress…

    The building was a smaller version of what Charlotte Avenue had done: an older, almost antiquated auditorium, semi-circular as if a lecture hall with what was – at the time – a modern Sunday School annex built on. We were there several years before the new building was complete. Wooden theater seats built for people roughly 5’4″ in height. Exceedingly cramped.

    Over the years, the Lischey folks faded away fairly quickly; even at this point, there are relatively few original Parkwood folks left, but they know who we are when we come to Nashville to visit Dad. There may be yet some folks you could reach by contacting the congregation. Lesley Chapman is still the pulpit minister there; he has taught adjunct at Lipscomb in the past, but I don’t know now if he still it.

    Thanks for the chance to reminisce; let Laura and the girls know we said hello.

    – Bob Brandon

    • Thanks, Bob. I always enjoyed talking Nashville churches with you, and I’m glad you’re chiming in occasioanlly here. Think your Dad has any photos or paper from those days at Lischey or Parkwood he’d let me copy or scan? Where was the Park wood building (you told me once, but I can’t place it). Brick Church Pike area? Hello to Kathy and your girls.

  7. Mac:

    The old Parkwood building is at the intersection of Brick Church Road and Brick Church Lane, about a half-mile north of the interchange of Briley Parkway and Brick Church Pike. I believe it’s a Baptist church of sorts now.

    – Bob

  8. TO McGARVEY,

    I ATTENDED RUSSELL ST. STARTING AT AGE TWO UNTIL I WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD. I REMEMBER BRO. HALL AND HIS CANE. HE USED HIS CANE QUITE WELL TO MAKE A POINT. HE WAS A FIERY PREACHER. I WAS BAPTIZED IN 1955 BY BRO. WAGNER. I NEVER HAD ANY TYPE OF RECORD OF MY BAPTISM AND HAVE RECENTLY TRYED TO FIND SOME OF THE OLD MEMBERS TO SEE IF THEY HAD ANY OF THE BAPTISMAL RECORDS FROM THE FIFTIES. DID THE MEMBERS GO TO THE ACKLEN AVE. CHURCH OF CHRIST. MAYBE THEY WOULD KNOW SOMETHING. I’VE ENJOYED THE INFORMATION I HAVE READ FROM YOU ON THIS SUBJECT.

    THANKS,
    PATRICIA

  9. Thank you Patricia. I would love to hear your stories and memories about SHHall and Russell Street. I am unsure what happened to the remaining members…I am unsure of who the remaining members were. It has been over ten years now since the tornado, the time for gathering what history remains is, I’m afraid, slipping quickly away.

    If you would like to contact me directly, feel free to do so at

    icekm (at) aol (dot) com

    or at

    ice (at) discipleshistory (dot) org

    If anyone has similar memories or historic items or paper from, by or about Russell Street Church of Christ or any other Nashville area Church of Christ, please contact me, I would like to talk with you.

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