Nashville Churches of Christ in 1885

I have at hand Year-Book of the Disciples of Christ, Their Membership, Missions, Ministry, Educational and Other Institutions. Cincinnati: General Christian Missionary Convention, 1885.

This was not the first attempt to gather statistics, but we may regard as the first of its kind and scope.  Earlier attempts did quite well to list preachers and names of congregations. The 1885 Yearbook lists congregations in 38 American states and territories plus Canada, Great Britain, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.  Under each state, territory or country, the congregations are listed in nearly alphabetical order by the name of the church.  At least all the names starting with the same letter are grouped together.  Not truly alphabetical, but close.  Also included are lists of preachers and descriptions of mission activity, higher educational institutions and literary output.

What sets the 1885 book apart from its sporadic predecessors is that for each congregation it also provides names of elders, Post Office [the closest thing in 1885 to an address as we know it], the frequency of preaching [tri-monthly, monthly, semi-monthly, weekly, irregular or no data provided], number of members, number of Sunday School pupils, number of officers and teachers [presumably within the Sunday School arrangement], value of church property, the amount raised in 1883 for local work, the amount raised in 1883 for missions, and the name of the regular preacher in 1884.

At 159 pages the document is by a large margin the largest and broadest such directory undertaken thus far among the Stone-Campbell movement.  However, it has significant limitations.  The compiler, evidently Robert Moffett of Cleveland, Ohio, states in the first sentence of the General Introduction that “It can not be too forcibly enjoined on all who examine this Year-Book, that no pretensions to completeness are made for it.  On the contrary, it is expressly claimed that its statistics are very incomplete.”  He cites the organizing committee’s utter lack of financial resources and serious disorganization as factors mitigating against a fuller or more accurate compilation.  As a ” work of purely voluntary goodwillI…” Moffett states, “it may well be regarded as surprising that they have accomplished so much.”

The committee relied upon the personal-informational network put in place by advocates of missionary societies to gather their statistics: “That only in States having well-established and vigorous State organizations–such as Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia–has it been possible to obtain even approximately full lists of the churches; and much less their statistics.”  In short, the advocates of the Society kept track of the churches in their area.  Some states, such as Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Texas and Arkansas, “there has not been the same pains taken by the State organizations to gather statistics.”  Finally, “in other quarters–such as Tennessee and the majority of the Southern and far Western states and Territories–they have been obliged to depend on individual aid–generally on such preachers as were known to them.  Hence their work must be regarded as merely a beginning.”

There are 264 Tennessee congregations listed.  None of those in Nashville are among this number.  Not Church Street or Second Christian downtown nor Woodland Street in East Nashville.  Outlying county congregations like South Harpeth, Philippi, and on out to Lavergne, Franklin and Owen Chapel are also missing.  Tucker’s Crossroads or Bethlehem in Wilson County is there, along with Bush’s Chapel in Sumner County up on the ridge and Sycamore over in Cheatham County.  But no Nashville congregations, not a one of them.

The list of preachers for Tennessee was hastily added late, after the majority of preachers were compiled into the main listing.  Of the 2620 preachers listed, here are those with Nashville addresses: R. Lin Cave [who was at Church Street in downtown], J. P. Grigg [who preached all over but chiefly in 1885 at the infant North Nashville, or 8th Avenue North congregation], David Lipscomb [a member at Church Street in 1885], William Lipscomb [listed in Brentwood, but still very close], W. J. Loos [who was at Woodland Street in East Nashville as a regular preacher], J. C. McQuiddy {who was at the infant Foster Street mission in North Edgefield], a Rawlings [who knows?], E. G. Sewell {an elder at Woodland Street], Rice Sewell [listed as Donleson, in Davidson County], and E. S. B. Waldron [listed as Lavergne, on the Davidson/Rutherford county line].  No other Tennessee city has as many resident preachers as Nashville.  One one African-American preacher was listed in Tennessee, H. Hankal in East Tennessee.

The Block River [could be Black River] church in Connersville, reported 250 members with no pupils in Sunday School; they did not report the amount spent in local or mission work. They heard preaching monthly by Joseph Hill.

The Catby’s Creek [almost surely the Cathey’s Creek] church, at Isom’s Store, reported monthly preaching by T. I. Brooks.  A congregation of 300 members, they had 25 Sunday School pupils, taught by four teachers.  With property valued at $2000, this congregation spent $100 for local work and $40 for mission work in 1883.

The McMinnville congregation, meeting weekly for preaching by George W. Sweeney, had 350 members, 125 in a Sunday School taught by five teachers.  Their property was valued at $5000.  They spent $2500 at home and $100 for mission work in 1883.  I have a neat old photograph of the McMinnville meetinghouse.  It reads ‘Church of God’ in the stone tablet high above the front door.  I will have to post it here sometime.

There are a few other congregations reporting memberships between 100-200, but in Tennessee, the Block river, Cathey’s Creek and McMinnville are the largest as recorded in the 1885 Year-Book.  The McMinnville congregation tied with Fayetteville in terms of the value of church property ($5000) and with the Memphis congregation for the amount spent in local work ($2500).  A few other churches show property valued above $1000, but McMinnville and Memphis are far and away the leaders in expenditures, as reported in this book.

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7 December 1939 Gospel Advocate: The Nashville Special

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.

Front Cover

Content Summary

[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.

Rear Cover

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

Central Church

David Lipscomb College Church

Acklen Avenue Church

Chapel Avenue Church

Eleventh Street Church

Reid Avenue Church

Cedar Grove Church

Trinity Lane Church

Fairview Church

Russell Street Church

Donelson Church

Third and Taylor Church

Mead’s Chapel Church

Highland Avenue Church

Fifth Street Church

Seventh Avenue Church

Hillsboro Church

Madison Church

Radnor Church

Whites Creek Church

Fanning School and Church

Lischey Avenue Church

Belmont Church

Waverly-Belmont 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:

Bells Bend

Dickerson Road

Edenwold

Eighth Avenue

Fourth Avenue

Gorman Avenue

Green Street

Jo Johnston

Pennsylvania Avenue

Richland Creek

Rural Hill

Twenty-Second Avenue

Watkins Chapel

Buford’s Chapel [this is an earlier name for Whites Creek church listed above]

Neely’s Bend

Pennington’s Bend

Woodson Chapel

Una

Goodlettsville

Otter Creek

Ivy Point

Fourteenth and Jackson

Twenty-Sixth and Jefferson

Sixth and Ramsey

Fairfield and Green

South Hill

Horton

——-

Neither on this map nor inside are:

South Harpeth

Philippi

Hill’s Chapel

Antioch

Burnette’s Chapel

Gilroy

Smith Springs

Pasquo

Pleasant Hill

Little Marrowbone

Chapel Hill (possibly a variant name for Little Marrowbone)

Bethel

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.

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!

Twelfth Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

Twelfth Avenue Church of Christ began in 1904 as a swarm from North Spruce Street Church of Christ (also known as Eighth Avenue, North Church and earlier as North Nashville Christian Church).  Numbering about a dozen, they met first in a private home, in rented space at the Presbyterian Church on 14th Avenue, North, (pictured below) and in the home of Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Luton on 14th Avenue North across the street from the Presbyterian church.  The earliest preaching for this small group was from Henry Leo Boles and Samuel Parker Pittman in particular, and others in general, from Nashville Bible School.  They met in the afternoons; I suspect that they may have also met at their former congregation(s) until this new work could get off the ground.  I have seen several references in the Nashville newspapers of that time to ‘missions’ which met in the afternoons.

Twelfth Avenue North, 5.26.10 5

Twelfth Avenue North, 5.26.10 7

By 1906 they purchased a lot on Twelfth Avenue, North, upon it built a small frame meeting house measuring 24′ by 36′.   Additions were numerous from protracted meetings held by John T. Poe of Texas and Joseph McPherson, preacher/mail carrier of Nashville.  When Poe arrived and saw the little frame building, he declared: “I did not come here to hold a meeting in a sweat-box.”  A tent secured, his meeting went on as planned resulting in several additions to the church.   While Poe referred to it as a ‘Sweat-box’ the little fram church building was nicknamed among the members as the ‘Cracker Box’ and apparently with a tinge of nostalgia.  In any case, it was soon to small to accomodate the growing congregation.  By the late 1910’s the building was enlarged three times.  This 1934 directory photo shows it when the seating capactity in the auditorium was 500 plus 14 Sunday School rooms.

,Twelfth Avenue Directory photo p1

Twelfth Avenue Directory cover

Twelfth Avnue Directory.1

Twelfth Avnue Directory.2

Twelfth Avnue Directory.3

North Nashville in the 1910’s and 1920’s was a bustling working class suburb.  Described to me by one who lived there in those days as a wonderful place to live with a true community feel, it was, nonetheless, looked down upon as an undesirable section of the city.  Living in, or being from ‘North Nashville’ was enough to garner a ‘bless your heart’ from residents of Nshville’s trendier and wealthier sections.  Twelfth Avenue Church, however, reached out to its community, however that community was viewed by the larger city.  In 1925, as the two photos below indicate, the vitality of its Bible class program was palpable.  The Shaub brothers’ classes brought over 1800 for the capstone Sunday of an attendance drive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Its membership in 1934, at the time the directory pictured here was printed, was 591 with 600 enrolled in sixteen Bible classes.  In 1939 the membership numbered 650.  My sources estimate the number of baptisms, prior to 1939, to have been in the ‘several thousands.’

Local mission work was always a focal point for Twelth Avenue Church.  They began as a mission point…a small group who worshipped together at Eight Avenue Church then swarmed to form another congregation in their section of town.  Few in this section of Nashville had cars; walking to church was common and neighborhood churches were the norm.  By the later 1960’s interstates 24, 40 and 65 would alter not only Nashville’s physical landscape, but the ecclesiastical, social and racial landscapes; but that is another tale for another day.

Twelfth Avenue Church planted neighborhood congregations at 22nd Avenue, Seventh Avenue North, and Bull Run in Nashville plus congregations in Georgia and Mississippi.  Unsuccessful attempts were made, prior to 1934, to plant churches on Dickerson Pike and Murfressboro Pike.  The 1934 directory also notes they contributed financially to build a number of meeting houses acros the country as well as to several of the Christian colleges.  Local benevolent, or ‘charity work’, was also a mainstay of their day-to-day ministry.

It appears that by March 1, 1934 J. W. Brents became the first located minister at Twelfth Avenue.  It is unclear how long he preached there, but the 12th Ave. sketch (authored by Boles) in the December 1939 special Nashville issue of Gospel Advocate does not mention him. Rather, he says, “H. Leo Boles has preached for the congregation since its beginning and has served as an elder for many years.”
Twelfth Avenue Adult Class 1950s

By the middle to late 1950’s the frame building was given a brick facade, the steeple removed, air-conditioned and a foyer added with a stone facade.  Even so, the membership by then had begun its decline.  By 1975 when 12th Avenue Church of Christ closed there were only, ironically, about a dozen members.  The old 12th Avenue building is now occupied by Abyssinia Missioanry Baptist Church.  My occasional efforts to contact them, over the last three years, has always proved unsuccessful. I’d like to photograph the interior of the building.

Twelfth Avenue North, 5.26.10 1

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The Twelfth Avenews apparently began weekly publication in 1939.  Should anyone have copies of this bulletin, or know of any phone calls or emails I should make to obtain copies, please contact me at :   icekm [at] aol [dot] com.  If the story of the ministry of this congregation is to be at all recovered, it will be through the pages of this bulletin and through interviews with the few surviving members…and they are few.  If records from this congregation can be discovered, they will shed light on the life of the congregation served as elder by one of Nashville’s most influential church and educational leaders of the early 20th century: Henry Leo Boles.  It will also shed light on the rise and decline of one of the strongest, in its hey day, congregations among Churches of Christ in Nashville, arguably the strongest and most aggressive in North Nashville.   If…

Twelfth Avenews Bulletin.1

Twelfth Avenews Bulletin.2

Sources:

H. Leo Boles, “Twelfth Avenue Church” Gospel Advocate, December 7, 1939.

Directory. Twelfth Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville, TN. March 1, 1934.

Interview, Miss Etha Green, September 2012, Nashville, TN.

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…)