My favorite study is the research of olden Rutherford County churches that have stood tall during both triumph and struggle. Today, we will explore the primitive history of two churches that are thriving over a span of nearly two centuries. Science Hill Church of Christ is second to Rock Springs Church of Christ (1804) in longevity. Stewarts Creek Church of Christ originated in 1859 on the eve of the Civil War.
Barton Warren Stone passed through Readyville in 1832 and arrived to the log home of David Barton Hall, baptizing both David and Andrew Carnahan. Hall asked Barton Stone to permit him to baptize his father, Jonathan, that day. Moreover, Stone baptized Hansford Hall, a Baptist preacher.
Members first met in the log house on the farm of David Barton Hall near Pilot Knob on Woodbury Road. Barton Stone preached a first sermon in the log house near a pristine spring. Original organizers were Andrew Carnahan, David Barton Hall and Franklin Hall. During his lifetime, David would spend all day Sunday at the log church talking to and reading Scriptures with anyone who dropped in to study with him.
In the 1830s, the church lay between Liberty Pike (known today as Hall’s Hill Pike) and Woodbury Road near Pilot Knob. The new congregation was off the “stage road” on a 1-acre lot owned by Andrew Carnahan and was named Carnahan Christian Church.
During the Civil War, this log building burned, and a new structure was built several hundred yards west. The building committee included John E. Beasley, William H. Smith, and G.M. Dunn. Carnahan Church was situated on Woodbury Road and utilized for both Science Hill Academy of Learning (1870) and as an active congregation. Portious Puryear, Princeton graduate, was the first principal of the school, overseeing a curriculum of Greek, Latin, calculus and specifically science. He taught at Science Hill School from 1870 to 1887.
Portious served in the Civil War under both Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. He was with Gen. Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 for surrender. His interest in Rutherford County was Margaret Gum, a native of Kittrell, whom he married.
Incredibly, the school/church building burned in 1880, and a new deed was filed in 1889 for a third building. The structure was larger with two stories and also served as a lodge hall. Science Hill had an auditorium with hand-made pews with “wooden boxes available for those who chewed tobacco.” The unison of a school meeting house on a small hill was a new chapter in time and well received.
Some of the early leaders included Batey, Beasley, Carnahan, Dunn, Hall, Kittrell, Wilson and Youree. David Hall and his father, Jonathan, were two of the earliest members of the Christian Church in the area and established the grass-roots congregation. Dr. Joseph Hall was song leader, and his daughter Mary sat nearby giving her father the “correct pitch” to lead the hymns. Mary also listened closely to minister Joe Netherland (1941) and gestured when he made a grammatical error.
Visiting preachers included F.B. Srygley, T.B. Larimore, E.A. Elam and Jesse Sewell. In 1946, Science Hill had a full-time minister, Joe Netherland. He was followed by James Haile and Marion West.
In 1949, Claiborne Harrell deeded 1 acre to the Science Hill church. A new brick-veneer building was constructed with floor joists, rafters and flooring from the old building. By 1959, a new building was erected across from Kittrell High School on the south side of Woodbury Highway. New Sunday School rooms were added in 1959 followed by a new annex. In 1962, the church had an attendance of 160. Many students from David Lipscomb College served the congregation prior to 1960. For 50 years, J.W. Shepherd held meetings every other year. Currently, exciting plans are in place for a new building on John Bragg Highway.
Stewarts Creek Church of Christ
Stewarts Christian Church along Almaville Road organized in 1859 as one of most beautiful sites in the county. On March 2, 1859, just prior to the War Between the States, Robert Cook deeded land to trustees Benjamin Batey, Dr. Leonard Davis, Luckett Davis, R. Peebles and Alfred Ross. The one-room congregation originated in the same building of the Seminary Male and Female Academy. During the Civil War, the structure was a hospital, yet, the congregants continued to meet there.
In 1873, John B. Batey deeded 10 acres for a new church and school. The building had a low wood-shingled roof with a gable on each end. Shuttered windows with small panes were installed as a showcase to the structure.
In 1882, T.B. Larimore held a meeting in the Batey woods, and many were converted. After the meeting, plans were made to erect a building. Nestled in a grove of olden trees, the building was constructed in 1888. Dr. H.J. Warmuth bequeathed the land for the building that was adjacent to the grounds for a school. Mr. Marlin of the Bethel community was in charge of construction with much work contributed by men living in in the neighborhood. The church was wood painted white with gables on the front and back of a high steep roof. The side of the building had six long, narrow arched windows. One entrance door was for women and one for men. Mr. Marlin declared, “The structure is so well-braced and will hold up to a train of cars.” Yet, in 1909, a storm felled many large trees in the adjoining woods and lifted the southeast corner from the foundation while moving the structure several inches.
In the early 1900s, the church was named Stewarts Creek Church of Christ for the nearby Stewarts Creek used for baptism.
Charter members were Atkinson, Batey, Cook, Culbertson, Davis, Dillon, Lawrence, Love, McLaughlin, Peebles, Richardson, Ross, Smith and Warmuth.
Ministers who held meetings included David Lipscomb, E.G. Sewell, T.B. Larimore, J.A. Harding, F.W. Smith, F.B. Srygley, E.A. Elam, C.R. Nichols, and C.M. Pullias. The church originated as mission-minded. David Lipscomb wrote in the “Gospel Advocate” of 1866: “We received $25.00 from Stewarts Creek Church of Christ to help supply needs of suffering brothers and sisters in the South following the Civil War.’ The first wedding at the church was Edna Caldwell and Robert Edmondson of Clarksville. The only double wedding in the church was Effie Batey and Jim Smith and Annie Watt Smith and Jack Gooch Batey.
In 1962, leaders of the congregation included James Batey, Clarence Lawrence, William Peebles, Mitchell and Ellis McGowan, all descendants of original members. The oldest member in the same year was Mary Culbertson.
Science Hill and Stewarts Creek Church of Christ are brimming with olden history that remains as treasured today. Both churches still rise to great heights in the community with charity and goodwill to our fellow man.
Contact Susan Harber at susanharber@hotmail. com.