July 1, 2019, by Susan Harber
Smyrna Presbyterian Church carries the original honored namesake of our town. The appellation was derived as one of the seven churches of Asia rendered from the writings of Apostle John in Revelation. Member Silas Tucker is known as the individual who personally extended a name to the congregation. In the 1850s, the Nashville-Chattanooga Railroad sold lots one mile from the church; and Tucker owned land where the waystation was built. Fortunately, he had naming rights for the beautiful name our town has today.
The Presbyterians first organized in 1800 on Stewarts Creek, while Jefferson community had a congregation called Mt. Pizgah. When the Smyrna Presbyterian Church formed in 1810, William H. Davis donated acreage for the new hand-hewn church; and most members came from Mt. Pizgah. Church historian Joy Leonard states the new church was located on land along Old Jones Mill Road in a grove of trees a mile from Harts Branch that was identified as a ‘blue hole spring feeding into a creek.’ Today, the site can be seen along the Smyrna Greenway in the section linking Sam Ridley and Sam Davis Road. For over 40 years, the brick building reigned supreme as a strong congregation.
In 1820, Reverend Samuel Hodge was the devoted pastor of this active congregation. Early members included families Weakley, Gooch, Keeble, Tucker, Gracey, Lowry, Bradford, Cannon, Davis, Edmondson, Hight, Hill, and Neely. Smyrna was incorporated in 1869, and the town name did not exist when the Presbyterian Church was formed.
Leonard states the church building did not fare well during the Civil War. Federal troops seized the log church building in January of 1863. According to a petition filed by trustees of the church with the Federal Court of Claims in 1904, the furnishings were removed and the building torn down by Federal troops. The materials were used for building winter quarters for the Yankees. In 1905, by declaration of the Court of Claims, the Presbyterian Church at Smyrna was awarded $1,250 from the Federal Government as compensation for the destruction of its building during the war.
In 1867, the church was rebuilt as a brick building, measuring 30×53 feet at a cost of $2,700.
Historical documents exist today from 1867 to present day; yet, no records prior to that date survive, having been destroyed or lost. In 1912, the congregation voted to move into town. The original building on Old Jones Mill Road was never used as a church edifice again. In 1942, the building was acquired for the site of Sewart Air Force Base. When the original building came down, the bricks were obtained by the Sam Davis Memorial Association and used to build the Jane Simmons Davis Tea Home, now called the Creek House.
The last date of regular worship in the old brick building was September 14, 1913. The new church on Maple Street was completed, and the first meeting date was September 21, 1913. During the Sunday morning worship service on March 16, 1924, the new building on Maple Street burned. While Reverend Link was in the pulpit, noises were audible in the loft of the building. A man excitedly entered the church from the street announcing the building was on fire; and all members escaped while heroically rescuing furnishings in hand. In 1925, another brick building was constructed on the same site and served the congregation for 74 years.
In July 1999, due to tremendous growth, the congregation moved to a new, beautiful building on Sam Ridley Parkway. Every resident should one day view the stained glass windows in the church auditorium. The myriad of colors and brilliant texture of glass I saw firsthand on a recent visit was quite exquisite and true works of art. Joy Leonard confirms the windows are pre-Civil War from both the original Maple Street location, as well as the South Trinity Church. We owe great homage to this thriving congregation. Members bravely established a church in our community in 1810 over two hundred years ago. This church has continually graced us with not only good deeds but bestowed our namesake that we proudly call home every single day.