Beech Cumberland Presbyterian Is Oldest in Hendersonville

Beech Cumberland Presbyterian Is Oldest in Hendersonville

The News-Examiner, Gallatin, Sumner County, TN Special Edition: Celebrating Sumner County's Bicentennial and Tennessee Homecoming '86, "Religion" section, p. 6-C.Saturday, March 29, 1986

Thanks to The News-Examiner for permission to reprint this article!

Note: All spelling, punctuation, and omissions are as they appeared in the article in the newspaper.

There are nearly 50 churches in the immediate Hendersonville area with more being established every year.

The oldest among Hendersonville Churches is Beech Cumberland Presbyterian Church which was formed in 1798.

The first pastor of the Beech Church, William McGee, was sent west from North Carolina as a missionary in the wilderness of Tennessee. He also served as pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church north of Gallatin.

The church is located on the site of one of the old church camp meetings where hundreds of frontiersmen gathered for preaching, praying and socializing in the early 1800's.

Rev. Hugh Kirkpatrick of the Beech Church left an account of one camp meeting on the site of the Beech Church in which there were 500 conversions and 125 additions to the Beech Church. Those who attended camped in a grove of beech trees which stood in front of the present stone building.

In 1828, the Cumberland Presbyterians decided to erect a new building at the camp meeting site. The stone walls were three feet thick and were set in place by laborers who were paid 25-cents a day.

The stone facade withstood two major fires, one in 1940 and another in 1951.

Adjacent to the church is one of the oldest cemeteries in Hendersonville with tombs dating back to the Revolutionary War. Robert Taylor who built the church is buried near the front lawn.

Hendersonville Church of Christ was located for more than 80 years on the corner of Gallatin Road and shivel Drive before moving to its present location on Rockland Road in spring of 1977.

The Church will celebrate a Homecoming and ribbon-cutting on April 6 when a new wing will be opened.

In 1893-on Easter Sunday-a camp meeting was held at the Gallatin Road-Shivel Drive location. There were 18 charter members of the congregation which was known as the Christian Church.

Later in that year, a brick church building was built on the property. Horatio Berry was said to be instrumental in the construction of this building. It was heated by two large coal stoves and lighted by oil lamps.

Between the years of 1917 and 1918, the name of the church was changed to Church of Christ, a result in the division in the Christian Church concerning instrumental music. No instrument of music was used in the worship services of the Church of Christ.

On Ester Sunday of 1923, as the congregation was gathering, a fire broke out between the ceiling and the roof. The building was destroyed except for the brick walls which formed the west side of the building. Members of the congregation saved the pews, chairs, the pulpit, the communion set, and the two lamps that were used on the rostrum.

That same afternoon, the men of the church met in the school building to decide how to finance a new building. James F. Anderson was the spokesman for the meeting.

By summer construction was ready to begin. The church consisted of one large room and contained electric lights.

During World War II, gas rationing made it impossible for people to drive their cars to church. Mont Comer, an elder and benefactor of the church, sent a bus three times a week to pick up members from Walton Ferry Road to the Cumberland River. Sunday night and Wednesday night services were begun.

On Sunday March 6, 1977, members of the congregation walked down Main Street from the old building to the new building on Rockland Road. This building contains an immense sanctuary which can be expanded to seat about 2,500, a gymnasium, classrooms, office and meeting rooms.

Hendersonville Presbyterian Church, surrounded by a cemetery with old-fashioned ornate gravestones, was organized Oct. 9, 1869 in the wake of desolation and destruction from the Civil War.

Records about the church are inconclusive from its inception until the turn of the century, according to Powell Stamper who published a 113-page book about the church in 1975.

There is some evidence that the church property and building were financed by Harry Smith-Miss Sarah Berry, a longtime member of the church, believed that this was so. She also said that she thought the brick had been made on the Smith farm, now Hazel Path.

Hendersonville Methodists, whose church was used by Yankees during the war, were allowed to share the Presbyterian building for a period of time.

It is known that many male members of the early Presbyterian Church were officers in the Confederate army.

Pastors came and went at the Hendersonville church, sometimes dividing their time between more than one congregation.

In 1955 a building program was undertaken at Hendersonville and an addition was built in the rear of the Church which consisted of several rooms.

Hendersonville First Baptist Church was organized on September 17, 1944 by Hendersonvillians and representatives from several Baptist Churches. Harold Gregory of Hendersonville was elected moderator.

Charter members of the church are: Mrs. Sam Beals, Mr. And Mrs. Lee Brown, Mr. And Mrs. Noble Caudill, Mrs. Nancy Dunn, Mr. And Mrs. John Durham, Mr. And Mrs. W. R. Durham, Miss Junie Lee Durham, Mrs. E. E. Ellis, Mrs. J. F. Gentry, Frank Gentry, Mr. And Mrs. Oakley Massey, Mrs. Alberta Stephens Moody, Mrs. Dick Mundy, Mrs. D. L. Roberts, Mrs. Joe Savely, Mrs. J. H. Stephens and Miss Virginia Thopson.

The first annual report of the church, for the year 1945,showed 24 members, 2 baptisms, and 41 average Sunday School attendance.

The Church purchased 10 acres of property at its present site in 1945 from J. H. Pate. Not included in the property was the part of the Shannon property on which the present Sanctuary stands.

Jesse H. Newton was called as pastor early in 1946.

The first building was erected in 1947 of Brecko blocks. It was the basic structure of the present Chapel. At the time it consisted of a small sanctuary with a wing on each side. Partitions were used for Sunday School rooms.

Courtney Wilson became pastor of the church in June of 1958 and remained as pastor until December 1985.

The decade of the sixties was one of phenomenal growth for the Church. During the years from 1961 membership increased by over 100 members each year.

The present Sanctuary was completed in 1966. It is presently under expansion.

In 1968, the Church started a mission which became Bluegrass Baptist Church.

In 1971, the Holiday Heights Mission was constituted into a Baptist Church-making two missions sponsored by the First Church.

A Family Life Center, with classrooms, a gymnasium and indoor track was competed about ten years ago.

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