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.


Nashville, Nov. 11, ’89.

There have been four baptisms at Gay Street church recently under the preaching of Bro. Howell.



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 Nashville Flyaway: Is This The Same Bob Marshall?

At a Nashville estate sale a few months ago, in a most wonderful moldy basement, I dug out from underneath a heap of newspapers (which I also purchased) a fairly decent copy of the 1926 volume of Elam’s Notes.  In it were two receipts of unknown origin and this broadside.  Acidic and brittle, it is about 8 x 10 in.

American Baptist Seminary continues to this hour as American Baptist College.  I suspect the Gilbert Tolbert mentioned here is one and the same as this WW2 Navy veteran.  This broadside notwithstanding, Bob Marshall served two years as Davidson County Sheriff, 1940-1942.  Who knows of L. B. Nelson or the Corinthian Baptist Church?  Who knows of R. D. ‘Bob’ Marshall?  Who knows of Gilbert Tolbert?

Flyaway, Is this the same Bob Marshall

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.)

Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography: 2009 Year-In-Review

As we turn the page next week, I think it appropriate to review the year’s literature in the broad field of Stone-Campbell studies.  Though the publishers seem to have scaled back the volume of new titles, several significant studies came our way this year.  I make no claims for thoroughness here; no doubt I’m overlooking something.  If you think so, please chime in with a comment.  I’m concentrating here on Restoration history and theology that engages our history. The list below is in no particular order.

I think it safe to say the volume we have waited for the longest is the third installment of Eva Jean Wrather’s biography on Alexander Campbell.  Alexander Campbell: Adenturer in Freedom, A Literary Biography Volume 3 completes the set which was to have been published in the late 1940’s.  The manuscript, numbering 850 pages with 800,000 words, took her about 70 years to write.  Through a series of ups and downs (see the preface to volume 1 for the details) the mss did not to see the light of day until after Wrather died.  D. Duane Cummins edited with Eva Jean’s oversight the entirety of what is volume 1.  Her declining health prohibited her from assisting with the remainder.  Volume 1 appeared in 2005, volume 2 in 2007 and volume 3 in 2009.  Issued in three nicely done hardcovers by Texas Christian University Press, Wrather’s set will take its place beside Robert Richardson’s Memoirs of Alexander Campbell as required reading for AC.  We wish Eva Jean used footnotes, but she did not.  Nonetheless, the set is a significant achievement.

And the Word Became Flesh: Studies in History, Communication, and Scripture in Memory of Michael W. Casey edited by Thomas H. Olbricht and David Fleer (Pickwick Publications) was presented to the public at the 2009 Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb University in July.  It contains a number of first class essays on Restoration history as well as several other engaging essays in a wide range of areas such as Biblical studies, Biblical theology, rhetoric, communication and peace studies.  Mike made a significant contribution to Stone-Campbell studies, particularly Churches of Christ.  This collection is a fitting tribute to Mike and his work; they fill several previously empty niches in Restoration history. 

W. Dennis Helsabeck, Jr., History prof at Milligan College, has added to the work of Gary Holloway and Doug Foster in producing Renewal for Mission: A Concise History of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (ACU Press).  The first several chapters appeared some years ago under the title Renewing God’s People: A Concise History of Churches of Christ (2001; with Study Guide in 2006).  Helsabeck picks up where Holloway and Foster leave off in 1907 and takes the reader through the particular history of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (sometimes called Independent Christian Churches or 4-C’s).  I suggest it as a first-read for 4-C’s, followed by longer works such as those by James B. North and Henry Webb.

Lawrence A. Q. Burnley has rendered a needed service in situating the agency of African Americans in the Christian Church in denominational, historical, educational and racial contexts.  The Cost of Unity: African-American Agency and Education in the Christian Church, 1865-1914 (Mercer University Press) breaks new ground by contextualizing African American educational initiatives in this way.  In other words, Larry does here what hasn’t been done before.  He brings needed attention and analysis to what has largely been glossed over, footnoted or ignored in Stone-Campbell history. 

Earl Kimbrough’s massive biography of F. B. Srygley is another welcome addition to our literature.  The Warrior from Rock Creek: Life, Times, and Thoughts of F. B. Sryley, 1859-1940 (Religious Supply Center, Louisville, KY) nears 650 pages and touches upon every issue or controversy in Churches of Christ during Srygley’s lifetime.  One cannot hardly read an issue of the Gospel Advocate from the later 1880’s until 1940 and miss a Srygley.  I have not yet completed a close reading of Kimbrough’s book, but I have read much in it.  From what I have read, I commend it as a thorough  and well-researched biography. 

Lastly, The Disciples: A Struggle for Reformation (Chalice Press) from D. Duane Cummins is especially welcome for its emphasis on recent Disciples history (recent as in mid-twentieth century until now).  As with Earl’s biography of Srygley, I intend to give Duane’s latest book a careful read.  From what portions I have read, I expect to learn much.

Tolle lege!

Vernon Boyd Oral History Collection to ACU

[in 2009 when I first made this post I linked to an announcement which is now, in 2021, no longer online.  But, the files described below are online at this link: where you may listen and download.  Little did I know then (2009) that I would come to ACU in 2013.  At any rate, now the link is correct.]

The collection consists of 20 separate files, 12 audio cassettes and 5 audio mini cassettes of interviews. The written files contain summary transcripts of the interviews, notes, and related material about each of the individuals interviewed and also essays by Boyd.  Many of the individuals interviewed relate stories about two of the most influential evangelists of the early Churches of Christ: Marshall Keeble and G. P. Bowser.

Thank you to the Boyd’s for undertaking this project and ensuring its preservation.  Thank you to ACU for transcribing the interviews and making the collection available.

Christian Scholars’ Conference 2009

With its organizing theme as The Power of Narrative, this year’s conference drew to Lipscomb University about 400 conferees to hear over 230 presenters in 70 sessions. Topics ranged from studies in specific biblical texts to theology to poetry to literature to history to ethics to science to ministry to teaching (and beyond). Presenters represented something like 100 universities and institutions.

Plenary addresses by Hubert Locke, Barbara Brown Taylor, Billy Collins and Marilynne Robinson were superb.  Tokens old-time radio show was most outstanding.  The luncheon honoring the memory of Mike Casey was touching.  Meeting new folks, renewing acquaintances and seeing old friends was a true joy.  I even met some followers of this blog…all three of them!  (No books this time, we’re on a tight budget at the Ice house.  I’m trying to read the ones I already have…what a novel idea and if faithfully pursued will take care of my reading for the rest of my life without a single future purchase)

I took in these sessions:
The Impact of the Written Word: The Place of Editors in the American Restoration Movement with presentations on Isaac Errett by L. T. Smith, on David Lipscomb by Robert Hooper and Austin McGary by Terry Gardner.

New Explorations in Race, Peace, and Justice: Recent Dissertations in Stone-Campbell History, a session I chaired with papers by Wes Crawford on African American in Churches of Christ and on B. U. Watkins by Ray Patton and responses to the above by Barclay Key and Vic McCracken.

And the Word Became Flesh: Studies in Restoration History in Memory of Michael W. Casey, with papers by Thomas Olbricht on Recovering Covenantal narratival Theology, by Jerry Rushford on the Christians in Klickitat County Washington, and by Carisse Berryhill on the Rhetoric of Alexander Campbell’s Morning Lectures (some of which were published under the title Lectures on the Pentateuch).

Another installment of the Restoration Studies in honor of Mike Casey with papers on R. W. Officer by David Baird, J. W. McGarvey’s “The Authorship of Deuteronomy” by Mark Hamilton and Hoosiers, Volunteers and Longhorns by John Mark Hicks.


Reflections on Theological Education: Ministry and Ecclesiology with papers by Tom Olbricht surveying the past 75 years of theological education in Churches of Christ, on their experiences in the academy by Abraham Malherbe and James Thompson.

This was my first time to attend CSC.  I’m already making plans to attend next year.


With this update of the CSC my blogging hiatus, I think, may be over. The flooding at work the last week of April threw a monkey-wrench into our collective and individual routines. Nothing was lost, and what was damaged has been totally salvaged. This is fantastic news. It turned out to be a real headache, and never were we so thankful to have a headache rather than a disaster. I think I am now back into a routine…just in time for the summer research season (one of my favorite times of year).

The end of the academic year has its own set of rituals, routines and events. The Ices had our fair share.  The long and short of it is that blogging wasn’t even on the list the last six weeks, much less down on the list.

But I intend to to resume.  On deck is the latest installment in my “First Reads” series. This one is a guest post courtesy of my friend, fellow blogger and partner in crime when it comes to Nashville church history, Chris Cotten. Chris kindly agreed to reflect on the literature by, from and about the non-institutional churches of Christ. I have found his list, and his comments about each item on it, very helpful.

DLC Lectures, 1948

On 26 February I posted a photograph from the February 19, 1948 Gospel Advocate showing the preachers honored at the David Lipscomb College Winter Bible Lectures.  it was another installment in my ongoing research into the life and ministry of Charles Elias Webb Dorris.  I asked you look carefully at these veterans of the Nashville scene.  Don Haymes picked up on that and noted in a comment that by 1948 Nashville preacher Marshall Keeble had been preaching 50 years (longer than some of the white men honored).  I responded wondering if MK was at the 1948 lectureship.  Turns out he was.

This excerpt is from Show Us How You Do It: Marshall Keeble and the Rise of Black Churches of Christ in the United States, 1914-1968, page 41:

To label keeble as an “Uncle Tom,” however, is to oversimplify a complex man living in a complex culture.  To suggest that he was not socially or politically conscientious is to fail to take him seriously and to ignore the sublety of the man and the complexities of his times.  He did, indeed, on occasion manifest political and recial views out of tune with Jim Crowism.  In 1948 Keeble, while speaking at David Lipscomb College’s annual lectureship, compared Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” to God’s written word.  “Now, then, when he would make those fireside chats he was not a well man, he would go to bed early and about 12:00 you would hear the announcement telling you that this is Mr. Rooselvelt by transcription.  Mr. Roosevelt speaks in Washington in the White House.  What do you make out of that, Bro. Keeble?  We today don’t need the baptism of the Holy Spirit for we have God’s word by transcription.  We have the record”

Even though Keeble used a political illustration to emphasize a theological arguemtn that present-day Christians had no need for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the subtext suggests that Keeble, who like many other African Americans probably had Republican leanings in his earlier years, transitioned into the Democratic party in the 1930s because of Roosevelt’s symbolic racial gestures in creating the so-called Black Cabinet, as well as his raising the economic hopes of black Americans through New Deal programs.

Ed footnotes Keeble’s speech from the 1948 lectureship volume, an 8.5 by 11 book published by the Student Center Book Store at David Lipscomb College.  The theme of the lectures: Personal Godliness as a Condition of Salvation.

So, Marshall Keeble was indeed at the Lectures, but he was not included among those honored for holding forth the word of life.