Nashville, The City of David (Lipscomb): Three issues of Gospel Advocate remember Lipscomb and his legacy

The December 6, 1917 issue of Gospel Advocate was devoted to the memory of the recently-deceased David Lipscomb.  It is a rich treasure of memories and tributes. To my knowledge this issue was the first to carry Lipscomb’s photograph on the cover. Similar covers followed in 1931 (the July 11 Davidson County Special Number) and 1939 (the December 7 special issue about the history of the Nashville congregations).

These three issues are of significant historical value. As primary sources they provide information unavailable elsewhere. As interpretive reflections they are a beginning point for how Lipscomb was remembered and how congregational history was recorded and carried forward. The 1917 issue, other than newspaper obituaries and Price Billingsley’s diary, is the first secondary source about the life and impact of David Lipscomb. The Billingsley diary (housed at Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University) contains a description of the funeral along with its author’s candid thoughts and impressions. It was not intended, at the time, for public reading.

The issue of the Advocate, however, is a product of the McQuiddy Printing Company and is most certainly intended to capture the mood and ethos in the air just after Lipscomb’s death and by way of the mails deliver it to subscribers wherever they may be. In point of time, it is the first published sustained historical reflection on Lipscomb’s life and ministry. The 1931 and 1939 special issues focus on Lipscomb’s activity on the ground among the citizens of Nashville’s neighborhoods. Here his legacy is as a church planter: an indefatigable, patient, faithful steward. He plants, he teaches, he preaches, he organizes. He observes shifting residential patterns and responds with congregational leadership development. To meet the needs of the emerging streetcar suburbs, he urges elders to take charge of teaching responsibilities, engage evangelists and establish congregations through peaceful migrations and church plants. The 1931 and 1939 issues are testimonies to the effects of this approach. Along the way they preserve details and photographic evidence that is simply unavailable elsewhere.

All three are available for download below.

Nashville_Evangelists_Lipscomb.David_GA_Memorial_1917_cover

Nashville_Research_GospelAdvocate_1931_July11_cover

Nashville_Research_GospelAdvocate_1939_Dec7.1145

Click here to download the December 6, 1917 David Lipscomb Memorial Number.

Click here to download the historical sections from the July 11, 1931 special issue about the history of the Nashville Churches of Christ

Click here to download the December 7, 1939 special issue about the history of the Nashville Churches of Christ.

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New Shops Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

On 29 June 1964 W. N. Loyd and J. E. Smith, Trustees for the 27th Avenue Church of Christ, transferred property at the corner of 27th and Torbett Street to William E. Davis, Jonas E. Nance, Mrs. Myrtle Seay and Mrs. Novella Horton, trustees of Hosea Temple Cumberland Presbyterian Church, for the sum of ten dollars.  Thus closed the final chapter of sixty years of ministry of the New Shops Church of Christ.  In February 2013, just before I left for Nashville for Abilene I snapped a couple pics of the Hosea Temple Cumberland Presbyterian Church, home in the long ago to New Shops Church:

New Shops, 2.6.13, front and side

New Shops, 2.6.13 front with sign

New Shops, 2.6.13, front left side

New Shops, 2.6.13, Hosea cornerstone

On 2 June 1905 Alex Perry (an elder with David Lipscomb at South College Street Christian Church) with William Stackman purchased a corner lot in near-west Nashville from Mr and Mrs. M. B. Pilcher.  By June 1905 a small band of members from Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church had met for several months in a vacant store on Stewart Street, on Mrs. Jim Robertson’s front lawn on Clifton Pike and in the J. W. Thomas School.

The lot Perry and Stackman acquired was on the southwest corner of 27th Avenue (then known as Winston Avenue) and Torbett Street.  On Thanksgiving Day 1905 several men spent the day working on a building. Dora Wyatt wrote, ‘as soon as there was enough flooring laid to hold a few seats, we moved in and started worshiping in the new building.  It was a happy day!  After the building was completed, a two weeks’ revival was held by T. B. Larimore.”  Thus began the Winston Avenue Church of Christ.  Located about a block north of Charlotte Avenue, this neighborhood is north of Centennial Park and two blocks east of present-day I-440/I-40 interchange.  Using Charlotte Avenue as a point of reference, remember that West Nashville Christian Church (later renamed Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ) stood at the corner of 46th Avenue and Charlotte, some 20 blocks west. The sponsoring church, Jo Johnston, stood—the building still stands!– at 17th and Jo Johnston, about ten blocks east toward downtown.  Here is the Jo Johnston building in 2010, not long vacated by Friendship Missionary Baptist Church:

Jo Johnston 002

Jo Johnston 003

Jo Johnston 004

Jo Johnston 011

The focal point of the neighborhood was the railroad repair shops for L&N Railroad built along Charlotte Avenue just north of Centenntial Park.  These shops, the ‘new’ shops as opposed to former location near downtown, were a hub of activity.  Among the most efficient anywhere, purportedly the most efficient south of the Ohio River, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad shops when opened were valued at $300,000.  It appears then, that the constituents of the neighborhood churches, New Shops Church of Christ among them, were the working class whose skilled labor kept a Southern railroad machine humming.

Here are the Shops ca. 1940 from Tennessee State Library Archives online digital photograph and image database.  The road cutting from 9 o’clock on your left up to the 12 o’clock position is Charlotte Avenue.  To your right past 3 o’clock is Centennial Park.  New Shops Church was located just out of sight of the photo in the 11 o’clock position.

New Shops, TSLA 15518

The 1908 City Atlas knows of New Shops Church, but identifies it only as ‘Campbellite Ch.”:

New Shops from 1908 atlas

I assume the school above (in pink…it was brick) on Torbett is the J. W. Thomas School to which Dora Wyatt refers in her 1939 historical sketch.

New Shops Church first appears in Nashville city directories in 1906.  As you can see by browsing the 1908 Atlas, the neighborhood is emerging.  There are many vacant lots, presumably having only recently subdivided.  The yellow structures indicate wooden or frame buildings.  The houses are modest, and they are frame.  You will not see many large brick homes in this section of town.

It appears that Jo Johnston Church had her eye on an emerging neighborhood to her west, and got in early with a church plant.  Meeting at the southwest corner of Winston and Torbit (notice the spelling variant, Torbit/Torbett) Avenues, they had “no pastor” and met for worship at 11 am.  Twenty years later, the city directory lists Sunday services at 11 am and 7:30 pm; in 1926 they do not appear to have a regular minister, which is not surprising as most Churches of Christ even in the city did not regular salaried ministers.  Wyatt says that “several years later this [frame] building [pictured above on the atlas] was torn down and the present building erected.”  The second building took the place of the first on the same lot.  By December 1939 New Shops Church of Christ was a congregation of 250 members.  Wyatt mentions several times the work of their Bible school.  Evidently this was a significant focus in the earliest years at Winston Avenue.  In December 1939 Johnny Goins was in charge of this ministry.

By 1943 Jo Johnston Church, citing a ‘changing neighborhood’ (that is, changing from mostly white to mostly black), sought to liquidate the church property and disband.  At that time Friendship Missionary Baptist Church acquired the old Jo Johnston property and met there until just a few years ago.   I would like to make contact with someone at Friendship Church to see whether they have any older photos of the building.

My hunch is that just as the neighborhood at 17th and Jo Johnston ‘changed’ so did the area north of New Shops when the shops closed.  The Hosea Community Church now occupies the former 27th Avenue Church of Christ building.

Now, who might have any old paper from New Shops Church of Christ? It was known also as Winston Avenue Christian Church or Winston Avenue Church of Christ and later as 27th Avenue Church of Christ.  Who might have anything from Jo Johnston Church of Christ; known also as Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church and earlier as Line Street Christian Church?  Who might have an old photograph of either of these houses of worship?  Who might have a directory of any of these congregations?  When these congregations disbanded, where did the remaining members go?

Their closure is within living memory; the time to preserve what remains, if it can be located, is now.

Sources:

History of Nashville, Tenn. H. W. Crew, 1890, p. 332. available online here.

Dora Wyatt, “New Shops Church” Gospel Advocate December 7, 1939.

Metro Nashville Property Assessors Office, online records accessed 8 August 2010.

Atlas of the City of Nashville, 1908. accessed 3 February 2013.

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!

Nashville Churches of Christ History Facebook group

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…)