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.)

Religious Intelligence from 1882 Nashville

Nashville’s Daily American listed details of Sunday church services, provided such notices were received by 7pm Saturday evening.  The 25 June 1882 “Religious Intelligence” column lists two Christian Churches:

Elder R. L. Cave will preach at 11 A. M. in the Church-street Christian Church.

J. H. Jackson, of the North Nashville Christian Church, Barracks school-house, will preach to-day, at 11 A. M. and         8 P. M. Morning subject: “Does the Bible Teach the Idea of Endless Punishment?”  At night, subject: “The Foundation of the Church.”

This item is helpful since the Nashville city directory for 1882 knows nothing of a North Nashville Christian Church.  Rather, Church Street Church and Woodland Street Church (Elders R. L. Cave and E. G. Sewell pastors, respectively) are the white congregations and Second Church, Rev. H. S. Berry, pastor, is the sole “Colored” Christian Church in the book.  The same holds true for 1883, -4, and -5.  In 1886 Nashville City Directory lists for the first time North Nashville Christian Church, Elder J. P. Grigg, pastor.  By the following year the first meetinghouse for this congregation is built; its replacement (below) came in 1942 on the same lot.

I suspect further evidence may confirm my hypothesis that the congregation met in ‘fits and starts’ until elders and deacons were appointed and regular weekly assemblies were maintained for the purpose of taking the Lord’s Supper.  Here is one piece of evidence that they were meeting as early as the summer of 1882.  I also glean from this Intelligence the name of the school house (former Union Army barracks) where early services were conducted.  Now I can chase down the location of this school house, maybe even locate a photograph of it.  Discovery leads to discovery; questions beget questions, leads go on and on.

It is admittedly small piece of information yet every little bit helps.  I also have a name, albeit otherwise unknown to me, but I have a name.  J. H. Jackson, who are you, whence, whither…?  And I have two sermon titles.  I don’t have sermon mansuscripts, I don’t even have outlines.  I have titles and that is more than I had this time last week.  Before this clipping my assumption was that, according to other sources (like Churches of Today, vol. 1:233), the congregation began in 1887.  I don’t doubt it.  At the same time it began earlier; at least it appears to have existed in a missional form five years before it “began.”  Again, I think the explanation lies in the (likely I think) ordination of elders and deacons in (about) 1887 when the first building is completed…thus a fully organized congregation.  This happened at South Nashville…they were basically a mission for thirty years before elders and deacons were set apart which coincided with the completion of the first meetinghouse.

All this to say you go with what you have, form hypotheses, test and weigh them against new discoveries, reform your hypothesis, and keep looking.  Always pay attention to the details.

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.

——-

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.

——-

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

 

 

Susie W. Haley Allen

Gospel Advocate 25 January 1917, 35:

“Obituaries”

——-

Allen.

Sister Susie W. Allen, wife of J. G. Allen, departed this life on October 6, 1916.  Her maiden name was “Haley”–the daughter of T. W. Haley, who taught in the city schools for thirty-four years.  Sister Allen, with four other sisters, taught at different times, and she was engaged in this noble calling at the time of her marriage to J. G. Allen, February 6, 1883.  This union was blessed with seven children.  One died in infancy, leaving six with their father to mourn the loss of a mother and wife.  The surviving children are James A., David H., Mary Lee, Ruth, Mrs. O. F. Young, and Mrs Fletcher Daily.  All, except Mrs. Young, who resides at Davidson, Tenn., are residents of Nashville, Tenn.  At the time of our sister’s marriage to Brother Allen she was a member of the Baptist Church and he was a member of the Methodist Church.  They both realized the wrong of thus being divided religiously and determined to give the word of God a careful and thorough investigation on the subject of the plan of salvation and the church Christ established.  The result of this careful, prayerful, and painstaking investigation of the Holy Scriptures was the discovery that both were wrong, and they became members of the church of Christ, determined to be Christians only.  For twenty-nine years Sister Allen was faithful and true to the church and when death claimed her mortal body, she was found with the armor on and at the post of duty.  She peacefully passed from the shores of time to the golden strand on the other side, with all of her children and devoted husband present.  It was the writer’s sad pleasure to conduct the funeral services at 2:30 P.M., Lord’s day, october 8, in the presence of a large audience of sympathizing friends.  I had known Sister Allen for a long time and had been in her hospitable home time and again.  I feel sure that I knew the spirit of this good woman and have no fears of unduly praising her character.  She was gentle, modest, kind, and thoughtful toward all in an eminent degree.  I have never known one in whom I thought the virtues of true womanhood shone more brightly and beautifully than in the life and character of Sister Allen.  She filled all the places assigned her by nature and providence with that Christian fidelity which prompts to a full measure of duty.  Her children were devoted to her to the last degree.  By her sweet disposition and ever-abiding affection for them, manifested in so many ways, they could not help but lover her with an intensity that always placed mother first in everything.  As a wife, Sister Allen filled the duties and requirements of that sacred relation with the devotion and fidelity God placed upon it.  Her husband and children rise up to call her memory blessed.  They have been deprived of the sunshine of her presence in the hom; but the blessed memory of her face, voice, gentle words, and deeds of kindness falls upon them like a sweet benediction from the heavens that bend above.  Look up and look away, dear ones, to where she has gone; climb the ladder of life until you, too, catch a glimpse of the glory land.      F. W. SMITH.

——-

Susie Haley was a conscientious member of Central Baptist Church in downtown Nashville (also know as First Baptist Church).  Prior to their marriage Jacob may have been a member at Elm Street Methodist Church in South Nashville or McKendree Methodist Church downtown, or perhaps another congregation.  They did not agree in matters religious, but they did agree that the Campbellites were not even respectable people (so Jacob wrote in 1936).  They heard J. C. Martin preach in a rented hall sometime prior to November 1887.  Hearing him preach about unity rooted in Scripture appealed to both of them…apparently in spite of thier hard feelings about ‘Campbellites.’  Jacob may have been immersed at Central Baptist Church; Susie had been immersed evidently some years before.  Susie was not reimmersed when they came to South College Street from Central Baptist Church.  By November 1887 the Allen’s were among the very first members at South Nashville’s South College Street Christian Church, where, with W. H. Timmons, David Lipscomb and J. Claude Martin served as elders.  At some point…I cannot yet dermine when…Jacob was immersed (possibly reimmersed? but I’ve found no evidence it was reimmersion) by James A. Harding at South College Street…perhaps in 1889?  In 1892 Harding and his family transferred from Winchester, Kentucky, to the South College Street Church and by about 1894 he and the Allen’s and quite a few others swarmed from South College to establish Green Street Christian Church.  By then Jacob began preaching and not long afterwards his young son, James, learned to preach at Green Street under the tutelage of his father and Harding.  All the while Susie, as F. W. Smith notes in his obituary, upheld ‘ideal womanhood’ and supported her husband and later her son in their ministries.  Hers is one story from the congregation David Lipscomb pastored from 1888 until his death in 1917.

Stone-Campbell Movement congregations in Nashville One Hundred Years Ago

Christian Churches as listed in the 1912 Nashville City Directory:

——-

CHRISTIAN

Belmont Avenue Church, Grand av n e cor 16th av.

Boscobel Street Church – r 401 S 17th

Carroll Street Church of Christ – 96 Carroll. Rev. Owen Henry, pastor; h 98 Carroll

Cherokee Park Church of Christ – 6113 California Av. No regular pastor.

Eastland Church, Gallatin rd s w cor Sharpe av.

Eleventh Street Christian Church Mission – 515 S 11th.

Foster Street Church – 210 Foster

Grandview Heights Church – w s Nolensville rd 2 s of Woodbine

Green Street Church – 146 Green. Elder J G Allen, pastor; h 132 Green

Highland Church of Christ – s s Powhattan av 2 w of 25th av S.  No pastor.

Hinton’s Chapel – e s Orlando av 2 s of Charlotte rd.

Jo Johnston Avenue Church – 1703 Jo Johston av.  No pastor.

Jones Avenue Church – w s Jones 1 s of Trinity

Joseph Avenue Church – Richardson s w cor Joseph av.

Lawrence Avenue Church – n s Lawrence av 2 w of Elliott av.

New Shops Church – 27th av s w cor Torbett av.  No pastor.

North Spruce Street Church – 1217 8th av N.

Park Avenue Church – Park av s w cor 37th av.

Reid Avenue Church – Reid av s w cor Ridley av.

Scovel Street Church – 1717 Scovel. Elder Lytton Alley, pastor; h 1035 Monroe

Seventeenth Street Church – 1700 Fatherland.  Elder H. M. Stansifer, pastor

Sixth Avenue Mission – 1801 6th av N.  Elder T. B. Moody, pastor.

South College Street Church – 805 3d av S.  Elder Cornelius A Moore, pastor; h 69 Carroll.

Tenth Street Church – 10th s e cor Russell.  Elder E. G. Sewell, pastor; h 801 Boscobel.

Twelfth Avenue Church – 1816 12th av N.

Vine Street Church – 140 7th av N.  Elder Carey E Morgan, pastor.

Warioto Settlement – Hume nr 8th av N.

West Nashville Church –Charlotte av n e cor 46th av.

Westwood Church – Hefferman s e cor 26th sv.

Woodland Street Church – 507 Woodland.  Elder R. Lin Cave, pastor, h 230 Woodland.

Colored

Church of Christ – 1308 Jackson.

Lea Avenue Church – 709 Lea av.  Rev Preston Taylor, pastor; h 449 4th av N.

Second Church – 706 Gay

Willow Street Church – South Hill s w cor Willow.  Rev A J Lawrence, pastor; h w s Willow 1 s of South Hill

——-

Nashville City Directory 1912.  Nashville: Marshall-Bruce-Polk Company, 1912, p. 64.

——

The Nashville City Directory lists thirty-four “Christian” congregations; four of these are ‘colored,’ the remainder are white.  The city directories are rather consistent in locating the meeting places of the churches if not by street address then by approximate location.  For example, Second Christian Church is located at 706 Gay Street in the northern shadow of the state capital in the heart of the city.  In the southern suburbs of the city, the Willow Street congregation evidently lacks a street address; it can be located, however, by looking at the southwest corner of the intersection of South Hill and Willow Streets.  The Willow Street pastor’s residence is on the west side of Willow Street, one house south of the intersection.  The abbreviations may be tedious, but they are helpful.

Eleven pastors are listed; nine are white and two ‘colored.’  Both African-American pastors are Reverend.  While the conservative congregations shunned the use of “pastor” as a moniker for their regular located preachers or ministers, a number of these congregations rely on regular minister to do most, if not all, of the regular preaching.  Of the eleven ‘pastors’ six preach for conservative churches; all of the congregations which are indicated as having “no regular pastor” are conservative.

Of the thirty-four congregations, Eastland, Seventeenth Street, Vine Street, Woodland Street, Lea Avenue and Second Christian Churches are clearly among the Disciples.  Only Warioto Settlement (perhaps a mission?) and Westwood (perhaps a forerunner of Clay Street Christian Church?) are unknown to the extent that I do not know how to classify them…either as conservative or progressive.  In 1912 three-fourths of the Stone-Campbell congregations in the city limits of Nashville, 28 of 34, are clearly among Churches of Christ: they are all acapella and provide neither financial nor moral support for missionary societies.  However, just four congregations are listed as Churches of Christ: Carroll Street, Cherokee Park, Highland and Jackson Street Churches of Christ.  None of these four would have been considered ‘progressives’ as generally understood within Restoration Movement circles in 1912.  In fact, Jackson Street began as a conservative reaction to Rev. Preston Taylor and the Gay Street and Lea Avenue Christian Churches.

It appears, then, that unless otherwise noted the names of thirty congregations are XYZ Christian Church.  The City Directory appears to follow this policy in the listings of congregations of other denominations: unless a particular congregation’s name differs from the parent group, it is to be understood as bearing the name of the parent group.  For example, Jo Johnston Avenue Church may be understood as having as their full name Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church (in fact, so reads the deed to the property; Jo Johnston was formerly known as Line street Christian Church, also on the deed).

That said, I have in my files a copy of a photograph of Twelfth Avenue, North, congregation’s meetinghouse.  It has as its name on the sign by the front entrance: Twelfth Avenue Church of Christ.  The photograph appears to date from ca. 1910.  Clearly datable photographs of the church buildings or other documentary evidence will afford the best way to chronicle the changing nomenclature, and thereby the separation, on the ground, of the Stone-Campbell congregations in Nashville.  Until such evidence comes to light, our conclusions about how and when the full implications and results of the division played itself out on the ground among the various congregations must remain tentative.