Stone-Campbell Movement congregations in Nashville One Hundred Twenty-Five Years Ago

Christian Churches as listed in the 1887 Nashville City Directory:

M. M. Kline, compiler. Nashville City Directory. Volume 23. 1887 — Containing a General Directory of the Citizens, A Classified Business Directory, Miscellaneous Information, and a Correct Map of the City. Nashville: Marshal and Bruce, 1887, p. 23.

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Christian.

Church Street Church — Elder R. Lin Cave, pastor, Church bet S. High and S. Vine.

North Nashville Church — Elder ——-, pastor, N. Spruce bet Jefferson and Monroe.

South Nashville Church — Elder ——-, pastor, Fain’s Hall, S. Cherry bet Elm and Ash.

Woodland Street Church — Elder R. M. Giddens, pastor, Woodland bet S. Fifth and S. Sixth.

COLORED.

Gay Street Church — Rev. P. Taylor, pastor, Gay bet N. Vine and N. Spruce.

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This list only includes the congregations within the 1887 city limits of Nashville which were then not much larger than the interior of the present interstate loop around downtown, plus the western edge of what is now East Nashville (then a recent addition to the city…formerly a city unto itself: Edgefield).  The county congregations are not on the radar screen for M. M. Kline and the folks at Marshall & Bruce.  However, from this short list we see that the Restoration presence gained a congregation or two since the Civil War ravaged Nashville.  The old Second Christian Church is now known as Gay Street Christian Church.  Preston Taylor has came to Nashville in 1884 and Second Church will remain the African-American presence among the Reformers until the congregation split and Lea Avenue Church is formed.  Gay Street and Lea Avenue were able to put differences aside and merged, forming Gay-Lea Christian Church.  They now minister under the name New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  However, out of Gay Street church would by the end of the century come Jackson Street Church of Christ, the ‘mother church’ of black Churches of Christ.

Among the white congregations the Woodland Street Church was formed over a decade earlier in Edgefield, a very nice easterly suburb across the Cumberland River.  E. G. Sewell is no longer regular teaching minister there in 1887, but remains as an elder.  A nasty division is likely already in the works at Woodland Street in 1887 as the seeds of ‘society-ism’ are first planted at Woodland Street church by Giddens and A. I. Myhr and certain of Sewell’s fellow elders.  Plus, some members who moved in from other parts of the country brought with them to Woodland Street inclinations, if not outright intentions, to establish a Society presence in Nashville.  About five years later Sewell and about forty others, J. C. McQuiddy among them, left Woodland Street to form Tenth Street Christian Church only five blocks east.  But first others will form Foster Street Christian Church in 1888-1889 in Northeast Nashville (or North Edgefield).  Woodland Street continues in Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Tenth Street became Russell Street Church of Christ but closed in 1998.  Foster Street became in 1926 Grace Avenue; they closed in 1977.

In 1887 Church Street Christian Church met about where the downtown library now sits, but they will within a year or so sell the old building (built in 1820) and begin work on a new church building on upscale Vine Street (now 7th Avenue North where the library parking garage is).  A block or so north along Vine Street is the Governor’s Mansion and beyond that is the State Capitol.  I’ve read where Vine Street was a nice quiet street of upscale homes…preferred in part because the street was too steep going up to the Capitol and therefore lacked a noisy streetcar.  Vine Street continues as Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but left downtown in the 1950’s to upscale Belle Meade.

The North Nashville and South Nashville Christian Churches are in large measure the result of David Lipscomb’s efforts to establish congregations across the city where people live.  The city was growing and Lipscomb is convinced that each neighborhood will be well-served by an active and vibrant congregation of Disciples.  North Nashville Christian Church was variously known as The Church of the Disciples, North Nashville Church of Christ and North Spruce Street Christian Church.  It was the outgrowth of Lipscomb’s preaching in the old Civil War barracks in the vicinity of what is now Bicentennial Mall.  North Nashville Church continues today as Eighth Avenue Church of Christ, which has met on the same ground for 125+ years.

South Nashville Christian Church exists today as Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ.  About a year later, in 1888, they will have finished a building, dedicated it, chosen elders (among whom is David Lipscomb), and will be well on their way to being a leading congregation of Disciples in Nashville.  Arguably this is the most vigorous congregation of Disciples in 19th century Nashville.  That particular story is one I am yet researching and documenting.  Suffice it to say that this congregation alone is responsible for much of what had happened in Nashville by 1912 (as far as church plants go).  Neither North nor South Nashville churches have a regular pastor in 1887.  South Nashville will not have a regular located minister for about a decade until Cornelius A. Moore begins work there.  North Nashville will not have a ‘located minister’ until the 1940’s.

West Nashville is about to come into the picture, but in 1887 all we have, it seems, are plans.  Eventually Line Street Christian Church (later Jo Johnston Avenue Church of Christ) and West Nashville Christian Church are established.  Jo Johnston disbands by 1943 in part due to the changed racial landscape of that neighborhood (17th and Jo Johnston…north of Charlotte Ave.).  Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ continued West Nashville’s ministry until the early years of the 21st century when they merged with West Nashville Heights Church of Christ to form Charlotte Heights Church of Christ.

In 1887 things are starting to happen in the Nashville Stone-Campbell scene.  The half has not been told.  What is vital to the telling of that story is the paper produced by these congregations, particularly the early paper.  I’m talking minutes books, membership ledgers, business meeting minutes, photographs, bulletins, correspondence.  If you have or know anyone who mas anything along these lines, please contact me at       icekm [at] aol [dot] com

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Stone-Campbell Movement congregations in Nashville One Hundred Twenty-Five Years Ago

  1. You’re doing Yeoman’s work, Mac! Question: I think I asked you this once before but the answer could be different now that it’s a couple years later. Have you come across a photo or other rendering of the old Woodland Street Christian Church building that sat between 5th and 6th streets?

    • Indeed! But it is rewarding as new information comes to light…real sense of discovery. DCHS has one photo and there is one on the TSLA digital collections website but it is not properly identified as Woodland Street Christian Church. I think there it is identified as ‘unidentified church’ or some such. But it is clearly Woodland St pre 1915 fire. It is a match for the one at DCHS. Thanks for the kind words; let me know if you run across anyone in East Nashville who has old paper or photos of Shelby Avenue or its predecessor Boscobel Street Church, or Russell Street or its predecessor Tenth Street, or 17th Street Christian Church. I do not have any photos of Boscobel Street, but there had to have been one made between 1908 and 1930 or so (going from memory on those dates). Was talking good about you not long ago to some of our common Alabamian friends.

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