Our Church History
The Christian Church of Glasgow has always adjusted its house of worship to the advancing times. Faith and fellowship has sufficed in solving all problems and surviving all changes in the 167 years since our founding fathers erected their first structure of primitive logs and puncheon floor to the spacious edifice of brick, glass and steel we gratefully enjoy today.
The earliest documented evidence of our beginning is provided by Mrs. Fred Ganter from her family papers. She has preserved a letter dated May 10, 1831 from Alexander Campbell to her ancestor, George W. Trabue, asking, “Are the reports true concerning your church I have seen in The Chronicle?”
This report probably refers to the Glasgow Baptist Church, established in 1818, of which Elder Trabue was a charter member. Minutes of the Green River Baptist Association reveal that as early as 1830, the Baptists were expelling Reformers who had been swayed by the teachings of Alexander Campbell. In 1831 and 1832, the Association seated the the minority group from the Glasgow Baptist Church indicating that the majority group was in disfavor.
These were the years of unyielding division and separation among the older churches as their members flocked to Campbell. Thus, these recorded facts provide the evidence that 1830 to 1832 were the years that members of other churches, notably the Baptists, united with Campbellism to form the First Christian Church of Glasgow. Prior to that time, first organization meetings were held in the homes. It is also a recorded fact that there was an established church here when Campbell came to meet with them in 1835.
THE LITTLE LOG CHURCH
Somewhere along the Milestones of Time, our early church records and with them memory of our first church were lost. Dr. R.H. Grinstead, the oldest and only historian of our church, wrote of this church in a 1900 article in the Glasgow Times. Elder Grinstead relates: “This first church was located on the corner of Green and Wayne Streets. It was one story and built of varied size logs, both knotty and smooth. A door swung on wooden hinges, both creaky and wheezy. A window faced a pond that extended from Wayne Street to the Odd Fellows Building. It served as both meeting house and school, (as Campbellites were barred from the churches of the sects).
The benches were made of the very softest white oak logs that could be found. They were split, with the soft side up, so that adults and children could sit on them in as much comfort as possible. Legs were attached, but no backs. In school, my feet swung six inches from the puncheon floor. There was the eternal “Mind your books”, as teacher struck the table with a hickory sprout.
On Sundays, every member of every family was present. It was a day recognized primarily to break bread. Preaching was a secondary consideration, since regular pastors were seldom to be had. Watts hymns were used and there were the soul-stirring meetings of Campbell, Creath, Stone, Steel and Mulkey.
This humble church was evidently built for Rev. John Newton Mulkey, son of the founder of Old Mulkey Meeting House in Monroe County about 1830. No deed has been found, but the Eubanks owned practically that whole block at that time. If not torn away, when our adjoining second church was completed, it possibly became the Emmett Williams Wagon and Blacksmith Shop, for the site was sold to Williams in 1878 by Rev. Mulkey, and part of the purchase price was “a good two horse wagon, with spring seat and brake”.
THE BRICK CHURCH
During the Civil War, services were held every Sunday. We stood between battle lines, as sometimes Confederates and sometimes Federal troops occupied the town. Notable ministers of this era included Isaac Reneau, a brilliant speaker who rode horseback from Tennessee to fill appointments once a month. He also established many of the Cumberland County churches. He remained in charge several intervals, but there was only occasional preaching until Rev. Creel located here in 1863. Joseph Callahan had been called as regular pastor in the 1850′s, but his term was cut short by his death here in 1856. A native of Georgia, he had previously served the Franklin, Ky. church.
In 1865, Elder Caleb W. Sewell was called as pastor and organized the second church-sponsored school. It was widely acclaimed as one of the best in the state. Called the Male and Female Academy, it was the first to teach boys and girls together. Subjects included spelling, reading, penmanship, literature, natural and moral science, music, French, Latin and Greek. Unfortunately, in 1866, Rev. Sewell was called to another church and his school quickly declined. His daughter married Charles Weaver, then Mayor of Louisville. she was killed in a wreck of one of the first automobiles placed on the market. This church burned, shortly after it was sold to the Methodists, in 1902.
Ministers serving during the 1880′s and 1890′s were: Wallace Tharpe, ______ Campbell, J.W. Masters, R.H. Crossfield, W.E. Ellis and William Baker who lives in memory as “The Peace Maker”. He was a vital force in making the church whole again, after its division of that era.
Elder W.L. Porter, our second historian, wrote of our second church. Possibly inspired by the visit of Alexander Campbell in 1835, the site adjoined the log church, on Green Street, and was completed in 1837, on a lot donated by James Eubank and his wife. It was about 60 by 40 feet, on a site that rose 15 feet above the street level. There was a front platform, 15 feet wide, with steps extending the width of the church as an approach.
There were two front doors, the right one for men and the left one for women, who seated themselves on their respective sides. The floor was elevated toward the rear, where colored members entered from a door on the north side. The pulpit was centered between the doors, with the cupola and belfry overhead. The bell that hung in the belfry was reserved for the third church and called the faithful to prayer for 120 years.
This building was occupied without a break for 65 years. It had neither baptistry nor instrumental music, but the congregational singing was very superior. The ordinance of Baptism was in the creek at the “Bush” hole (South Fork Creek just south of the bridge on East Main). This writer, together with Col. J.E. Evans and W.E. Taylor were baptised there in the summer of 1858 by Rev. Jesse Smith, an evangelist. There was not always a minister but never was there a cessation of morning worship. Elders B. Mills Crenshaw and George W. Trabue would conduct services consisting of singing and prayer, which also followed administration of The Lords Supper and communion.
THE COLUMBIA AVENUE CHURCH
There were questions that troubled all denominations and our church was no exception. Slavery was the first serious one. Slave owners, after the most wealthy and influential members, were subjected to censorship and disfavor as imposed in church discipline, which involved the question of authority of the Elders. Bitter sentiments rooted in these questions continued among members, after the Civil War and climaxed in 1889 and 1890. About 44 members who favored open trial by the full membership rather than by the Elders, withdrew themselves to establish a second Christian Church in 1891. They bought a lot on Columbia Avenue from Meredith Reynolds, where they built their church, called the Columbia Avenue or Second Christian Church.
In this group, there were many music loving attendants with outstanding talent. They installed a small organ and Dr. L.E. Williams, a brother of their pastor, Lawrence Williams, devoted much time and his fine talent to developing a superior choir that was an added spiritual inspiration to the members. This church soon became as large as its parent church. Its pastors included: William F. Rogers, Charles E. Powell, William E. Stanley (father of former Governor Owsley Stanley), Robert Boatman and Robert Graham Frank.
THE REUNITED CHURCH ON THE SQUARE
The journal of Elder S.T. Purcell, our third historian, relates the changes in religious trends as we approached the 20th century. Both branches of the church were flourishing but the old ties of faith and love were not forgotten, Neither felt quite whole. The respective pastors, Baker and Williams, between whom there was also a deep tie of love and respect, had the needed qualities of leadership under the circumstances. With Baker taking the initiative, they soon succeeded in reuniting the two bodies, almost unanimously.
Official Boards and leaders of both churches met and combined. Agreement was harmoniously reached to sell both churches and build a new one large enough to accommodate the combined membership. The lot on the public square was purchased from George H. Walton in 1900. A disastrous fire that destroyed a third of the square delayed building the better part of that year, but plans were completed.
During the interim of building, services were conducted alternately in the two former churches. When one church could no longer accommodate the swelling membership, the little organ was moved into the courthouse, where they met for a time, and where a great revival was held with J’H.O. Smith as evangelist, his parents having been former members of the old church.
Meanwhile, the Columbia Avenue site had been sold to the Knights of Pythias in 1903 and the Green Street site to the Methodists in 1902. A few years later it burned, and the Methodists rebuilt on the site.
Our fourth historian, Elder W.P. Combs, carried forward the records of our progress on the square. the Building Committee selected included Dr. S.T. Purcell, Chairman, W.P. Coombs, Secretary, W.L. Porter, Joe W. Smith, J.F. Walker, W.C. Turner, Dr. Joe S. Leech, R.L. Paull and L.F. Ganter. A sufficient amount was subscribed to justify letting the contract to L.W. Jones, with Mrs. M.J. Button and W.H. Jones as sureties.
The beautiful stained glass windows were all memorial gifts and were recorded in permanent appreciation.
__ (We are indebted to the family of Mrs. Brice Leech for the use of her pictures of these beautiful windows)
The few members representing the very conservative element who could not reconcile themselves to the liberal movement of the majority, especially regarding music and missions, found spiritual satisfaction in joining the Church of Christ, which represented the conservative wing of Campbellism teachings, and was recognized as a distinct union in Glasgow when they bought from W. Comer the old Methodist church on Main Street opposite the Plaza Theater in 1905. They removed to the old church site on Green Street in 1913, purchased from the Methodists who had completed a new building on their present site.
Movement for the Sunday School Building was started by Rev. Roy H. Biser in 1923 and became the fulfilled goal of Rev. T.H. Alderson who followed him in 1926. Under Alderson, the Vacation Bible School was organized and a report of his entire ministry was placed on file. In 1928, a Church Directory was also started.
Our church was without a constitution or by-laws until 1964, rules having been set up whenever occasion called for them. A committee with J.B. Galloway as chairman, wrote our first constitution and by-laws, and on December 13th of that year, the church adopted it.
The complete list of pastors for the church on the square is as follows: William M. Baker, James E. Payne, Obed W. Darnold, Joseph D. Watters, Phillip F. King, Harvey Baker Smith, W.K. Clemons, Ernest W. Elliott, T. Hassel Bowen, Roy H. Biser, T.H. Alderson, Kenneth McCorkle, T.F. Reavis (Interim), Paul C. Duncan, T.H. Alderson (Interim) and R. Henry Campbell.
THE CHURCH HIGH ON A HILL
It was in May 1945, that a dedicated member dropped a $500.00 check in the collection plate, marked “For building expenses”. At the time, her intent did not extend beyond a fund for any building contingency that might arise. That check was placed in a special building fund and the ensuing 23 years saw us work and give, nourishing that fund beginning until it grew to make this church possible.
Almost eight acres of land were purchased on the north Jackson Highway from Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm McComas on March 30, 1959. Dr. Paul S. York was chairman of the Church Board at that time. It was not until October 2, 1966, on World Wide Communion Day, under the leadership of Gov. Louie B. Nunn, Board Chairman, that ground breaking ceremonies were held, after serious deliberation on the type building the majority wanted and perfection of the plans by architects Dixon Rapp and Edwin A. Keeble, Associates. The Board of Church Extension of The Christian Church was also consulted in an advisory capacity.
Thru all the seasons, work progressed steadily and the next momentous date was “Moving Sunday”, March 31, 1968. Sixty-six steadfast years of worship on the square were concluded after informal farewell talks, Bible School and communion. Then every member joined in gathering up our possessions along with our memories and our faith, to transfer to the new church. Cars of the movers formed an unbroken line extending from the old site to the new, a solemn, tremulous journey.
There, the morning service continued with the door unlocking ceremony. Dr. Rex Hayes, chairman of the Building Committee, presented the keys to Dr. Fred Ganter, chairman of the Board, through the construction and moving days. He then turned them over to Garnet Nance, chairman of the Property Committee, who opened the doors of the sanctuary for members to be seated for the choir singing and sermon.
On the following Palm Sunday, April 7th, the first full service was held, beginning with the choir’s anthem, “Open The Gates of the Temple”. Fifteen new members were received, with baptismal services held for them in the afternoon.
** The above information was taken from a booklet produced in 1968, commemorating the move from the church on the square to the new church on the hill. Information for the booklet was compiled by Mrs. Vivian Rousseau, historian, Mrs. Kate Ganter and Miss Bess Howard. The above text was mildly edited from its original script.**
The church has continued to grow and prosper in its new location. Ministers at the new location have included, R. Henry Campbell, Bert W. Smith and J. Hunter Jones, Bert W. Smith and Steve Barton as Co-Ministers, V. David Cooper, Dr. James McLean and Rev. Petrae McLean.
The Razing of the Church on the Square
A Portion of the “Christ” Window which was refurbished and
placed in the new sanctuary