What a powerful way to understand, through the insights of an art historian, one aspect of the work of archives and archivists…
Among the Churches of Christ recently (within the last 40 or so years) closed in Nashville is the 22nd Avenue Church in North Nashville.
Begun as a mission from Twelfth Avenue, North Church in the early 1920’s, Twenty-Second Avenue was always a rather small congregation and never a wealthy or affluent one.
The earliest record I can find of it in the Nashville city directories is in 1926 when it met at 1609 22nd Ave. North. The 1937 City Directory lists the congregation as meeting at 1626 22nd Avenue North. On 14 October 1932 the building, presumably at 1609, burned. In debt and poor (“our membership is composed mainly of people who have little of this world’s goods…”), they met in private homes and a former automobile repair shop on 21st Avenue until funds were raised to buy the corner lot at 1626 22nd Avenue and Osage Street. Upon it they constructed with donated labor and supplies a small frame meetinghouse. See Gospel Advocate 1933:93.
The photo below is, I assume, of the second building at 1626 22nd Avenue, North:
in 1933 the congregation had three elders, W. T. Phillips, H. V. McCool and A. B. Sweeney, with G. A. Helton serving as Treasurer. They supported, partially, a “Brother Jones” in Metropolis, Illinois and maintained a “small fund for foreign mission work” in addition to local benevolence ministry.
From 1933 to 1979 my trail grows cold.
By 1979 I understand that 22nd Avenue relocated north of the Cumberland River to 3903 Milford Road. Alas! I see from Google Maps that whatever structure existed at 3903 Milford Road, it has very recently seen the business end of a wrecking ball. Milford Road Church of Christ does not appear in the 1983 Where the Saints Meet. A Google search turns up Rose of Sharon Primitive Baptist Church using that address. Yet if Google Maps is any indication, there is no one meeting in any building at 3903 Milford Road today. I may have missed my chance to photograph the Milford Road building by a few months.
Who might have information from 22nd Avenue Church of Christ: bulletins, directories or photographs? Who could fill in any information, at all, in the forty year gap from 1933-1973? Who has a photograph of the first building at 1609 22nd Avenue? Or of the Milford Road structure? Who preached for this congregation? Where did the members go when they disbanded? Are any former members still living?
On 29 June 1964 W. N. Loyd and J. E. Smith, Trustees for the 27th Avenue Church of Christ, transferred property at the corner of 27th and Torbett Street to William E. Davis, Jonas E. Nance, Mrs. Myrtle Seay and Mrs. Novella Horton, trustees of Hosea Temple Cumberland Presbyterian Church, for the sum of ten dollars. Thus closed the final chapter of sixty years of ministry of the New Shops Church of Christ. In February 2013, just before I left for Nashville for Abilene I snapped a couple pics of the Hosea Temple Cumberland Presbyterian Church, home in the long ago to New Shops Church:
On 2 June 1905 Alex Perry (an elder with David Lipscomb at South College Street Christian Church) with William Stackman purchased a corner lot in near-west Nashville from Mr and Mrs. M. B. Pilcher. By June 1905 a small band of members from Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church had met for several months in a vacant store on Stewart Street, on Mrs. Jim Robertson’s front lawn on Clifton Pike and in the J. W. Thomas School.
The lot Perry and Stackman acquired was on the southwest corner of 27th Avenue (then known as Winston Avenue) and Torbett Street. On Thanksgiving Day 1905 several men spent the day working on a building. Dora Wyatt wrote, ‘as soon as there was enough flooring laid to hold a few seats, we moved in and started worshiping in the new building. It was a happy day! After the building was completed, a two weeks’ revival was held by T. B. Larimore.” Thus began the Winston Avenue Church of Christ. Located about a block north of Charlotte Avenue, this neighborhood is north of Centennial Park and two blocks east of present-day I-440/I-40 interchange. Using Charlotte Avenue as a point of reference, remember that West Nashville Christian Church (later renamed Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ) stood at the corner of 46th Avenue and Charlotte, some 20 blocks west. The sponsoring church, Jo Johnston, stood—the building still stands!– at 17th and Jo Johnston, about ten blocks east toward downtown. Here is the Jo Johnston building in 2010, not long vacated by Friendship Missionary Baptist Church:
The focal point of the neighborhood was the railroad repair shops for L&N Railroad built along Charlotte Avenue just north of Centenntial Park. These shops, the ‘new’ shops as opposed to former location near downtown, were a hub of activity. Among the most efficient anywhere, purportedly the most efficient south of the Ohio River, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad shops when opened were valued at $300,000. It appears then, that the constituents of the neighborhood churches, New Shops Church of Christ among them, were the working class whose skilled labor kept a Southern railroad machine humming.
Here are the Shops ca. 1940 from Tennessee State Library Archives online digital photograph and image database. The road cutting from 9 o’clock on your left up to the 12 o’clock position is Charlotte Avenue. To your right past 3 o’clock is Centennial Park. New Shops Church was located just out of sight of the photo in the 11 o’clock position.
The 1908 City Atlas knows of New Shops Church, but identifies it only as ‘Campbellite Ch.”:
I assume the school above (in pink…it was brick) on Torbett is the J. W. Thomas School to which Dora Wyatt refers in her 1939 historical sketch.
New Shops Church first appears in Nashville city directories in 1906. As you can see by browsing the 1908 Atlas, the neighborhood is emerging. There are many vacant lots, presumably having only recently subdivided. The yellow structures indicate wooden or frame buildings. The houses are modest, and they are frame. You will not see many large brick homes in this section of town.
It appears that Jo Johnston Church had her eye on an emerging neighborhood to her west, and got in early with a church plant. Meeting at the southwest corner of Winston and Torbit (notice the spelling variant, Torbit/Torbett) Avenues, they had “no pastor” and met for worship at 11 am. Twenty years later, the city directory lists Sunday services at 11 am and 7:30 pm; in 1926 they do not appear to have a regular minister, which is not surprising as most Churches of Christ even in the city did not regular salaried ministers. Wyatt says that “several years later this [frame] building [pictured above on the atlas] was torn down and the present building erected.” The second building took the place of the first on the same lot. By December 1939 New Shops Church of Christ was a congregation of 250 members. Wyatt mentions several times the work of their Bible school. Evidently this was a significant focus in the earliest years at Winston Avenue. In December 1939 Johnny Goins was in charge of this ministry.
By 1943 Jo Johnston Church, citing a ‘changing neighborhood’ (that is, changing from mostly white to mostly black), sought to liquidate the church property and disband. At that time Friendship Missionary Baptist Church acquired the old Jo Johnston property and met there until just a few years ago. I would like to make contact with someone at Friendship Church to see whether they have any older photos of the building.
My hunch is that just as the neighborhood at 17th and Jo Johnston ‘changed’ so did the area north of New Shops when the shops closed. The Hosea Community Church now occupies the former 27th Avenue Church of Christ building.
Now, who might have any old paper from New Shops Church of Christ? It was known also as Winston Avenue Christian Church or Winston Avenue Church of Christ and later as 27th Avenue Church of Christ. Who might have anything from Jo Johnston Church of Christ; known also as Jo Johnston Avenue Christian Church and earlier as Line Street Christian Church? Who might have an old photograph of either of these houses of worship? Who might have a directory of any of these congregations? When these congregations disbanded, where did the remaining members go?
Their closure is within living memory; the time to preserve what remains, if it can be located, is now.
History of Nashville, Tenn. H. W. Crew, 1890, p. 332. available online here.
Dora Wyatt, “New Shops Church” Gospel Advocate December 7, 1939.
Metro Nashville Property Assessors Office, online records accessed 8 August 2010.
Atlas of the City of Nashville, 1908. accessed 3 February 2013.
Among those evangelists who worked among the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches in Nashville, Tennessee in the 1880’s and early 1890’s was one J. P. Grigg. I would like to learn more about him. Feel free to comment or contact me directly at icekm [at] aol [dot] com
Of all unscriptural names that are
In christian churches, claimed so fair,
‘Gainst them I enter my dissent;
On Christ’s sole name my mind is bent.
The church of Rome and England too,
Are names of men, which once were new;
The highly boasted Baptist name,
And Methodist are all the same.
The Presbyterian, polite,
And Universalist so light;
The honest Quaker, thee and thou,
Are merely names of men, I trow.
Disciple, follower, christian, friend,
For these I equally contend;
With every other scripture sound,
In gospel rule that can be found.
Altho’ these names, I do reject,
Yet those who hold them I respect,
As brethren in the Lord of life;
So live in love and quit the strife.
My fellowship in Christ is bound
To all those souls where love is found
Of every order, sect and name–
in Christ I count them all the same.
A. D. Jones, Memoir of Elder Abner Jones. Boston: William Crosby and Company, 1842, pages 205-206.
These excerpts are from The Annual Catalogue of the G. R. C. College and Business Institution. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1899. No rhyme or reason in my selection here…just some things that caught my attention. I am pleased to see this edition and many others are available online here.
Library. Among the volumes of our Reference Library are the Britannica, Chambers’ and Johnson’s Encyclopedias, Gray’s Anatomy in colored plates, International Dictionary, twelve volumes of Encyclopediac Dictionaries, Gibbons’ Rome, Macaulay’s England, Universal Literature in twenty volumes, Histories; Works on Science, Language, Mathematics; Tunison’s latest Charts and Maps; a library of the leading Magazines, Journal, Educationals, and Dailies for the leisure moments of the students. p. 8
It must be remembered that a school year here means five terms of eight weeks each, with daily recitations in each subject of one hour each; no vacations, no holidays, no “blue Mondays,” as we have school on Saturdays. This gives Mondays for literary and debating societies and preparation of lessons for following day. We work every day in the week. p. 10
We never make a failure in our source in Mathematics, even with the dullest pupils. p. 17
Physiology.–This branch is made attractive by instructive outlines, charts, skeletons, and actual dissection in the class.  Some student is appointed to engage from the butcher an organ to be dissected on the following day, such as the heart, lungs, eye, brain, etc. Special attention given to alcohol and its effects. pp. 17-18
Latin.–In one year our students read Jones’ Latin Lessons and Caesar. Some “professors” deny this. We  are ready to give living witnesses. Four or five classes each term. pp. 18-19
A Question. We are often asked: “For what institution do you prepare your students?” Our answer: “We prepare our students for the Institution of Life.” p. 19
Methods. Our methods in the class room have no superior. The subject, rather than the book, is taught. The subject matter is so thoroughly exhausted that our students are able to make better books than those in general use. The outlines are alone worth the time and money of the student. It is the “how” and “why” that make the successful student, not so much of the “what.” All methods in the schoolroom are strictly Normal. They are the latest and best, the result of many years’ experience of the President in the leading institutions of the land. Teacher, you cannot afford to miss the methods of this College. Some unprincipled men have often stated that Normal teaching is not thorough. The man (?) who makes such assertions is cowardly. He could not be induced to meet a true Normal teacher for public investigation…Many teachers are opposed to Normalism from the fact that it exposes their false and shallow methods of teaching. Many honest people oppose Normal schools simply because they know nothing about it. p. 33
Coeducation. This is a mixed School. Both sexes are admitted, with equal rights and privileges in every respect. It makes school government easy and pleasant. Each sex serves as a check upon the other. Young men become purer and more manly; young ladies, more confident, more self-reliant, more appreciative of their true dignity and worth. That education is incomplete and dwarfed in the extreme which has been secured in a school separate and distinct from either sex. There can be nothing more enobling and refining than the association of ladies and gentlemen under proper restrictions and in the care of responsible instructors. In the schoolroom our students are taught to be sociable, kind, gentle, and courteous to all. No association of ladies and gentle-men will be permitted out of the class room except in company with the Faculty. Boys and girls are born together, play together, grow up together, and must live together; then why not be trained together? Why make the period of education the only time from the cradle to the grave when isolation is necessary? Coeducation is natural, and always succeeds when fairly tested. p. 33-34
Government. Our students govern themselves. All are treated as ladies and gentlemen until thy prove themselves otherwise. They are from the best families in the land. All rude and disorderly students are quietly sent home. The kind, yet firm, discipline of the school never fails to win the most wayward. The domineering, brute force is never resorted to. p. 34
Nonsectarian and undenominational. Our students are from all denominations and those of no religious profession. All students are left perfectly free to attend Sunday school and church where they please. No effort is make in the schoolroom to change the faith of any one. All are left free to think, choose, and act religiously as they wish. Moral restraints are thrown around all, religious intolerance around none. Our methods could not be Normal and sectarian at the same time. We give our many hundred students as evidence to these statements. p. 36
The Bible Department. is open to both gentlemen and ladies who wish to increase their usefulness and knowledge of the word of God. Zealous young men soon become earnest, successful proclaimers of the gospel. This course includes Homiletics, Exegesis, Church History, Grammar, Rhetoric, Latin, and Greek. Young men prepare and preach at least one sermon a week. The Bible, above all books, ought to be studied in our schools. No book is to be compared to it in making man strong mentally, physically, and morally. We owe all to it: civilization, liberty, and prosperity. The Bible is the text-book. The President has immediate charge of this department. p. 37
Text-books. Bring all the books that you may have; you will need them for reference. Wait until you come to purchase others. Arrangements will be made to supply you with such books as you may wish at the least cost possible. You can exchange old books for new ones at small cost. All kinds of good text-books are used. Truth is sifted from error. p. 37
Caution. Owing to the rapid growth, popularity, and wonderful success of the School, a few jealous parties have taken opportunity to circulate various reports with reference to the Institution. To them we have made no reply. All derogatory statements have invariably come from some low, narrow, mean mind, too little for our attention; always from some one who has never been in our School and knows nothing of the Institution or its methods. No matter what you may hear, we say: Come and see for yourselves. If we do not do our part even better than we advertise, your traveling expenses to and from school will be paid by us. Our students are our best recommendations and advertisement. p. 39