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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McGarvey C. Ice, Harding College 1929

Rendering printed texts generally, and photographic images in particular, into a digital form provides wide access to all sorts of wonderful things.  Colleges and universities, including my employer, undertake these projects with institutional publications like yearbooks, campus programs and other documents.  Not only are these ventures a service to the alumni, they are a great boon to genealogists.

One example is how I know that my grandfather spent some time in the late 1920’s at Harding College, then in Morrilton, Arkansas.  Graduating high school a year early, he then spent two years at Christian Normal Institute in Grayson, Kentucky and completed what would be today an associates’ degree in 1928.  I know he took courses at Harding and at Cedarville College in Ohio.  By the early 1930’s he was teaching high school science and coaching basketball in Vinton, Ohio.  Later he would pursue graduate study at The Ohio State University, National College of Audiometry and others.  But Harding intrigued me, and seeking to learn more, I discovered that Brackett Library at Harding University has scanned many bulletins and yearbooks, plus oral histories and more, dating back to the early days in Morrilton.

I find in the 1929 Petit Jean that McGarvey C. Ice took more than a few courses at Harding.  It appears that he graduated with a B.A. in Science in 1929.

MC Ice Harding College 1929

Look for him here, fourth row, center:

Harding College Senior Class 1929

If a Harding yearbook was among his effects I do not recall seeing it, and thought that he only took a few courses at Harding one summer.  Seeing these, though, it appears to me that he spent more time at Harding than I previously knew.  A new discovery opens more doors, raises more questions, suggests new avenues and horizons.

 

A strategy for congregational research

My Nashville research across the last ten years has evolved from an interest in Central Church (where I was then Associate Minister) to a much, much larger scope including each congregation in the county, every para-church ministry based in Nashville, and how the larger issues within Stone-Campbell history interact with local history in one city resulting in the ministry conducted on ground, in the trenches, in the congregations.  With that comes the innumerable evangelists, ministers and pastors who held forth weekly from pulpits across the city. Ambitious? Yes.  Perhaps too ambitious.  That may be a fair criticism, but the field is fertile and the more I survey the landscape and read the sources and uncover additional data, the more I’m convinced to stay the course.

In the last four years especially I have focused my efforts to obtain information about the smaller congregations, closed congregations, particularly congrgations which have closed in the last 40 to 50 years.  My rationale for this focus is that some history here is in some cases, potentially recoverable.  There are larger affluent congregations which have appearances of vitality…they are going nowhere soon.  I can only hope some one among them is heads-up enough to chronicle their ongoing history and preserve the materials they produced.  On the other hand are congregations which have long-ago closed and chances are good we might not ever know anything of them except a name and possibly a location (for example, Carroll Street Christian Church is absorbed into South College Street in 1920 forming Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ…no paper is known to exist from this church, and I can’t even find one photo of the old building, and there is no one remaining who has living memory of this congregation).  For all practical purposes Carroll Street Church of Christ may remain as mysterious in twenty years as it does now.  I’d be surprised to learn of 3 people now living in the city of Nashville who have even heard of it.

But the several congregations that closed in the 50’s-80’s (and some even in the last five years) remain accessible if only through documents and interviews.  Theoretically the paper (the bulletins, meeting minutes, directories, photographs, even potentially sermon tapes) has a good chance of survival in a basement or attic or closet.  Chances are still good that former members still live, or folks might be around–in Nashville or elsewhere–who grew up at these congregations.  Theoretically.  Potentially.  Hopefully.

Yet as time marches on there are more funerals…for example in the last year I missed opportunities to speak with three elderly folks about their memories at these now-closed churches…they were too ill to speak with me and now they are gone!  I did, however, speak at length with one woman in ther 90’s who I thought died long ago!  She is quite alive and lucid!

So from time to time I will highlight on this blog these closed congregations…closed in the recent past…with hopes that someone somewhere might look for them (I get hits on this blog by folks looking for all sorts of things, among them are several Nashville Churches of Christ).  Maybe we can stir up some interest and surface additional information.

A few days ago I posted about one such congregation, the Twelfth Avenue, North Church of Christ.  I have in the queue a post about New Shops Church of Christ in West Nashville.  There are more, several more.

Stay tuned, and remember, save the paper!

Stone-Campbell Movement congregations in Nashville One Hundred Years Ago

Christian Churches as listed in the 1912 Nashville City Directory:

——-

CHRISTIAN

Belmont Avenue Church, Grand av n e cor 16th av.

Boscobel Street Church – r 401 S 17th

Carroll Street Church of Christ – 96 Carroll. Rev. Owen Henry, pastor; h 98 Carroll

Cherokee Park Church of Christ – 6113 California Av. No regular pastor.

Eastland Church, Gallatin rd s w cor Sharpe av.

Eleventh Street Christian Church Mission – 515 S 11th.

Foster Street Church – 210 Foster

Grandview Heights Church – w s Nolensville rd 2 s of Woodbine

Green Street Church – 146 Green. Elder J G Allen, pastor; h 132 Green

Highland Church of Christ – s s Powhattan av 2 w of 25th av S.  No pastor.

Hinton’s Chapel – e s Orlando av 2 s of Charlotte rd.

Jo Johnston Avenue Church – 1703 Jo Johston av.  No pastor.

Jones Avenue Church – w s Jones 1 s of Trinity

Joseph Avenue Church – Richardson s w cor Joseph av.

Lawrence Avenue Church – n s Lawrence av 2 w of Elliott av.

New Shops Church – 27th av s w cor Torbett av.  No pastor.

North Spruce Street Church – 1217 8th av N.

Park Avenue Church – Park av s w cor 37th av.

Reid Avenue Church – Reid av s w cor Ridley av.

Scovel Street Church – 1717 Scovel. Elder Lytton Alley, pastor; h 1035 Monroe

Seventeenth Street Church – 1700 Fatherland.  Elder H. M. Stansifer, pastor

Sixth Avenue Mission – 1801 6th av N.  Elder T. B. Moody, pastor.

South College Street Church – 805 3d av S.  Elder Cornelius A Moore, pastor; h 69 Carroll.

Tenth Street Church – 10th s e cor Russell.  Elder E. G. Sewell, pastor; h 801 Boscobel.

Twelfth Avenue Church – 1816 12th av N.

Vine Street Church – 140 7th av N.  Elder Carey E Morgan, pastor.

Warioto Settlement – Hume nr 8th av N.

West Nashville Church –Charlotte av n e cor 46th av.

Westwood Church – Hefferman s e cor 26th sv.

Woodland Street Church – 507 Woodland.  Elder R. Lin Cave, pastor, h 230 Woodland.

Colored

Church of Christ – 1308 Jackson.

Lea Avenue Church – 709 Lea av.  Rev Preston Taylor, pastor; h 449 4th av N.

Second Church – 706 Gay

Willow Street Church – South Hill s w cor Willow.  Rev A J Lawrence, pastor; h w s Willow 1 s of South Hill

——-

Nashville City Directory 1912.  Nashville: Marshall-Bruce-Polk Company, 1912, p. 64.

——

The Nashville City Directory lists thirty-four “Christian” congregations; four of these are ‘colored,’ the remainder are white.  The city directories are rather consistent in locating the meeting places of the churches if not by street address then by approximate location.  For example, Second Christian Church is located at 706 Gay Street in the northern shadow of the state capital in the heart of the city.  In the southern suburbs of the city, the Willow Street congregation evidently lacks a street address; it can be located, however, by looking at the southwest corner of the intersection of South Hill and Willow Streets.  The Willow Street pastor’s residence is on the west side of Willow Street, one house south of the intersection.  The abbreviations may be tedious, but they are helpful.

Eleven pastors are listed; nine are white and two ‘colored.’  Both African-American pastors are Reverend.  While the conservative congregations shunned the use of “pastor” as a moniker for their regular located preachers or ministers, a number of these congregations rely on regular minister to do most, if not all, of the regular preaching.  Of the eleven ‘pastors’ six preach for conservative churches; all of the congregations which are indicated as having “no regular pastor” are conservative.

Of the thirty-four congregations, Eastland, Seventeenth Street, Vine Street, Woodland Street, Lea Avenue and Second Christian Churches are clearly among the Disciples.  Only Warioto Settlement (perhaps a mission?) and Westwood (perhaps a forerunner of Clay Street Christian Church?) are unknown to the extent that I do not know how to classify them…either as conservative or progressive.  In 1912 three-fourths of the Stone-Campbell congregations in the city limits of Nashville, 28 of 34, are clearly among Churches of Christ: they are all acapella and provide neither financial nor moral support for missionary societies.  However, just four congregations are listed as Churches of Christ: Carroll Street, Cherokee Park, Highland and Jackson Street Churches of Christ.  None of these four would have been considered ‘progressives’ as generally understood within Restoration Movement circles in 1912.  In fact, Jackson Street began as a conservative reaction to Rev. Preston Taylor and the Gay Street and Lea Avenue Christian Churches.

It appears, then, that unless otherwise noted the names of thirty congregations are XYZ Christian Church.  The City Directory appears to follow this policy in the listings of congregations of other denominations: unless a particular congregation’s name differs from the parent group, it is to be understood as bearing the name of the parent group.  For example, Jo Johnston Avenue Church may be understood as having as their full name Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church (in fact, so reads the deed to the property; Jo Johnston was formerly known as Line street Christian Church, also on the deed).

That said, I have in my files a copy of a photograph of Twelfth Avenue, North, congregation’s meetinghouse.  It has as its name on the sign by the front entrance: Twelfth Avenue Church of Christ.  The photograph appears to date from ca. 1910.  Clearly datable photographs of the church buildings or other documentary evidence will afford the best way to chronicle the changing nomenclature, and thereby the separation, on the ground, of the Stone-Campbell congregations in Nashville.  Until such evidence comes to light, our conclusions about how and when the full implications and results of the division played itself out on the ground among the various congregations must remain tentative.

Pictures of Cane Ridge, 3: Artifacts from the museum

Museum:

Ca. 1880’s pulpit:

Interior of the meetinghouse showing the placement of the 1880’s pulpit in the location of the original pulpit.

Exterior view of the meetinghouse with clapboards:

Communion set used by Cane Ridge congregation:

Walter Scott’s copy of Living Oracles.  Look closely in the second photo to see his name stamped on the cover:

Book Review: A Treasury of Tennessee Churches by Mayme Hart Johnson

Mayme Hart JOHNSON. A Treasury of Tennessee Churches. Brentwood, TN: JM Productions, 1986. 142 pp.

Published during Tennessee’s “Homecoming ’86” Bicentennial celebration, Johnson’s book chronicles with text and photographs a wide sampling of houses of worship in the Volunteer State.  I counted 223 churches and synagogues in this diverse compilation.  Johnson shows us the comparatively primitive frontier log cabins and clapboarded frame meeting houses and the Gothic, Romanesque and Greek Revival santuaries of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  She also includes few modern variations of these styles constructed by larger urban congregations.  For each congregation Johnson has a brief text and photographer Doug Brachey has a corresponding photograph.  For every building Brachey has at least one photograph.  While most are black and white, many are color and he includes both interior and exterior views.

That Tennessee has so many churches poses a significant problem for authors of books such as this.  A volume highlighting the congregations of even one denomination would prove to be by itself unwieldy.    For that matter, a volume highlighting all the churches of Nashville alone could run into multiple volumes.  What Johnson and Brachey attempt, is, I think, a wise and fair compromise.  First of all they sought “outstanding examples” of the various styles of religious architecture.  Secondly, they sought out the oldest example available of each style.  Finally, they sought to showcase buildings associated with some famous personage in Tennessee history (e.g. Bishop McKendree or David Lipscomb). 

There are nineteen Stone-Campbell congregations featured in the book:

Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro

Central Church of Christ, McMinnville

Downtown Christian Church, Johnson City

East Main Church of Christ, Murfreesboro

Fayetteville Church of Christ, Fayetteville

First Christian Church, Knoxville

Fourth Avenue Church of Christ, Franklin

Gay-Lea Christian Church, Nashville

Granny White Church of Christ, Nashville

Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville

Madison Church of Christ, Madison

Owen’s [sic, should be Owen Chapel] Chapel Church of Christ, Brentwood

Russell Street Church of Christ, Nashville

South Harpeth Church of Christ, Linton

Union City Church of Christ, Union City

Vine Street Christian Church, Nashville

West End Church of Christ, Nashville

Woodbury Church of Christ, Woodbury

Woodmont Christian Church, Nashville

I cannot speak to the accuracy of Johnson’s research on any area other than the churches listed above.  But in her brief essays (some are just a few sentences) there are some errors.  For example, she has the Lindsley Avenue Church constructing a “little building in 1894, and in 1920 they purchased the building which they now occupy from a Methodist church.”  Neither is true.  They constructed their first building in 1887 and purchased their current building from Grace Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Grace Church was built in 1894 as a Cumberland Presbyterian Church, not a Methodist Church.  Additionally, prior to 1920 the congregation was known, variously, as South College Street Christian Church, South Nashville Christian Church or South College Street Church of Christ. 

Another example: Owen Chapel church is said to have been “built in 1859 on land donated by Jim C. Owen, who was baptized by James A. Harding, co-founder with David Lipscomb of David Lipscomb College in Nashville.”  The impression is left that Jim Owen was baptized by Harding prior to 1859 and then donated the land for the church.  James A. Harding in 1859 was eleven years old.  It is also ambiguous to speak of Harding and Lipscomb founding “David Lipscomb College.”  True, in a sense, but in fact, not so.  Harding and Lipscomb established the Nashville Bible School in 1891 thirty plus years after Owen’s Chapel was established.  Furthermore, Harding had not taught at the Nashville School for nearly twenty years…and Lipscomb was dead…before there ever existed an entity known as “David Lipscomb College.”  So, one could wish for a bit more perspicuity, especially concerning the details.

Now, on Ms. Johnson’s behalf, she very likely did the best she could with the sources available to her.  Further, since her research notes for the book are housed at the Tennessee State Library and Archives it is possible to check her sources.  Another quick example: for Vine Street Christian Church she has a rather long (comparatively speaking…it is a column or more of text) description of the congregation.  My hunch is that it was supplied by someone at Vine Street…Eva Jean Wrather is suspect No. 1.  If Ms. Johnson was supplied information by a member at a congregation she likely had little reason to doubt its accuracy, especially when she had over two hundred churches on her radar screen for this book.  I think its fair to point this out.  I haven’t looked at her research at TSLA, but I’m interested to see what she had available to her.  At the same time, it is fair to point our inaccuracies and errors of fact.   

A Treasury of Tennessee Churches is out of print, but worth finding.  Johnson has written clear and succint descriptions and Brachey’s photographs provide not only illustration but documentation.  It may be that some of the buildings in this book are no longer standing.  It is an excellent starting point for historical research and a fine model for bringing academic and architectural research to the public in an accessible manner.  A volume like this for each county in Tennessee would be marvelous.   It is a beautiful book which accomplishes what it intends to do: to chronicle in brief text and photograph the rich treasury of Tennessee churches.