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.

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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…)

Christian Endeavor Convention, Nashville, June 1898

Christian Herald and Signs of Our Times, 29 June 1898.

Look for Joel Cheek, elder at Nashville’s Vine Street Christian Church and purveyor of good-to-the-last-drop coffee.  Two links, here and here, provide some more detail of the Cheek coffee story.  Go here to see his philanthrophy at work in East Tennessee at Milligan College.  T. A. Reynolds, another planning committee member, was minister at Woodland Street Christian Church.  Read closely to find out about Z. T. Sweeney’s part in the program.  As can be imagined, David Lipscomb was not too impressed by this convention.  Alas, I have mislaid his comments.  I trust they will turn up somehwere…sometime…somehow….  I have another item from this convention and when it turns up I will post it as well!

Christian Herald June 1898 Christian Endeavor Convention Nashville, 1

Christian Herald June 1898 Christian Endeavor Convention Nashville, 2

Christian Herald June 1898 Christian Endeavor Convention Nashville, 3

Christian Herald June 1898 Christian Endeavor Convention Nashville, 4

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.)

Stone-Campbell Movement congregations in Nashville One Hundred Twenty-Five Years Ago

Christian Churches as listed in the 1887 Nashville City Directory:

M. M. Kline, compiler. Nashville City Directory. Volume 23. 1887 — Containing a General Directory of the Citizens, A Classified Business Directory, Miscellaneous Information, and a Correct Map of the City. Nashville: Marshal and Bruce, 1887, p. 23.

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Christian.

Church Street Church — Elder R. Lin Cave, pastor, Church bet S. High and S. Vine.

North Nashville Church — Elder ——-, pastor, N. Spruce bet Jefferson and Monroe.

South Nashville Church — Elder ——-, pastor, Fain’s Hall, S. Cherry bet Elm and Ash.

Woodland Street Church — Elder R. M. Giddens, pastor, Woodland bet S. Fifth and S. Sixth.

COLORED.

Gay Street Church — Rev. P. Taylor, pastor, Gay bet N. Vine and N. Spruce.

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This list only includes the congregations within the 1887 city limits of Nashville which were then not much larger than the interior of the present interstate loop around downtown, plus the western edge of what is now East Nashville (then a recent addition to the city…formerly a city unto itself: Edgefield).  The county congregations are not on the radar screen for M. M. Kline and the folks at Marshall & Bruce.  However, from this short list we see that the Restoration presence gained a congregation or two since the Civil War ravaged Nashville.  The old Second Christian Church is now known as Gay Street Christian Church.  Preston Taylor has came to Nashville in 1884 and Second Church will remain the African-American presence among the Reformers until the congregation split and Lea Avenue Church is formed.  Gay Street and Lea Avenue were able to put differences aside and merged, forming Gay-Lea Christian Church.  They now minister under the name New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  However, out of Gay Street church would by the end of the century come Jackson Street Church of Christ, the ‘mother church’ of black Churches of Christ.

Among the white congregations the Woodland Street Church was formed over a decade earlier in Edgefield, a very nice easterly suburb across the Cumberland River.  E. G. Sewell is no longer regular teaching minister there in 1887, but remains as an elder.  A nasty division is likely already in the works at Woodland Street in 1887 as the seeds of ‘society-ism’ are first planted at Woodland Street church by Giddens and A. I. Myhr and certain of Sewell’s fellow elders.  Plus, some members who moved in from other parts of the country brought with them to Woodland Street inclinations, if not outright intentions, to establish a Society presence in Nashville.  About five years later Sewell and about forty others, J. C. McQuiddy among them, left Woodland Street to form Tenth Street Christian Church only five blocks east.  But first others will form Foster Street Christian Church in 1888-1889 in Northeast Nashville (or North Edgefield).  Woodland Street continues in Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Tenth Street became Russell Street Church of Christ but closed in 1998.  Foster Street became in 1926 Grace Avenue; they closed in 1977.

In 1887 Church Street Christian Church met about where the downtown library now sits, but they will within a year or so sell the old building (built in 1820) and begin work on a new church building on upscale Vine Street (now 7th Avenue North where the library parking garage is).  A block or so north along Vine Street is the Governor’s Mansion and beyond that is the State Capitol.  I’ve read where Vine Street was a nice quiet street of upscale homes…preferred in part because the street was too steep going up to the Capitol and therefore lacked a noisy streetcar.  Vine Street continues as Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but left downtown in the 1950’s to upscale Belle Meade.

The North Nashville and South Nashville Christian Churches are in large measure the result of David Lipscomb’s efforts to establish congregations across the city where people live.  The city was growing and Lipscomb is convinced that each neighborhood will be well-served by an active and vibrant congregation of Disciples.  North Nashville Christian Church was variously known as The Church of the Disciples, North Nashville Church of Christ and North Spruce Street Christian Church.  It was the outgrowth of Lipscomb’s preaching in the old Civil War barracks in the vicinity of what is now Bicentennial Mall.  North Nashville Church continues today as Eighth Avenue Church of Christ, which has met on the same ground for 125+ years.

South Nashville Christian Church exists today as Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ.  About a year later, in 1888, they will have finished a building, dedicated it, chosen elders (among whom is David Lipscomb), and will be well on their way to being a leading congregation of Disciples in Nashville.  Arguably this is the most vigorous congregation of Disciples in 19th century Nashville.  That particular story is one I am yet researching and documenting.  Suffice it to say that this congregation alone is responsible for much of what had happened in Nashville by 1912 (as far as church plants go).  Neither North nor South Nashville churches have a regular pastor in 1887.  South Nashville will not have a regular located minister for about a decade until Cornelius A. Moore begins work there.  North Nashville will not have a ‘located minister’ until the 1940’s.

West Nashville is about to come into the picture, but in 1887 all we have, it seems, are plans.  Eventually Line Street Christian Church (later Jo Johnston Avenue Church of Christ) and West Nashville Christian Church are established.  Jo Johnston disbands by 1943 in part due to the changed racial landscape of that neighborhood (17th and Jo Johnston…north of Charlotte Ave.).  Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ continued West Nashville’s ministry until the early years of the 21st century when they merged with West Nashville Heights Church of Christ to form Charlotte Heights Church of Christ.

In 1887 things are starting to happen in the Nashville Stone-Campbell scene.  The half has not been told.  What is vital to the telling of that story is the paper produced by these congregations, particularly the early paper.  I’m talking minutes books, membership ledgers, business meeting minutes, photographs, bulletins, correspondence.  If you have or know anyone who mas anything along these lines, please contact me at       icekm [at] aol [dot] com