Claiborne’s Chapel Christian Church, Nashville, TN…?…

Today we visited Belmont Mansion on a research trip. Not my research, but my oldest daughter’s. She is working on a Tennessee notebook in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of C.Fg. (Completion of Fourth grade). The upshot of the asssignment is to visit local history sites and write up what you learn in a scrapbook format…what a dream! At the gift shop I purchased, for the paltry sum of five dollars, a facsimile of Haydon and Booth’s 1860 map of Nashville and Edgefield. Though technically it is not as well executed as it could be (the fine print is fuzzy in most places and illegible in many), aesthetically it is pleasingly arranged with cuts of major landmarks such as public buildings, churches, schools and businesses surrounding a colorful street map of Nashville and Edgefield. Quibbles aside, my major complaint is that we do not have the wall space to hang it.

How pleasantly surprised I was to find a list of Nashville churches as they were in 1860. How much more delighted I was to learn something new…for listed as one of two “Christian” churches is one “Claiborne’s Chapel.”  Claiborne’s Chapel Christian Church is, according to Messrs. Haydon and Booth, in Claiborne’s Addition.   This is a new (to me) congregation!  The other congregation is listed as “Spring Street” church.  Spring Street is today’s Church Street.  Spring/Church Street Christian Church is easy…but Claiborne’s Chapel…this is a totally new congregation!

The full listing, sans locations, of churches on the map is as follows:

Episcopal: Christ, Church of the Advent and Trinity

Presbyterian: First, Second, Third, Cumberland

Catholic: Cathedral, German

Methodist Episcopal: McKendree, [illegible] Chapel, Andrew Charge, Watkins Grove, German

Methodist, (colored): Second, McLemore

Baptist: First, Primitive, Spring Street, Cherry Street, [illegible] Street (colored)

Christian: Spring Street, Claiborne’s Chapel

Methodist: Chapel

Now, this list accords…mostly…with the 1860-1861 City Directory, available here from Google Books.

page 80:

The City Directory knows of Claiborne’s Chapel, but the map identifies it as one of two Christian Churches.  The Directory knows of two Christian Churches, one white and the other ‘colored.’  The map, however, knows nothing of a ‘colored’ Christian Church, whether on North Vine or otherwise.  The map knows of one black Baptist and one black Methodist congregation, so African Americans were not totally overlooked.  Could Claiborne’s Chapel be a variant name of Second Christian Church?  Did Haydon and Booth mistake it for the Christian Church on North Vine Street?

Claiborne’s Addition is along Lebanon Pike to the southeast of Nashville; North Vine Street is, literally, in the shadow of the State Capitol north of Broadway.  For this reason I do not think that the ‘colored’ Christian Church of the City Directory is the Claiborne’s Chapel of the map… in other words I don’t think Haydon and Booth mistook it for the black Christian Church.  On grounds of location I think we can rule out Claiborne’s Chapel as a variant of Second (or ‘Colored’ in some sources) Christian Church.  If they were anywhere near each other I could see it, but they are on opposite ends of town.  Furthermore, the Directory does not confuse them.  That it doesn’t identify Claiborne’s Chapel is not too satisfying, sure, but it seems clear that it and the black Christian church are not the same group.

The City Directory does not denominate Claiborne’s Chapel at all so it may have been a new plant, a ‘mission’ as it would have been called then.  In fact, as I check the 1859 City Directory, I do see a ‘Claiborne’s Chapel’ listed thusly under “Statistics of Churches” on page 8: “…Spruce Street, Claiborne Chapel, W. Nashville, N. Nashville, M.E., are Mission Churches, under the charge of Rev. J. R. Harwell; aggregate members 165, sittings 1000. …” (John P. Campbell, Nashville City and Business Directory, for the City of Nashville. E. G. Eastman and Co.: Nashville, 1859, page 8).  Yes, a mission, a small llittle band of believers.  They are not in the 1858 directory, so it appears they are a young church plant.  But…Rev. Campbell has them on Rev. Harwell’s circuit…hmmmm.

Or, maybe we should follow John L. Mitchell’s Tennessee State Gazetteer, and Business Directory, for 1860-1861. No 1.  John L. Mitchell: Nashville, 1860, pages 197-198 who knows nothing of any Claiborne’s Chapel, be it Methodist, Christian or what have you.  At war’s end, E. Doug. King, Singleton’s Nashville Business Directory, for 1865. R. H. Singleton: Nashville, 1865, pages 134-135, agrees with the 1860 Directory, listing “Claiborne’s Chapel, in Claiborne’s addition, near Lebanon Pike” with no denominational affiliation whatsoever.  I find no listing of this group in 1866 or 1867, but in King’s Nashville City Directory. Nashville, 1868, page 55, Claiborne Chapel is one of nine Methodist Episcopal churches and it is in Claibone’s Addition, near Fillmore, with Rev. C. C. Mayhew as Pastor.  Minus a pastor’s name, this same listing obtains into the 1870’s.

I conclude that, in the final analysis, Haydon and Booth were wrong; they listed they young mission point as a Christian Church when it appears to have been Methodist Episcopal.

So it goes in sifting the sources!  Today’s lesson: pay attention to detail and if at all possible do not rely on one source.

Addendum: Matthew Simpson, Cyclopaedia of Methodism. Embracing Sketches of its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices and Numerous Illustrations. Philadelphia: Everts and Stewart, 1878, page 638 lists Claibourne Chapel as one of nine Methodist Episcopal Churches, South, in Nashville with 202 members.


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