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.

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.


Nashville, Nov. 11, ’89.

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



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.

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!

Help Cane Ridge Archives

Christmas Eve’s mail brought the Winter 2012 Cane Ridge Bulletin in which Curator James Trader appeals for donations of select items for their archive.

If you have any of these items, please consider donating it to Cane Ridge:

The Christian Hymn Book, compiled and published by Barton W. Stone and Thomas Adams, 1829.

–H. Leo Boles, Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1932.

Magazine of Western History, 1889 [II], The Cane Ridge Camp Meeting; An Unique Page of Early-Time Kentucky History, pp. 134-143.

Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, byE. M. Carruthers.

–Henry Hare, The Great West 

Herald of Gospel Liberty, New England, Elias Smith, Sept.1, 1808.

–Gloria in Excelsis, (hymnal) 1925, W. E. M. Hackelmen

The Christian Messenger, any issues, any edition.

The Millennial Harbinger. 1987 College Press reprint edition especially volumes for 1832-1836, 1850, 1854, 1857, 1858, 1861, 1865-1867.  Other editions are also welcome (which would be the Old Paths Book Club reprint or the original editions).

Congregational Histories.  Here is James’ note: “We would like to receive copies of Stone-Campbell congregational histories, particularly those with direct links to Cane Ridge, Barton Stone, and especially those from within Kentucky.”

Risograph Supplies.  Again, James says:Cane Ridge has a well-used Risograph RC6300 Duplicator which uses hard-to-find supplies.  If you would like to donate any of the supplies please contact us.  Need are: Masters 56W; RA and RC inks (any color, esp black); color drums for the RC6300 (this machine can print up to 11 x 17 paper).

Contact info is:

Contact James Trader at:  curator [at]

Mailing address is PO Box 26, Paris, KY  40362

Make it a New Year’s Resolution to visit the Cane Ridge Shrine.  They open for tours on April 1.

Name Authority for Nashville, Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations

Name Authority for Nashville Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations, September 2012

Click above to download a document listing 319 variants of time-, place- and character-names for the 227 known congregations of the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee from 1812 to September 2012.

To my knowledge my work in this area is the only such compilation, and therefore, the most complete.  The initial publication of the list to this blog was in May 2010 as a first step in my research toward a book on the Restoration Movement in Nashville.  I blogged then:

With over 200 congregations in this county, the congregational research alone will take years, perhaps the remainder of my life.  If I live to be 100 I may not finish even a rudimentary survey.  It may be too much:  too many congregations, too many preachers, too much ‘story’ to tell.

But this is where I am at the present.  I publish the list here to generate interest, additions, subtractions, corrections and clarifications.  Look it over and if I need to make changes, please let me know.

While congregational history is only one aspect of this project, this is where it all played out…on the ground in the congregations on a weekly basis.  Few congregations have attempted more than a list of preachers or a narrative of the expansion of the church building.  What I propose, as I wrote above, may be too much…too far to the other extreme.  But that fact changes not one whit the necessity of it being done.

The story of these churches in Nashville needs to be told.  I ask for your help in telling it.  look over my list; I solicit your critique. Contact me at icekm [at] aol [dot] com.

(The first version of the name authority, from May 2010, can be found here.)


Today was my last day at Disciples of Christ Historical Society in Nashville.   June 1, 2011 would have marked five years at the Society.  I visited DCHS for the first time as a researcher in March or April 1992.  I was working on a high school history project and Uncle RD Ice suggested I might find there some new information about Dr. K. C. Ice.  I did, and remember vividly the sights and even the smells as May Reed gave me a tour and assisted me with several volumes of Disciples’ Yearbooks.  A few weeks later I attended a lecture, perhaps the first Reed Lecture, and there met Eva Jean Wrather (who was very kind to me) and Carisse Berryhill (Carisse do you remember that?).  Carisse was also very kind and, indicating that if I ever needed assistance to please call her, gave me her card.  I caught very little of what was said that evening in the lecture hall, but I caught enough to know that I wanted to know more about and spend more time in this place.  Little did I ever imagine then that I would later be working in Spencer’s office at Eva Jean’s desk.

I am grateful for the many opportunities of the last five years: opportunities to process primary source archival materials, to provide research assistance for (by my best count) well over 2000 requests and to have met many fine people.  I am certainly much more familiar with the breadth and depth of Stone-Campbell universe; I likewise feel like a novice because of how much material is available for research and how many gaps there are in our collective published history.

Though we do not yet know what the future holds, we are grateful for many friends and family who are walking with us and who have come alongside us in the last month.  Very likely some who read these lines are among those who have supported or comforted us in any number of ways.  Please let me tell you again how much we appreciate it.  Pray for those of us who suffer from “unavoidable budgetary constraints.”

If you contacted me at ice (at) please note that I can be reached at icekm (at) aol (dot) com.  I am eager to assist in your research in any way I can, but reallize that I no longer have the Society’s collection at my fingertips.  I expect to resume more substantive stone-Campbell historical posts to this blog in the coming days.

Grace and peace.