Claude Spencer pays tribute to Sarah Lou Bostick, ca. 1948

Sarah Lou Bostick

Sarah Lou Bostick

“No, there were not any rare imprints or beautiful bindings among the things Mrs. Bostick saved; a book dealer wouldn’t have given $1.50 for the lot. There were just the commonplace things, the stuff most of us destroy, but which is so necessary in writing the history of our people, our churches, and our brotherhood. Better history can be written because of Mrs. Bostick.”–Claude Spencer, “An Appreciation” in The Life Story of Sarah Lue Bostick, A Woman of the Negro Race, ca. 1948, p. 39.

Sarah Lue was the President of the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions Auxilary at Pea Ridge (AR) Christian Church. As such she acquired (and saved) a truck load (literally, a tractor-trailer load) of programs, letters, documents, periodicals, etc. documenting African-American Christian Churches. Spencer said “only once or twice in a lifetime does the curator of a historical society get so much unusual material as was collected and saved by Mrs. Bostick.”

My take-aways from Spencer’s remarks: 1) you never know what use can be made of a seemingly insignificant source, or what information can be gleaned from it; 2) you never know what might survive, or how much, or where, or by whom; 3) better history can be written because the availability of more/better/different/nuanced source material; 4) better history can *only* be written when these materials see the light of day and are available to history-writers.

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7 December 1939 Gospel Advocate: The Nashville Special

7 December 1939 Gospel Advocate “Nashville Special”

This special issue of Gospel Advocate highlights with historical sketches and photographs several dozen Churches of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee, the City of David (Lipscomb).  In view of an upcoming lecture at Lipscomb University (I’m co-presenting with Christopher Cotten, John Mark Hicks and Jeremy Sweets), this will be the first of several daily posts of the photographs from that issue.  From now until the end of June I will post one photo daily.  Look for the portraits of Fall, Fanning, Sewell, McQuiddy and Harding tomorrow and the meetinghouses in alphabetical order beginning 23 May until 30 June 2013, d.v. …. You are invited to our sessions Monday July 1 and Tuesday July 2.  See the Summer Celebration schedule for time and place. Please come, I’d like to meet and talk with you.

Front Cover

Content Summary

[B. C. Goodpasture], “How Special Was Prepared”, page 1166:

In collecting the material for the special number of the Gospel Advocate we have sought a short history and a picture of the meetinghouse of every congregation in what might be called the Nashville district.  There are some congregations not within the city limits which have been so vitally related to the work in the city that it was thought proper to include them.  To this end each congregation was asked by telephone or letter to supply a sketch of its work and a good picture of its meetinghouse.  We are grateful that most of the congregations complied with our request, but regret that some did not.  Except where otherwise stated, we have used only the material that was sent in to us.  Where the type of meetinghouse and of picture permitted, the cuts are uniform in size.—EDITOR.

——-

H. Leo Boles, “General History of the Church in Nashville,” 1146-1148.  Included in this brief essay are portraits of Philip Slater Fall, Tolbert Fanning, Elisha Granville Sewell, Jephthah Clayton McQuiddy and James Alexander Harding.  David Lipscomb’s portrait graces the front cover.  The bulk of the issue are the sketches and photos of the congregations and their meetinghouses.  Boles’ task is to introduce the issue with a lead-off broad historical resume.

Rear Cover

List of Congregations, pages 1148-1167

Listed below, in the order of appearance, are the congregations featured; those without an accompanying photograph marked with an asterisk [*].  I cannot discern an organizing principle, if there was one, governing the listing of the congregations.  For their relative locations consult the map on the back cover.

Lindsley Avenue Church

Twelfth Avenue Church

Old Hickory Church

Charlotte Avenue Church

Grandview Heights Church

Riverside Drive Church

Shelby Avenue Church

Joseph Avenue Church

Grace Avenue Church

Park Avenue Church

Park Circle Church

Lawrence Avenue Church

Central Church

David Lipscomb College Church

Acklen Avenue Church

Chapel Avenue Church

Eleventh Street Church

Reid Avenue Church

Cedar Grove Church

Trinity Lane Church

Fairview Church

Russell Street Church

Donelson Church

Third and Taylor Church

Mead’s Chapel Church

Highland Avenue Church

Fifth Street Church

Seventh Avenue Church

Hillsboro Church

Madison Church

Radnor Church

Whites Creek Church

Fanning School and Church

Lischey Avenue Church

Belmont Church

Waverly-Belmont Church

New Shops Church*

Neely’s Bend Church*

——-

W. E. Brightwell, “Record Not Complete”, pages 1166-1167:

“Some congregations failed to provide a picture of their building; some prepared something, but there was a slip-up in delivery.”  Brightwell briefly recalls details about Green Street, Eighth Street [Eight Avenue, North], Jo Johnston, Twenty-Second Avenue, Otter Creek, and Reid Avenue.  Within Brightwell’s note are photographs of the Home for the Aged (overseen by the Chapel Avenue Church), Jackson Park Church and Rains Avenue Church.  He closes by asking, “What became of the sketches for Jackson Park and Rains Avenue congregations?  Gorman Avenue, Richland Creek, Edenwold, Fourth Avenue, South, Pennsylvania Avenue, Ivy Point, Dickerson Road, and possibly others within the area of Greater Nashville, failed to report, or something happened that their report did not arrive in time.”

Given Brightwell’s note, I thought it worthwhile to discern which congregations were absent.  It became readily apparent that there was no mention, at all, of any African-American congregation or preacher in the issue.  There is a list of six “Colored Churches” on the rear-cover map.

If George Philip Bowser’s 1942 directory is any indication, Nashville was as much “Jerusalem” for African-American churches of Christ as it was for whites.  In 1942 Nashville claimed six black Churches of Christ, the same as are listed on the rear cover of this ‘Nashville Special.’  No other city in America at that time, known to Bowser at least, had as many black congregations or as many members among them.  Were Bowser to describe these congregations, their establishment and growth and the great men and women who built and nurtured them, he might use Henry Leo Boles’ words which opens this ‘Nashville Special’: “Nashville, Tenn., has been called the modern Jerusalem. There are more churches of Christ in this city than in any other city of the world.  The church in Nashville, like the church in Jerusalem, had a small beginning, but it has grown to great proportions.”  If not, at least his data would support the claim nonetheless.

The rear cover, with map, lists sixty-five congregations, fifty-nine [white] and six “colored.”

——-

The congregations listed below have neither photo nor sketch in the issue proper:

Bells Bend

Dickerson Road

Edenwold

Eighth Avenue

Fourth Avenue

Gorman Avenue

Green Street

Jo Johnston

Pennsylvania Avenue

Richland Creek

Rural Hill

Twenty-Second Avenue

Watkins Chapel

Buford’s Chapel [this is an earlier name for Whites Creek church listed above]

Neely’s Bend

Pennington’s Bend

Woodson Chapel

Una

Goodlettsville

Otter Creek

Ivy Point

Fourteenth and Jackson

Twenty-Sixth and Jefferson

Sixth and Ramsey

Fairfield and Green

South Hill

Horton

——-

Neither on this map nor inside are:

South Harpeth

Philippi

Hill’s Chapel

Antioch

Burnette’s Chapel

Gilroy

Smith Springs

Pasquo

Pleasant Hill

Little Marrowbone

Chapel Hill (possibly a variant name for Little Marrowbone)

Bethel

All of these are in Davidson County, reasonably within the bounds of Goodpasture’s “Nashville district” or Brightwell’s “Greater Nashville.”

The 1939 City Directory lists a Sanctified Church of Christ at 408 16th Avenue, North and a Metropolitan Church of Christ on East Hill as a ‘Colored’ congregation.  The same directory lists Emanuel Church of Christ which I have confirmed is not a Stone-Campbell congregation.  Sanctified is entirely new to me; there is an outside chance it could be the predecessor to the Fifteenth Avenue, North congregation (est. 1955 according to the 2012 Churches of Christ in the United States).  If so then it is a black congregation…15th Ave is a plant from Jefferson or Jackson Street.  Metropolitan Church is likewise new to me.

——

Remember, check back daily for a new photograph.  Comments are welcome for memories, suggestions, etc.  Should you like to contact me privately, do so at   icekm [at] aol [dot] com.  Should you have or know someone who has photographs, directories, bulletins or other paper from any of these congregations, please contact me.

Directory of the Churches of Christ Colored (1942), G. P. Bowser

In 1942 George Philip Bowser published Directory of the Churches of Christ Colored.  A stapled pamphlet of 40 pages, it contains the names of 307 congregations (comprising 17,349 members) and 342 preachers from California to New York and from Michigan to Florida.  For each congregation Bowser sought an accurate membership count, the number added during 1942, the value of church property and a contact name.  He noted that since some information was lacking, an “approximate record” was given.

1942 Directory of the Churches of Christ Colored, cover

Preston Gray, Jr. says this in his Forewords, “We are happy to look out over the vast harvest field of the Lord’s and behold the rapid progress; that is being made among us; although the reapers are few the pace that you have gained thus far is indeed encouraging.  Let us, therefore, press on with a greater determination.  “FORWARD,” is our motto.  Phil 3:13-14.”

As a snapshot of the African-American Churches of Christ at mid-century, it discloses information unavailable elsewhere.  There is no indication in this document that it updates or supplements earlier publications.  While Leslie Grier Thomas’ New Directory of the Churches of Christ in the United States (Cincinnati: F. L. Rowe, 1939) notes “colored” congregations, it omits many of the congregations on Bowser’s list.  Thomas does not list preachers.  However Thomas, with George Henry Pryor Showalter, shortly thereafter issued Church Directory and List of Preachers of Churches of Christ (Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1943).  Here appear white preachers and song leaders, “Colored” preachers and song leaders, “Mexican” preachers and “Foreign” preachers and song leaders.  In order to identify African-American congregations in this 1943 booklet, it will be necessary to check each entry, something I have not attempted.  A similar situation obtains for John P. Fogarty and Olan L. Hicks, 1946-47 Yearbook Churches of Christ (Abilene: Hicks Printing Company, 1947).

Not until Annie C. Tuggle, Our Ministers and Song Leaders of the Church of Christ (Detroit: Annie C. Tuggle, 1945), do some of the names in Bowser’s list find faces and stories through biographical sketches with accompanying photographs.  Acknowledging that some did not send in photographs, and thus were omitted, she anticipated their inclusion in a projected second volume.  Tuggle lists 134 preachers, 13 song leaders, plus 12 “under age preachers” (among whom is Fred D. Gray) and 3 “under age song leaders.”  One will need to search page by page through the various volumes of Preachers of Today and New Testament Churches of Today to locate, where possible…perhaps, additional information beyond what Bowser provides.

Bowser’s list, therefore, appears to be the earliest and most complete of its kind for its time.  I spent three evenings working through the lists of congregations and preachers.  I do not claim to be a statistician; however, I trust the various data arrangements and charts below will be helpful.  Whatever I have done, it is no substitute for reading the actual document.  I realize this is no easy task as it is held in only two libraries, Abilene Christian University and Freed-Hardeman University.  Should anyone have a copy of this in a personal collection, please consider making it more widely available if only by mailing a photocopy of it to your nearest university or research library.

I welcome additional information, clarification or correction.  I should note that I have worked from a copy held in Abilene Christian University’s Center for Restoration Studies, which lacks pages 26-27.

Summary of congregations by state:

15 states (AZ, CO, NY, NM, NJ, NC, PA, KS, LA, CA, OH, IN, MI, MO and GA) have 1-9 congregations each

5 states (IL, KY, TX, OK and FL) have 10-19 congregations each

2 states (AR and MS) have 20-29 congregations each

No state has between 30-39 congregations

2 states (AL and TN) have above 40 congregations each

Number of congregations by state:

1 each: Arizona, Colorado and New York

2 each: New Mexico, New Jersey and North Carolina

3: Pennsylvania

4 each: Kansas and Louisiana

5: California

6: Ohio

7 each: Indiana and Michigan

8: Missouri

9: Georgia

10: Illinois

14: Kentucky

15: Texas

17: Oklahoma

18: Florida

27: Arkansas and Mississippi

46: Alabama

71: Tennessee

Number of congregations by city:

6: Nashville

4 each: Detroit MI and Memphis TN

3 each: Los Angeles CA and Houston TX

2 each: Chicago IL, Indianapolis and Terre Haute IN, Louisville KY, Senatobia MS, Kilgore TX

All other cities have one congregation each

The Nashville congregations are:

Jefferson Street, 500 members, value of church property $4000, R. E. Campbell, 1404 Jefferson

South Hill, 57 members, value of church property $500, Joe Dewee, 90 Wharf Ave.

Horton Street, 35 members, value of church property $1000, Ollie Anderson, 1300 15th Avenue

Jackson Street, 142 members, value of church property $5000, Robt. Cato, 1912 Morene Street

Green Street, 98 members, value of church property $2500, P. H. Black, 1039 21st Avenue

East Nashville, 6th Street, 84 members, value of church property $2000, Jas. Reese, 618 N. Ninth Street

To present the data in a different form, I color coded two US maps, one according to number of congregations, the other by number of preachers. 

1942 Directory of Churches of Christ Colored, key to maps

Congregations:

1942 Directory of Churches of Christ Colored, congregations

Preachers:

1942 Directory of Churches of Christ Colored, Preachers

Summary of preachers by state:

14 states (NC, NM, WV, VA, AZ, LA, KS, MO, PA, OH, IN, MI, KY and CA) have 1-9 preachers each

3 states (IL, GA and OK) have 10-19 preachers each

2 states (MS and AR) have 20-29 preachers each

2 states (AL and FL) have 30-39 preachers each

2 states (TN and TX) have above 40 preachers each

Number of preachers by state:

1 each: North Carolina, New Mexico and West Virginia

2 each: Virginia and Arizona

4 each: Louisiana and Kansas

5: Missouri

6: Pennsylvania

7 each: Ohio and Indiana

8: Michigan (it may be that Fred Cowan refers to Fred D. Cowin, a white preacher)

9 each: Kentucky and California

10: Illinois

13: Georgia

19: Oklahoma

20: Mississippi

26: Arkansas

30: Alabama

36: Florida

57: Tennessee

63: Texas

Two are unaccounted for inasmuch their address did not list a state.  Ten names were duplicated.

Largest congregations:

The top 12 congregations, of 200 or more members each, number 4588 total members:

Valdosta, Georgia: 740

Bradenton, Florida: 586

Atlanta, Georgia: 535

Jefferson Street, Nashville, Tennessee: 500

Muskogee, Oklahoma: 425

Montgomery, Alabama: 400

Oklahoma City: 299

Quitman, Georgia: 287

Cameron, Detroit, Michigan: 213

Chattanooga, Tennessee: 203

Lawton, Oklahoma: 200

Ensley, Alabama: 200

These 17 congregations, from 84 to 178 members each, number 2229 total members:

Tampa, Florida: 178

Thyatira, Mississippi: 176

Lebanon, Tennessee: 175

Okmulgee, Oklahoma: 160

McMinnville, Tennessee: 160

Huntsville, Alabama: 149

Center Point, Arkansas: 147 (listed as Enter Point, which I take to be a typographical error)

Jackson Street, Nashville, Tennessee: 142

Conway, Arkansas: 130

Halls Chapel, Alabama: 120

Statesville, North Carolina: 109

Kileton, Mississippi: 107

Compton, California: 102

Mobile, Alabama, 100

Oak Grove, Tennessee: 98 (in West Tennessee?)

Murfreesboro, Tennessee: 92

East Nashville, Tennessee: 84

Number of congregations, members and preachers alphabetically by state:

State Congregations Members Preachers
Alabama 46 2587 30
Arizona 1 50 2
Arkansas 27 1100 26
California 5 269 9
Colorado 1 22 0
Florida 18 1509 36
Georgia 9 1755 13
Illinois 10 234 10
Indiana 7 227 7
Kansas 4 142 4
Kentucky 14 360 9
Louisiana 4 186 4
Michigan 7 400 8
Mississippi 27 878 20
Missouri 8 220 5
New Mexico 2 42 1
New Jersey 2 55 0
New York 1 40 0
North Carolina 2 115 1
Ohio 6 153 7
Oklahoma 17 1500 19
Pennsylvania 3 161 6
Tennessee 71 4358 57
Texas 15 986 63
Virginia 0 0 2
West Virginia 0 0 1
Unknown * * 2

African-American Churches of Christ in Nashville: W. M. Slay preaches in Northeast Nashville, 1889

This notice appears in the 20 November 1889 Gospel Advocate at page 739:

GA 11.20.1889.739

——-

I have been having a protracted meeting in North-east Edgefield.  I have established a congregation with nine members.  I administer the loaf with them every Lord’s day.  I am also teaching in South Nashville, had one addition last night, Bro. Calvin Hardison, by confession and reclamation.  Please note that we will start a protracted meeting Wednesday night, the 13th of this month.  I preach three times every Lord’s day, twice in South Nashville, and at 3 P. M. in Edgefield.

W. M. SLAY.

Nashville, Nov. 11, ’89.

There have been four baptisms at Gay Street church recently under the preaching of Bro. Howell.

——-

Postscript

It is difficult to compile a short list of lacunae in Nashville Stone-Campbell history.  A thorough-going narrative of the rise of black Churches of Christ, vis-a-vis Gay Street Christian Church would make such a list, and high on it, too.  Back of that, though, is the rise of Second Christian Church (the name by which is known Gay Street in earlier days) vis-a-vis the white Church Street Christian Church, of which Philip Slater Fall was long-time pastor.  Its deep origins lie in the ‘colored’ Sunday Schools of the 1830’s and there is some connection to the slaves owned by William Giles Harding, horse-breeder extraordinaire and owner Belle Meade mansion.  They worshiped as Grapevine Christian Church, very likely in the plantation’s vineyard.

If we are to meet these lacunae head-on, notices such as this in Gospel Advocate will be exceedingly helpful.  I am confident others, perhaps many more, are out there in Gospel Advocate alone. Similar items exist in Christian Standard.  If we ever find old issues of Christian Echo…ever…what a gold mine that would be!

I post it to raise awareness: there is a significant gap in our understanding of the local congregational context from which emerged the Womack-Bowser-Keeble orbit of black acapella Churches of Christ.  Such published reports are one kind of light.  Another source are congregational records.  Then there are personal familial archives containing photos, letters, mementos.  Any of these are immensely helpful, but I want to raise awareness that the congregational records, if there be any…if any were even kept…if anyone originated a list of members or kept tally of income and expenses…will break new ground and lift our eyes to new horizons of understanding.  I also post it as an appeal: who has anything to contribute to this story?  As always, I welcome input, suggestions and corrections.