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.
[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.
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
David Lipscomb College Church
Acklen Avenue Church
Chapel Avenue Church
Eleventh Street Church
Reid Avenue Church
Cedar Grove Church
Trinity Lane Church
Russell Street Church
Third and Taylor Church
Mead’s Chapel Church
Highland Avenue Church
Fifth Street Church
Seventh Avenue Church
Whites Creek Church
Fanning School and Church
Lischey Avenue 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:
Buford’s Chapel [this is an earlier name for Whites Creek church listed above]
Fourteenth and Jackson
Twenty-Sixth and Jefferson
Sixth and Ramsey
Fairfield and Green
Neither on this map nor inside are:
Chapel Hill (possibly a variant name for Little Marrowbone)
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.
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!
Nashville Churches of Christ History group is open to anyone interested in the history of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. When I began the group about three years ago I said this:
I envision this community as a place to share common interest in the rich story of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville. I am conducting research for a book which will highlight each congregation of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches from the 1810’s to the present…basically the entire movement from its beginning in our city until now. I envision this group as a place to share memories, photos, news and generate discussion and interest. Please join and contribute. Please feel free to contact me directly at icekm (at) aol (dot) com.
Since readership for this blog is significantly higher now than it was in 2010, let me offer another invitation. The group is open to all. Help spread the word and generate interest. (astogetherwestandandsing…)
Mimeographed typescript page, 8.5 x 11 in., of recommended reading material by Batsell Barrett Baxter, Minister at Nashville’s Hillsboro Church of Christ, ca. 1950’s. Likely the best way to date this is by Leon Ramsey’s editorship of Christian Chronicle.
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.)