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.

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…)

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.)

Marion Francis Holt’s tract distribution

REPORT OF TRACT DISTRIBUTION

From January 1st to April 1st, 1942, I have visited 590 homes and have contacted 1,300 persons each month.  Tracts distributed:
1,200 In the Beginning.
1,200 Moses and the One like unto him.
1,200 The promise Land Joshua’s and Ours.
100 Facts concerning the Church of Christ.
150 Copies of the Enquirer
50 Copies the Unsaved Christian.
50 Copies More than Life.
75 Copies Church Music.
100 What a Sinner must do to be saved.
4,125–Total passed out.

Each of the five churches around which I have worked says the attendance was greatly increased.  In the Buena Vista Community we had five members.  While doing this work I found six others not attending anywhere.  One lady of this community, a teacher in the Methodist Sunday school for fourteen years and whose activity and leadership was responsible for that church’s existence there, obeyed the gospel on the strength of these tracts.  Then her husband obeyed making thirteen members there with which we will begin work in a regular way.

The Church of Christ at 26th Avenue and Jefferson Street, with which I have worked for the past ten years, [110] is now distributing 1,000 tracts per month.  This personal tract each month we believe was in a measure responsible for five baptisms, two restorations, and an increase in attendance such as we never had before.

Those who have fellowshiped this work, we thank you, Green Street Church of Christ furnished 600 tracts, Reid Avenue Church of Christ furnished 1,200; Vermont Avenue Church of Christ, Los Angeles, California, through Brother Ijams and Brother Pullias, 1,500 tracts; Mrs. Dr. Fittz, Gallatin, Tennessee, contributed $3.00.

M. F. HOLT, Minister,
Jefferson Street Church of Christ.
1416 Twenty Second Ave., No., Nashville, Tenn.

——-

M. F. Holt, “Report of Tract Disctribution,” Apostolic Times, May 1942, 109-110.