Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church History

Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church History
Sept. 12, 1870 - June 30, 1993

Contributed by Edith Martin Young
Typed by Danene Vincent
Copyright, ©1999

Mt. Vernon Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized in 1870 by the congregation that had previously met at Brush Fork Meeting House. Brushy Fork is a northern branch of Bledsoe Creek, and the church by that name served the community from as early as 1842 until the time it burned in 1869. It had been both a church and a schoolhouse. The site was on the farm now owned by Mrs. Wheeler Perry.

When this congregation decided to build a new church, they went up the hill and purchased land "on the ridge" from Mrs. Mary West Durham and her children. The deed is dated 12 September, 1870, and was made to the following Trustees: James C. Minnis, Pastor, Thomas M. Hunter, Sr., Andrew W. Hunter, Isaac M. Ashlock, and Thomas J. Moncrief. In this deed, the Durham family cemetery was reserved and the Church cemetery now surrounds it.

Thomas M. Hunter, Sr. lived at the headwaters of the north branch of Brushy Fork Creek. In addition to being a farmer, Thomas Hunter was the community shoemaker. Andrew Hunter was his brother and Isaac Ashlock and Thomas Moncrief lived nearby. Ashlock was a furniture maker who later became a preacher. He was married to a sister of the Hunter brothers and Moncrief was a son-in-law of Thomas M. Hunter. Therefore, Mr. Tom Hunter, grandson of the Trustee, was surely correct when he would say annually at Decoration Day, that "the Hunters were the cornerstones of the Mt. Vernon Church."

There are others known to be charter members, James W. and Kathrine Simpson West, who died in 1860, were members of Brush Fork and their three daughters went to school in that building. They were Amanda, who later married Smith Pond, Sarah Anne (Sally) who never married, and Emily Jane, who married Rodney Durham. The Ponds had three children who were lifelong members, Luther, Leslie, and Helen Pond Perry. Cemetery markers record the names Dorris, Equels, Escue, Holmes, Martin, Perry, Reddick, Simpson, Sloan, Thornton, Troutt, Thomerson, and Wallace from the nineteenth century.

There are the pastors who have served at Mt. Vernon, going back to about 1870: W.W. Lynch, W.F. Springer, J.R. Williams, M.F. Rippy, J.W. Rooker, J.O. Ray, J.J. Pitts, J.G. Rice, W.H. Baird, J.A. Allison, G.M. Saunders, W.T. Hart, A.G. Ewing, G.W. Taylor, J.W. Paris, J.D. Hewgley, W.T.S. Cook, J. T. Parsons, J.T. Brown, E.F. Hudgens, John W. Kelly, and possibly Haskel Henry, J.F. Swiney, J.E. Thomas, S.M. Ensor, H.H. Parsons, Floyd Blankenship, C.F. Belew, J.E. Trotter, M.H. Napier, W.D. Owen, Louie Abrams, and E.T. Miller. The Church has been served in recent years by Dr. G.W. Gatlin, Kenneth Street, Mark Menees, Charles T. Wallace, and Russell E. Lindsay. (This portion of the history was written in June 1984 while Rev. Russ Lindsay was pastor.)

The present building replaced a one-room church and was built in 1912. "Uncle" Charlie Hinton sawed the lumber in his mill. The church records from 1910-14 show Levi Moncrief, James A. Moncrief, Gid Moncrief, Dave Hunter, and J.W. Hunter, sons of the original trustees, serving as Church officers, along with Matt Brown, Chris Hodges, J.W. Bradley, R. Yancy Holmes, and Luther Pond.

John S. Henley was the pastor in 1917 and performed the marriage of Leslie W. Pond and Maggie Bell. We are indebted to Theta Ray Pond Womack, their daughter, for this history. She was baptized as an infant by W.T.S. Cook in 1920.

John W. Kelly, who served several years until 1929 has credit for beginning the custom of Memorial Homecoming around 1923. Families came to clear the brush and weeds from their ancestral grave sites on Saturday in May and to place home grown flowers on the graves. A Cemetery Association was formed to improve the care of the grounds since many grave sites were cleared very poorly, if at all. Before long, the observance was moved to Sunday with dinner on the grounds. During the afternoon the program included lengthy speeches recounting the history of the church and featuring Uncle Tom Hunter for many years.

J.E. Thomas, S.M. Ensor, E.R. McCord, and others served as pastors into the thirties. It was in 1925, however, that a tragic event occurred which remains in the memories of many members to this day.

On March 18, 1925, a tornado ripped through middle Tennessee and part of southern Kentucky. It touched down briefly in the Mt. Vernon community and took the lived of 25 or 26 people along with extensive damage to rural property. It happened just about at dusk and neighbors quickly began the search for the dead and injured. Dr. Wright from Bethpage sought out Leslie and Luther Pond and others and as many lanterns as possible. Dr. Walden of Oak Grove joined the search. "Uncle" Tom Perry found little Leona Hodges, who is still a member, lodges under fallen tree roots folded in a feather bed and about to smother. Her parents and two sisters, one still an infant, did not survive.

The workers carried all the dead to one house and the injured to another. Since nearly all in the community were kin, no family was unaffected by the loss of loved ones. When the funerals were held, six or seven caskets lined the church from one wall to the other.

During the early twenties, many people still came to church in a buggy. The "Cap" Hunter family had a surrey without a top and Ernest Hunter had a fancy "surrey with the fringe on top." Erma Simpson, who is active in the Church today, remembers seeing an automobile for the first time in 1913. It belonged to Esco Hinton and when he courted Maude Bradley, he had to leave the car at the home of her grandfather, Dave Hunter, and walk up the impassable road to the Bradley home. Dave had short, gray-streaked whiskers.

Levi Moncrief always sat nearest the stove and went to sleep during the sermon. He owned a huge orchard and sold apples, also giving away many to neighbor's children. He made cider and vinegar.

Mt. Vernon was never known as a "shouting" church, but it seems that Mrs. "Donie" Hunter took to shouting one time when one of her grandchildren was converted during a revival. Mrs. Ellen Hunter was a jolly fat woman, who always wore a black skirt, blouse and bonnet to church. Her husband was affectionately called "Uncle Miller" by everyone. He had long, white Santa Claus whiskers, and lived to be nearly 96. For many years he could not hear well and positioned himself in a chair near the preacher and choir, facing the congregation. His favorite hymn was "There if Glory In My Soul" and when the choir would sing this number, Mrs. Gertie Martin, the director, would step down and shout into his ear, "We are going to sing your song." Perhaps he heard some of it. Every Decoration Day he would ask everyone to come up and shake hands with him, saying that he might not be there the next year. "Uncle Miller" was a beloved patriarch and inspiration to all.

Maggie Brizendine, Jessie Vene Thornton and Lesker Hunter are remembered as being organists. During the twenties and early thirties, Mrs. Katie Gilliam taught the ladies' Sunday School class, Mrs. Gertie Martin taught the children, and Luther Pond taught the men's class. Mrs. Gilliam knew the Bible thoroughly and taught with a kind of glow about her face. She taught the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, to the Missionary Society over a period of five years.

Few people went anywhere at night, and revival services were scheduled from 11:00 A.M. daily. Both the pastor and the guest preacher would be entertained somewhere for dinner and this was usually arranged by Mrs. Gertie Martin. During the rest of the year, the preacher was accustomed to going home with a family for dinner on Sundays.

There has never been a parsonage near the Mt. Vernon Church and at times, the pastor came from the Fairfield Charge and at others, from the Bethpage Charge. At the present time, the church is part of the Bethpage, Mt. Vernon and Leath's Chapel Charge.

Recent improvements to the Church include upholstered pews in 1983 and indoor plumbing in 1982. Rain water accumulated in a huge tank behind the church was used to supply the pipes but a new well was bug in 1984.

The present membership of 44 includes the following who are descended from the original trustees: Erma Simpson, Eva Mai Dobbs, Leola Hodges, Annie L. Rippy, Bertha Kirkham, Jule Simpson, Mary Ann Perry, Garland Hunter, Joan Sherron, Leon Kirkham, Lesbia Summerlin, Grndy (sic) Haynes, Billy Simpson, and perhaps others.

The congregation gratefully remembers the dedicated service of those who have served many years in responsible positions. Sunday School Appreciation Day was observed on December 4, 1972, when it was noted that Mrs. Mary Ann Perry, who began playing the piano for Sunday School at age 8 years. Prior to that, Edith Martin Young was the pianist. Mrs. Erma Simpson taught the Adult class for 44 years and Mrs. Annie L. Rippy, children's teacher for a like period of time, made a total of 125 years of service. Just shortly before that, Robert Reddick completed his 34th year as Church School Superintendent.

The oldest living members as of 1984 are "Uncle" Alvie Martin and Flossie Bradley. Mrs. Flossie became a member on July 17, 1908, along with 18 others. Alvie Martin helped build the present church in 1912 and has been a member since August 27, 1916. Zela Key, who is also living in Gallatin, became a member at the same time. Others who have been members for over 50 years are Eva Mai Dobbs, Era Keen, Erma Simpson (1920), Inez Freeland (1921), Bertha Kirkham and Annie L. Rippy (1922), Artice Martin and Robert Reddick (1926), Janice Reddick (1929), Maggie Pond (1914), Gertrude Lee (1922), Leona Hodges (1929), (Not all have been in continuous membership at Mt. Vernon since first becoming members.)

There are many others who have served the Church faithfully and well but time, money and space do not permit telling all their stories here.

(s) Russell E. Lindsay, Pastor
June 1, 1984

Continued History of Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church, as written by Mrs. Erma Simpson, June 30, 1993.

On Sunday morning, July 26, 1987, the Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church burned to the ground. Nothing was saved but our spirits to rebuild as soon as possible. (note: the Communion Service was spared because Mrs. Lucille Perry had taken it home to wash it after the last Communion.)

It was such a shock to the members and the entire community as word spread about the fire. Some of the members went on the Bethpage UMC for services that morning while others remained "on the hill" or at home still in shock. Several area churches offered their facilities for our immediate use but the decision was made to meet and worship with Bethpage Church while rebuilding.

At noon the day of the fire, Bob Perry went to his office and wrote a letter to be sent to past members, friends, people with loved ones buried at Mt. Vernon and anyone else he could think of who would want to help rebuild the Church. The letter read as follows:

    To: Members and Friends of Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church and Cemetery

    As you probably know, at approximately 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, July 26th, the Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church burned completely to the ground. Nothing was saved, and to date, the cause has been undetermined.

    For seventy-five years, the building has served the community well. Mt. Vernon Church has served as a focal point of inspiration for over one hundred years. In the recent few years, we have all been so proud of what all of you, our members and friends have made possible with the renovation we have undergone. At the date the Church burned, stakes were in place for a new fellowship hall and kitchen facility.

    Although over the years, many of us have wandered away, we have always considered Mt. Vernon to be our place for inspiration and home coming.

    Now, our immediate goal is to build our Church back as soon as possible!!! For this endeavor, we ask your help. We need your contributions, large or small. If you wish to place your donation toward a specific object, such as a new piano, new pews, or just to the general rebuilding fund, it will be greatly appreciated.

    We know all of you wish to see the Church built back for future generations. It is a thing of great community pride and inspirational value to the community and Sumner County as well as a great part of our county history.

    Thanks in advance for your contributions, and may God bless you.

    Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church

    (s) Garland Hunter, Chairman
    Building Committee

From this letter, we received thousands of dollars from many states and from area churches, friends of members and good Christian people.

We met of Tuesday night, July 28th on the Church grounds, almost in the ashes, and started plans to build our new Church. Garland Hunter was made chairman of the building committee and all the members of the Church made up that building committee. Rev. Paul Trammel was our pastor and he said that night, "we hope we can be in our new building by Christmas."

The new Church was built to look as much like the old one as possible. There had been plans for expanding the old building so a basement with kitchen facilities was added as well as two bathrooms and a steeple. There were donations of building materials and volunteers helped as much as possible by cleaning up and there were "work" parties. Several members, in addition to Garland Hunter, were on site daily doing whatever was needed.

To the surprise of everyone, the Church was completed and dedicated December 20, 1987. It was dedicated by Bishop Ernest Newman, Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. Others present for the dedication were Dr. Tom Cloyd, District Superintendent, Paul Trammel, Pastor, and guests from Gallatin and the surrounding area.

Our next pastor was Charles Corey who came in June 1988 and stayed until his retirement in 1992. He suffered serious heart problems just months prior to his planned retirement date and we relied on Elijah McGee, District Superintendent, to supply pastors for our services. Rev. Corey recovered and Bethpage-Mt. Vernon Charge gave him and his wife a retirement reception in June, 1992. He still visits us from time to time and keeps in touch.

On January 12, 1990, Garland Hunter passed away and it was a great loss to our Church. He was so faithful in getting the building as near perfect as he could. On April 22, 1990, the basement of Mt. Vernon Church was dedicated in memory of and named the Garland Hunter Fellowship Hall. It is used by the entire community for family reunions, wedding receptions, birthday celebrations, as well as Church socials and dinners.

Our present pastor is Erwin Gaines who came in June, 1992. We appreciate the spiritual leadership and the musical talent he and his family bring to our congregation. Rev. Gaines and a laymember, Jerry Wilson, were a part of the Volunteers in Missions trip this summer to Dominica, through the Tennessee Conference. Also, Rev. Gaines has been instrumental in Bethpage and Mt. Vernon United Churches printing our first ever Church pictorial directory which we plan to have completed this fall.

We have lost several of our members and would like to remember then, Joan Sherron, Bertha Kirkham, Leola Hodges, Willie and Allie Hunter, Bob Perry, Mrs. Flossie Bradley, Alvie Martin, and possibly others.

We also have new members for whom we are thankful. God has blessed and we pray He will continue to bless Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church, "on the hill."

Note: This history is being compiled in its entirety for the present membership of Mt. Vernon UMC to go along with the pictorial directory. We hope it will give our new members and prospective members a "feeling" for the past in this community and will bring memories of times past to those who have been around awhile.

Leon Kirkham
Chairman of Administrative Board

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