September/October 2019, Froe Chips , by Susan Harber
The Church of Christ in Rutherford County has a primitive genesis that is engaging to study. Two churches that caught my eye immersed in the authentic chronicles of an olden chapter of time include Christiana and Mars Hill Church of Christ.
To begin, Christiana was referred to as a ‘village’ in its inception as a community and was developed along a railroad line in the southeast corner
of the county. In traditional lore, twins Christy and Anna would stand
by the tracks waving, smiling and befriending the railroad crew, who
adopted the regional name.
The rural congregation was initially identified as Union Church (1859-1878) in Jordan’s Valley. In 1859, William and Susan Speer deeded one acre of land for a Christian Church that stood until 1878.
During the Civil War, the congregation, where Tolbert Fanning ministered, assembled in a brick building near the corner of Highway 231. The church survived the horrors of war as intact in our county only to be struck by lightning and burn to the ground. A bullet-ridden lectern was saved from this building and utilized for decades to come.
After the church burned, members migrated to Fosterville and Mars Hill to worship until 1900. From 1900-1903, several women assembled to worship in the home of Mrs. Pollard Runnels (Christiana Hotel). They later met faithfully in the Christiana Schoolhouse.
Members in 1900 included Cassie Miller Newman, Lottie Bratton, Isaac Lamb, Sarah Granville Miller and Benjamin Batey.
Christiana Christian Church met from 1903-1908 at Hermitage Academy. In 1907, A.J. Brandon sold a lot for $65 to the Church of Christ, and excitement was brimming.
A new building was constructed from 1908-1909. The original members were John and Hygiene Love, Mary Kate Love Smotherman, Thomas and Kate Batey Gilbert, Pollard Runnels, Jim Alford, Nannie Alford, Wesley
Rucker, and Mr. J.E. Young. Ministers H. Leo Boles and John Dunn held dynamic tent meetings just prior to construction of the meeting house.
In 1943, the exterior was covered with brick siding, and a concrete porch was added. Four Sunday School rooms were added, as well as a baptistery, in 1952.
Three of the early evangelists in the 20th century church were E.A. Elam, C.M. Pullias and George W. Dehoff.
In 1943, the exterior was covered with brick siding, and a concrete porch was added. Four Sunday School rooms were added, as well as a baptistery, in 1952. Three of the early evangelists in the 20th century church were E.A. Elam, C.M. Pullias and George W. Dehoff.
By 1962, the congregation had 75 members on record, and Weyman Meadows was the minister. The first elders were W.J. Miller, Clifford Brothers, R.E. Young and Frank Robinson. Longstanding families within this church include Burris, Kelton, Alexander, Neely, Gilbert, Beachboard, Biggers and Beasley.
Christiana Church of Christ prospered over time, while respecting their deep heritage and history.
A second congregation, Mars Hill Church of Christ, carries an equally outstanding presence in the heritage of our county and stands today at 1135 Rucker Road. The congregants met in a frame building in Christiana near the river on a Rucker Lane lot donated by Welcome Mankin. In 1852, he deeded three acres for Union Hill Academy (1852-1890); and Mars Hill Christian Church convened for worship in this school. The three original organizers of the church were Mankin, Ben Batey, and Mitchell Nelson. Members serving in the first building included Frances Batey Huddleston, Newton Miller, A.J. Newman, Jim Gowins, J.E. Halliburton and T.R. Freeman, Sr.
David Lipscomb, Knowles Shaw, and E.G. Sewell were present for the dedication service, while Lipscomb delivered the main message. Lipscomb recited from memory the books of the Bible during his delivery. Yet, Shaw interrupted Lipscomb in good humor at the end to point out that Lipscomb had failed to mention Psalms in his recitation.
Mrs. L.E. Dunn worshipped at Mars Hill and was the mother of five Dunn brothers, all of whom preached. John E. Dunn, oldest son, delivered his first sermon at Mars Hill.
In 1923, the congregation sold its building and moved near the Rucker community. The one-acre lot was purchased for $150 and is the present site of the church. Stone embedded by the arched entrance reads ‘1880-1923.’ The primordial building had carbide lights and a coal furnace. This structure had two classrooms added to each side of the church from 1960-1962. John M. Young Jr was minister in 1962. Mars Hill Church of Christ was one of the first rural church buildings constructed of brick.
C.M. Pullias preached the dedication sermon in the new building. John E. Dunn and C.W. Wiser offered the first sermons. Further, Charles Taylor ministered to large assemblies in his sojourn there. Several key visiting evangelists holding meetings in the earliest days included David Lipscomb, E.A. Elam, Granville Lipscomb, John Dunn, and Eugene Clevenger. Some families of long membership include Burchett, Young, Duggin, Comer, Davidson, Arnette, McAdams, Moore and Elam.
Both Christiana and Mars Hill Church of Christ have thrived for 150 years with immense goodwill to community and fellow man. Their impact on our county church history is quite extraordinary and respected in an everlasting manner.