Category Archives: History Leaves of the Methodist Tree

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – April 2020

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
“Grins and Chuckles”
April 2020

     In the early days of the church, before air conditioning, the church in summertime was ventilated by opening the large windows and double entry doors creating a flow of air across the congregation.  In those days of horse drawn buggies and wagons, it wasn’t unusual for the family dog to follow the family to church, and equally not unusual for these four-legged creatures to periodically venture into the church service.  It was accepted practice for those individuals on the back pew to intercept these canine interlopers and prevent their access to the church service, unless quite possibly, the animal was a Methodist.  In today’s church the back benchers are probably not aware of the historical significance of the position they occupy, so if they are criticized for sitting on the back row, now they have an established precedent of responsibility of which they can utilize in their defense.

      At the turn of the century, family transportation to Chapel Hill was either pedestrian, or wagon and carriages.  The first automobile appeared at Chapel Hill about 1909, but this is the exception and not the general mode of travel until about 1925 when the assembly line Model T Ford began selling for 300 dollars.  This allowed more families to take advantage of mechanical horsepower.  In the wintertime, to keep the ladies’ feet warm during the trip to church, bricks or rocks were heated in the fireplace, then wrapped in a blanket and placed into the wagon or buggy.  The church was heated by a large pot-bellied stove located on the left center part of the sanctuary.  In 1953, after the Sunday School wing was added, the church installed an oil furnace with central heating.

     In the pre-automobile era, one of the common accessories utilized by the ladies was the umbrella or parasol (light umbrella).  Not only was the umbrella a protection against the rain, the parasol was an effective shield against the blistering heat of the summer months.  My daddy, born in 1896, regaled this story to me regarding his Grandmother Patience Hatfield Johnson and her parasol.  Patience (Pate) was born in 1846 and died in 1937 at almost 91 years of age, and was the oldest member of Chapel Hill Church and the oldest Methodist in Sequatchie County.  She was a petite, feisty individual, and walked briskly everywhere she went, and always dressed in black to honor her brother who perished during the Civil War.  Today I suspect her 90-year old Great-Granddaughter Anna Mae Johnson Hartman is very similar in physical stature.  Pate was the acknowledged matriarch of the church and held in high esteem by its members as witnessed by a multi-page eulogy I uncovered recently that was delivered by Rev O. C. Wright at her funeral.  She had a proper, determined, and no-nonsense attitude instilled by a life of hardship, joy, and abiding faith in God and church. 

     According to my Daddy, it was a sultry summer Sunday morning, with women arriving at church  many with parasol held aloft.  Grandma Johnson (as addressed by family) arrived late and entered the church.  In those days, prior to 1930, there was not a vestibule connected to the church, so the parishioners entered directly from outside into the sanctuary.  Sister Pate entered a packed church, walked down the aisle, and took her seat reserved on the front pew.  Normally there was nothing unusual about this scenario, except that Sister Pate forgot to lower and fold her parasol when she entered the sanctuary, even after taking her seat.  The congregation was greatly amused by this modern-day Mary Poppins, complete with black parasol.  Finally, a friend sitting behind her tapped her on the shoulder and pointed up.  Later, Grandma told Daddy that when she realized what had happened, she exclaimed, “I was so embarrassed, I could have crawled under the pew!”

     After hearing this story, I have always wondered how the minister, after witnessing this humorous event, could have preached a fire and brimstone sermon?  Quite a challenge!

Last month’s question:  What is the approximate membership of Chapel Hill United Methodist Church? 286

Next month’s question:  True or False?  The Methodist Church has never experienced a split in unity.



History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – March 2020

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell

“Saint of the Wilderness”
March 2020

     In 1974 Author Jess Carr, after many years of research, completed his historical novel about circuit rider Robert Sayers Sheffey of Virginia (1820-1902).  Brother Jared Wood had a copy of this book, and he asked if I would like to read about this particular circuit rider.  It was an enjoyable and enlightened biography of an eccentric individual who rode the backwoods of Virginia, West Virginia and the fringes of Tennessee and North Carolina.  He was not one that could be easily characterized but embodied attributes of many historical figures such as Bishop Francis Ashbury, the non-violent civil rights activism of Martin Luther King, the conservationist John Muir, the human and wildlife concerns of Gandi, and a touch of Mother Teresa.

     Jess Carr’s biography of Robert Sheffey weaves a story of a unique man, in the true meaning of the word, the details of whose life entitle him to the mythical position he holds even today among the people of the South, where so many years ago he traveled his many circuits as an itinerant preacher.  Born in 1820, raised in Virginia, and having spent a part of his early youth in the home of a wealthy Presbyterian uncle and aunt, there was little in his early background to explain his call to the Methodist ministry, his unusual conversion,  and, against all odds, the eventual acceptance of his unorthodoxy by the hierarchy of his adopted church.  And, ultimately, the adoration of an army of followers who came to believe him to be a Divine.

     This book documents Robert Sheffey’s extraordinary gifts of exhortation, the depths of his caring about every single soul in the widespread territory he rode.  The brutal rigorous, self-imposed schedule, as well as the unexplainable psyche and prophetic talents that truly earned him the title “Saint of the Wilderness”.   It’s a detail story of this physically frail, yet incredibly strong man and the demons with which he had to wrestle, his personal deprivations and sorrows and triumphs, the beauty of his love for all living things and his unshakable faith and prayer petitions. 

     He was a man who believed and practiced a total integration with every facet of life, a man who showed a unique appreciation for every gift bestowed by a loving and very personal God.  The tiniest bug and the most gigantic tree were friends who breathed a very special breath and paid a very special tribute of living testimony.  This St. Francis of the wilderness carried his message and lived the example of his life for 63 years after his conversion.  Although the extent of his own travel throughout his life was confined to parts of four states, his spiritual stepchildren still oversee the missionary posts of the world and sit in the highest counsels of government.  He was only one of many who helped shape the real character of American frontier.  No American may with impunity disregard the dynamic influence of the pioneer circuit rider.  No American can disregard Robert Sayer Sheffey as one of the great chiefs among them.  I encourage you to secure a copy of Jess Carr’s book, step back in history, and ride in the saddle with the man who was called the “Saint of the Wilderness.” 


*Compiler’s note:  Book can be bought on-line at for $36.87 or maybe Brother Jared Wood will loan you his copy.

Last month’s question:  A bit of historical trivia in the age of Star Wars.  What was the maiden name of Rev. Bob Power’s wife Carol?  Carol’s maiden name was “Force”.  Bob and Carol have since passed on to receive their reward, “May the force be with them”.

Next month’s question?  What is the approximate membership of Chapel Hill United Methodist Church?



History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – February 2020

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell

February 2020

      When I started this series of historical articles, I ask the congregation that if anyone had a circuit riding preacher in their family tree to let me know and I would attempt to research that individual.  I was given a couple of candidates but they were local preachers who served the church and community when the circuit rider was not available.  Circuit riders served a large number of churches and was impossible for them to attend every church every week.  My great-great-great grandfather was a local preacher in this community but was not a circuit rider.  His son was a local preacher at Henniger’s Chapel but he was not a circuit rider.  A circuit rider was an itinerant (traveling from place to place) preacher who received a small monetary stipend from the conference.  The circuit rider would serve an area that was assigned to him by the conference. 

     For many years my brother-in-law Curtis Smith has conducted extensive genealogical research and discovered recently that he and my wife Sharon’s great-great grandfather was a circuit rider from 1865 until 1897.  His name was Daniel Richardson and this information is from the conference archives of the 1897 Journal of the Holston Annual Conference as follows:   Another of the dear old heroes of the Holston Conference has fallen.  A veteran of sixty-five years. Twenty-nine of which were spent as a loyal, faithful and humble itinerant of the Methodist Episcopal Church, has laid down his armor to take up his crown of rejoicing with the Saints in light.  Rev Daniel Richardson was born near Jacksboro, Campbell County, Tennessee, September 11, 1832.  Professed saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in 1854; was licensed to preach September 27, 1856; joined the Holston Conference at Chattanooga, October 12, 1868, and was ordained a deacon by Bishop Clark the same day.

    His first work was the Lebanon circuit, in Russell County, Virginia, which he traveled two years, and when the Virginia Conference was organized he was transferred to that conference where he remained till 1873 when he was transferred   back to the Holston Conference where he served the following charges:  Sneedville, four years and six months; Rogersville, two years; Newport one year; Hamilton, three years; Dayton, two years; Jasper, three years; Tazewell, one year; Big Valley, three years.  Beginning and ending his work since the transfer to this conference, on the Sneedville circuit, where he was honored and loved by old and young.

    On May 10, 1845, he married Martha Jane Phillips, who shared with him the trials and triumphs of life for nearly forty-five years and then went to heaven to live with the angels, March 1, 1889.  In 1890 he married M. C. Henniger, who was so thoroughly in sympathy with his life work as to be well qualified for a real helpmeet in deed and in truth.  Being a true, loyal Methodist of the pure type, she was prepared for the privations and sacrifices incident to the life of an itinerant Methodist preacher’s wife.  And right royally, faithfully and patiently did she discharge her duties.  Now, without husband, father, mother or children, she weeps in loneliness for departed loved ones and silently waits for the summons to join them in the better world.

    As a preacher Brother Richardson was clear, earnest and forcible; and being full of the old-time fire, he was very acceptable and popular wherever he preached.  The six years of his ministry in Virginia were years of great opposition and persecution; but he often remarked that they were years of great triumphs and victories.  He had la grippe in the winter and never fully recovered.  Early in the spring he gave up his work, came down to his little home near Lone Mountain, Claiborne County, Tennessee, where he lingered until the 30th day of June, 1897.  In the language of his devoted wife, “he died in the fullest triumphs of a living faith.”   It was a real inspiration to hear the grand old warrior speak of his hopes and prospects.  He said, “he told the Lord he would preach as long as he was able, and he kept his part of the contract, and now he was ready for anything the Lord wanted.  Ready to work  ready to depart.”  He was buried near his home with masonic honors.  “Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his.”


*Compilers note:  Reverend Daniel Richardson served in the southern area of Sequatchie Valley from 1884-1886 and I believe he had an indirect connection to this community when he married his second wife who was M. C. Henniger.  I am convinced she was a relative of John Henniger who was a circuit rider in this valley and namesake of Henniger’s Chapel (Chapel Hill).  Additional documentation is needed in this area.


Last month’s question:  Why was the University of Chattanooga Student Center a line item in the 1957 church budget?  Chattanooga University was established in 1886.  In 1889 merged with Tennessee Wesleyan University at Athens under the name of Grant University.  In 1907, University of Chattanooga became the name, and was affiliated with the Methodist Church until 1969 when it became University of Chattanooga (UTC) as part the public Tennessee University system.  Chapel Hill Methodist Church along with other Methodist Churches supported the University of Chattanooga for many years.

Next month’s question:  A bit of historical trivia in the age of Star Wars.   What was the maiden name of Rev. Bob Powers’ wife Carol?





History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – January 2020

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell

January 2020

     This article begins a new year in which one of the mundane duties of the church is the implementation of an operating budget formulated by the budget committee and approved by the administrative board.  The reason for a foray into church finances is that recently I came across a 1956 church bulletin which included the operating budget for the following year.  In 1956 Chapel Hill and Welch Chapel Churches were on a circuit and shared a preacher who at that time was Jacob (Jake) Ramsey.  The budget was adopted by a Joint Official Board for 1957.  I thought it would be interesting to compare this budget to our 2020 budget 63 years apart.  There is no way to exactly compare a joint Welch Chapel/Chapel Hill budget to a Chapel Hill UMC budget of today, but nevertheless it can be an eye-opener.  The following is an excerpt from the 1956 bulletin:


Welch’s Chapel           

      Chapel Church 

Pastor’s Salary                                                                                                 



Ministerial Support



World Service                                                                   



General Administration Fund                                          



School of Theology                                                               



District Fund                                                                        



University of Chattanooga Student Center                   



Minimum Salary                                                                   



Pastor’s Pension                                                                      






The following is a summary of the 2020 budget for Chapel Hill United Methodist Church:

                                                                $208,269.00 (operating budget)

Budget has five (5) main categories: (1) General Church with twenty eight (28) sub-categories, (2) Music Ministry with two (2) sub-categories, (3) Pastoral Expense with eight (8) sub-categories, (4) Conference Fair Share with three (3) sub-categories, and (5) District Askings with three (3) sub-categories.  The Sunday School has a separate budget of $10,000 which is not part of the church budget, and the Church maintains a building fund account.  The Historical Church also has a separate account for maintenance of the building.  The church trustees also maintain a separate cemetery budget managed by Paul Powell.

     It is interesting to note that the church attendance since 1956 has probably increased by approximately a multiplier of 2 while the operating budget has increased by a multiplier of 94.

Last month’s question: What Chapel Hill Minister had an eccentric habit concerning two-dollar bills?  Bob Powers (1985-89) made all of his cash transactions in two-dollar bills.  He would initial each bill and keep track of how many times it came back into his possession.

Next month’s question:  Why was the University of Chattanooga Student Center a line item in the 1957 church budget?


History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – December 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell

“The Deer Hunters”
December 2019

     When I first began this historical series, I asked if anyone had any inspiring or humorous stories that centered around Chapel Hill Church.  I believe this story from Paul Powell demonstrates the light heartiness and humor that God instilled in the human race, and particularly the congregation of Chapel Hill.

     One of the facets of attending church is the fellowship and socialization that occurs before Sunday School, before church, and after church.  At the historical church some of this took place outside under a maple tree at the entrance to the church.  In those days it was also the opportunity for a “smoke” break, and the weather did little to deter this activity.  During the summer months, some of the men would take refuge from the sweltering heat under a great Northern Red Oak.  This giant tree was about thirty feet from the church next to the cemetery.  Its large root structure next to the tree was about a foot above the ground which afforded the smaller boys, like myself, a place to sit and listen to a myriad of conversations covering many topics.  Unfortunately, this tree was struck by lightning and was taken down several years ago.  I would state that this Northern Red Oak was one of the largest in Sequatchie County at that time.

     During the autumn, when crops and fruits are gathered and falling leaves gently make their way to “mother earth”, the younger men would ultimately focus their attention on stories of deer hunting.  In the discourse of a few minutes, many large deer with numerous antler points were harvested under the great tree.  It was in this setting that Paul Powell relates to the following account.

     It was early November in the year of our Lord 1981 or there about, that two young men, Paul Powell and Donnie Kell were outside the church immediately following Sunday School, when they noticed about three or four deer grazing on a mountain slope less than a thousand yards from the church.  Included in this small herd of deer was a huge buck overseeing his domain.  Instantly both men looked at each other with the same inquiring response “what do you think”?  In those days most deer hunters always carried their deer rifles in their pickup trucks, so in this particular case it would facilitate a rapid response to their objective.  But first a couple of decisions had to be made.  Do we leave church to accomplish a task that very well may be unsuccessful, and do we stalk a deer in our dress clothes and Sunday slippers? 

      The preacher at the time was Ray Tumlin, who was a very rotund individual weighing over 400 pounds, and an avid deer hunter himself.  Early on, Paul had shown Brother Ray a number of deer crossings, and the Pastor had killed a deer at every crossing.  However, due to limited mobility, this feat was achieved from the cab of his pick-up truck.  So, the pair of hunters surmised that the good preacher would not be sufficiently offended to their mission to put meat on the table.  Besides, why would the Lord place such a bounty in full view of two fervent hunters?   Donnie was at the time serving in the military as an Army Ranger so was not afforded much time to deer hunt except when he was home on leave, so the decision was made to proceed in full Sunday attire

     As Paul recounts, Donnie circled left around Kell Loop, up Kell Lane to his grandparents homeplace, and exited onto the tree line above the herd of deer.  Paul circled up Powder House Road (currently Randy Allen Road) and was proceeding into the tree line from the south, when he heard two shots reverberating just north of his position.  Donnie had been successful and had bagged an eight pointer.  The two intrepid hunters did a preliminary field dress, then hastily returned to the church just in time for “altar call”; and hopefully absolution. 

     Last month question: What landmark in Sequatchie County is part of the Southeast Tennessee Religious Heritage Trail?  Chapel Hill Historical Church and is identified by a historical maker next to the church.

     Next month’s question:  What Chapel Hill Minister had an eccentric habit concerning two-dollar bills?


     *Note: Anyone with a humorous or inspiring story; let me know and I will be glad to sit down to interview you.  I will take notes and arrange it into an appropriate story subject to your approval.  


History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – September 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny G. Cordell
“Rev. Dr. R. N. Price, first preacher of Henniger’s Chapel”

September 2019

   In 1852 Henniger’s Chapel was built to serve and support the community of northwest Marion County.  The Rev. Richard Nye Price was assigned to the Jasper Circuit in the fall of 1852.  In 1853 this young preacher (age 23) conducted a revival of remarkable scope and power at Henniger’s Chapel.  Individuals and entire families were brought into the church, many would become future religious leaders.

     N. Price was born July 30, 1830, in Elk Garden, Russell County, VA. Son of John Wesley and Mary Miller Price. Educated at Emory and Henry College (1845-1849.   At age 11 he was converted at Lebanon Camp Ground, Washington County, VA.  Admitted in 1850 and located in 1857, but was readmitted in 1858, after which he served without interruption until 1898, when he was located at his own request.  He had been effective 47 years.  He was readmitted in 1900,  His biographer says of him:  “Besides being a local preacher, he served as junior preacher, circuit rider, station pastor, presiding elder, Conference secretary, General Conference delegate, college professor, college president, editor of the Conference organ, chaplain in two wars (thirty years apart) and finally as Conference Historian and author.  In each of these, by all accounts, he acquitted himself with credit, the officer was equal to the office,” “A preacher of ability, and a man of power in the pulpit.”  As editor, contributor to the press, and author of Holston History, he was one of the most prolific writers whom Holston Conference has produced.  He ranks mentally with the best men of his Church.  He was a well -known wit, and lived his life from youth to extreme age without stain or reproach. 

     Dr. Price was a very candid and independent editorial writer.  In 1898 he discussed with critical freedom the action of the Book Committee in the Publishing House Case.  The Committee on Books and Periodicals of Holston Conference said in their report: “The editorial management of the Midland Methodist has not been satisfactory.”  The report was warmly discussed, and various motions to delete the above statement were made.  The report was finally adopted without change.  It is supposed that this action was the occasion of Dr. Price’s request for location.  It would seem that the thing involved was a question as to what constitutes freedom of the press in a paper operated by a Conference.  After Dr. Price’s readmission to the Conference in 1900, there was no abatement of the esteem in which he was held by the Conference.  The Conference made adequate provisions, so that he might devote his time to the writing of the History of Methodism in the Holston Conference.  The work done by Dr. Price in writing this History was a splendid contribution to the history of Holston Conference and of the region which it has served. 

   He married May 8, 1855, Miss Anne Edgewater Vance of Marshall County, N.C.  They had ten children.  One son, Rev. Vance Price, became a Methodist Preacher.  One brother of R. N. Price also became a Methodist Preacher, then Rev. W. H. Price. 

    The greater part of 20 years, were spent in writing the History of Methodism in the Holston Conference and he will probably be longest remembered for the work.  It comprises 5 volumes and covers the entire history of the Conference from 1783 to 1897.  He was appointed Conference Historian in 1901 and continued in that appointment until 1921.  He was superannuated in 1921and so remained until his death in 1923.  Seventy-three years marked the time from his admission into the Conference until his departure.  This is the longest ministerial service in the history of the Holston Conference.  He died in his own home at Morristown, Tennessee on February 7th, 1923 and was buried in Morristown. 


*Compilers’ Note:  I am predisposed to think that this venerable and iconic individual was influenced in his first years of ministry by the people of the community of present-day Chapel Hill which would serve him well throughout his life.

Last month question: Who is the longest serving pianist/organist in Chapel Hill?  Anna Mae Hartman has volunteered and served almost 70 years.

Next month’s question:  What minister of Chapel Hill holds the record for conducting weddings and funerals in the Chapel Hill community and Sequatchie Valley?


History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – October 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell

“A Time of Tribulation 1863-1884”
October 2019

  In the hot August summer of 1863, Federal soldiers destroyed Henniger’s Chapel (Present day Chapel Hill).  The American Civil War had been raging since 1861, and Sequatchie Valley felt the full force of the war beginning in early 1863.  Loyalties and sympathies were closely divided regarding the Union and Confederate governments.  The battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga twice brought large armies from both sides traversing through the Sequatchie Valley to engage in battle, to reinforce existing armies, and also as a major backdoor supply route to Chattanooga.  Since the regular supply chain was not always efficient, soldiers from both armies would raid and pillage the local farms and countryside, taking most of the livestock and grain available.  The local population was reduced to subsistence existence and their young teenage boys were conscripted by both armies.

    The Methodist Episcopal Church was also split into northern and southern factions, and the Holston Conference was also at times unable to provide a circuit riding minister.  However, most communities had a church where local lay leaders could continue the mission of the church.  Since Henniger’s Chapel (Chapel Hill) had been destroyed, this option was not available to this community.  The community was suffering physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The community could have descended into apathy, but in times of great tribulation, Christ will raise up individuals among his people.  In 1864, a young girl was brought under conviction while praying in an apple orchard.  This created quite a stir in the community and eventually led to a great revival also led by three men under the guiding spirit of Christ.  These three men were Josiah Rogers, William D. Deakins, and Stephen D. Thurman.  These three men were mentioned by Dr. R.N. Price in “History of the Holston Conference”.  William D. Deakins was an individual possessed of talents of high order; and when warmed under a good gospel sermon or a prayer meeting, he would seem to be aglow with the power and glory of God, and would almost, it seemed, bring heaven and earth together.  When he arose from his knees, the whole congregation would be in tears, and be in a state of ecstasy.

    Stephen D. Thurman was a man of great conviction and a fervent Christian.  He was also able to move congregations with prayer, but his great talent was bringing the word through his untiring ability to sing his message of Christ’s love.  He is credited with leading many souls to the Savior. That spirit continues today with a current member of Chapel Hill, his great-great granddaughter Lula Bess Hickey.

    Josiah Rogers was the third member of this Christian trio of musketeers.  A remarkable man, he was physically imposing, intellectually impressive, and spiritually a veritable giant.  He was a great shouter, not only in church, but at home, in the fields, and along the roadside.  In times of bereavement, his exulting soul would rise above every cumbering care in rapturous praise to God.

    Under the direction of these three men, the revival began as a prayer meeting in the home of Josiah Rogers.  A great crowd assembled and the meeting continued all night, breaking up after daylight the next morning.  Fifteen young men and young ladies were converted that night.  These three men announced that the meeting would be carried to Liberty Union Church.  The meeting went on for three weeks, resulting in over 200 conversions and accessions.  This prayer meeting revival of 1864 effectively brought the general community’s attention to real religion again and to prepare them for the trying days ahead following a devastating war.  These three laymen, had given the spiritually worn an opportunity to lay hold upon God anew, to lay the groundwork for rebuilding the church in 1884, and to continue to “fight the good fight of faith”.


Sources: Dr. R.N Price “History of Holston Conference” and Mary Thomas Peacock “The Circuit Riders and Those Who Followed”

Last month’s question:  What minister of Chapel Hill holds the record for conducting weddings and funerals?  This record probably belongs to John Alley due to his long tenure at Chapel Hill and family connections in Sequatchie   and Bledsoe Counties.


Next month’s question:  How many conference certified lay speakers are members of Chapel Hill UMC?


History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – August 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
“John Henniger, Builder of Churches”

August 2019

     In 1817 Circuit Rider John Henniger was assigned to the Sequatchie Valley where he served present day Chapel Hill community that was the northern end of Marion County which was also created in 1817.  Before 1807 the Sequatchie Valley was part of Roane County until Bledsoe County was formed that year with Brush Creek as its southern boundary.  The lands south of Brush Creek was generally regarded as the Indians Lands of the Cherokee and were protected by Federal Troops until 1817 when the Cherokee were pressured to cede their lands with the Jackson-McMinn Treaty.  It was against this backdrop that the Reverend John Henniger was assigned his charge.

     John Henniger was born in Virginia in 1784.  He joined the Western Conference in 1807.  He served charges in Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky as well as Tennessee, where he was very popular.  John Henniger was a member of the western, Tennessee, and Holston Conferences without transferring, serving each as it was carved out of the former.  He did his most important work as presiding elder.  In this capacity, he served French Broad, Knoxville, and the Washington Districts.  He was presiding elder of the Washington District from 1830-1834 and again in 1835-1937, where he finished his faithful and brilliant career.  He died December 23, 1838.  His loyal wife had died six days earlier on December 17th.

     The Washington District covered Sequatchie Valley; hence John Henniger was well known and beloved there.  He lived for a few years near Pikeville.   Four of his daughters were married there.  Five of his grandchildren resided in Bledsoe County and one granddaughter lived in Chattanooga.

     The wife of John Henniger was formerly Jane Anderson of Virginia, aunt of Louise Anderson Kirklin.  The Kirklins resided in the house currently occupied by Lynn and Katherine Allen.  Mrs. Kirklin was the daughter of John Anderson, Jr. (who was a brother of Jane Anderson) and Elizabeth McNair Anderson of Bledsoe County, where Mrs. Kirklin was born September 8, 1806.  She was the first child of European descent born in the Sequatchie Valley.  Jane’s brother was Col. Josiah Anderson, a member of Congress; and two of Jane’s great nieces were married to circuit riders, John Alley and Mitchell Swaim.  John Alley was the longest serving minister of Henniger’s Chapel and Chapel Hill until that record was broken by Tom Tucker in 2018. 

     In 1852, the Kirklins donated land for a new church.  Adding to the popularity of John Henniger, these blood ties helped to determine the name of the church fourteen years after his death.

Compilers note:  During my research, I found 4 different spellings of this individual.  Mary Thomas Peacock  “The Circuit Ride and Those  Who Followed” list him as Henninger.  Edna Susong Jackson “Chapel Hill” list him as Henniger, which is the spelling I utilized in this article.  The history of Beth-Car Methodist Church list him in 1814 as John Hennigar, known as “builder of churches”.  However John Henniger is interred in Fort Hill Cemetery in Cleveland, Tennessee where the family name is listed as Henegar.


Next month’s question:  Who is the longest serving pianist/organist in Chapel Hill history?



History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – July 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
2019 July, Part 2

Civil War came to this area in full force in the summer of 1863 when the Union Army invaded the Sequatchie Valley.  This area was utilized as a campground by troops under the command of General Crittenden.  They cooked with fires built on the rock slabs that covered the early graves.  They removed the planks from the church and transported them to Bridgeport to construct barracks.  The remaining log church was burned by accident or on purpose, and the structure smoldered for over a week.  After the defeat of the Union Army at Chickamauga, General Rosecrams was bottled up at Chattanooga where the federal troops were literally starving on a sustenance of one small piece of bread and one ounce of pork a day.  The only supply route was East Valley Road and Anderson Pike which ran by this church.  On October 2nd, Confederate General Joseph Wheeler sweeping down from the northeast on a cavalry raid surprised a union supply train stretching over ten miles, hence this area became the scene of the largest military raid of the Civil War.  A skirmish took place here around this cemetery site, and the soldiers who were killed are buried in this cemetery.  The citizens of this area endured unimaginable hardships as armies of both sides plundered and ravaged the countryside taking all animals and food.  Most of the people survived on a cake like mixture of cornmeal and sorghum.

In 1864 a young girl was praying in her family’s apple orchard when she was converted by the spirit.  When word of this experience spread throughout the community, a great revival broke out, and when it surpass the capacity of the house of Josiah Rogers, the meeting was moved to Liberty Union Presbyterian Church.  It lasted for three weeks resulting in over 200 conversions.  Although several years passed, this event led to the rebuilding of this church in 1884 under the leadership of Holston Conference Rev. Absolom Deakins Stewart.  Since that time approximately 54 ministers have served this church now known as Chapel Hill.  Chapel Hill was on a circuit with Dunlap and Welch Chapel until 1954 when Dunlap became a station.  In 1968 Chapel Hill became a station.

The vestibule was added in 1930’s.  For several years a non-denominational Sunday School was held at the Center Point School building and then they attended church services at Chapel Hill.  However, due to an official ruling that the school house could not be utilized for religious purposes, Chapel Hill agreed to build Sunday School rooms and move Sunday School services to this building with the understanding that the Sunday School would continue to be non-denominational.  This understanding has been adhered to and is still in effect.  In February 1983 a steeple was erected.  In 1984 additional Sunday School rooms and a fellowship hall was added.  And now 167 years later Chapel Hill Church is embarking on a new vision with construction of a family life center and future sanctuary and fellowship hall on the drawing board.  If our ancestors of 1852 and 1884 had not stepped out on faith, I obviously would not be here today in this church.  But, I am here today and our circuit riders heritage and mission are still intact.  Psalms 145:4 states that “One generation shall praise thy works to another and shall declare thy mighty acts.”  One hundred years from now, what will our descendants say or write about us concerning our faith, determination and perseverance?

References: Chapel Hill by Edna Susong Jackson and committee
                    Sequatchie by Leonard Raulston & James Livingood     
                    Military Records & Articles
                    Oral Histories

Last month’s question:  What military training does our current Pastor Jared Wood have?  Jared graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI).  Notable alumni of VMI are General George Marshall (WWII and later Secretary of State and Defense), General George Patton (famed tank commander WWII), and Marine Corps General Lewis “Chesty” Puller (Most decorated Marine in history)

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – June 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
“Brief History of Chapel UMC”
Part 1   June 2019

The history of Chapel Hill cannot be conveyed in five minutes or five hours.  The history of Chapel Hill is not necessarily about a building.  It is about people and events.  It is a story of courage, hardship, separation, faith, grace, sin, and absolution.  It is a love story.  A love story among its people and their creator.  Before any church was built on this site in 1852, Methodism was prevalent in this community for at least 25 years.  The Methodist Circuit riders were fervently preaching the gospel and constantly facing the dangers of man and nature.  In the earliest days Indians were a possible threat along with attacks from wild animals and the ravages of winter.  Circuit riders would sometimes find themselves frozen to their saddles at the end of their destination.  For some circuit riders, the average life span was less than seven years.

Although this area was still Indian land, white settlers were constantly encroaching upon their land.  The Cherokee in this area had sizable holdings with houses, barns, and rented land to the whites or employed sharecroppers.  This ended in 1817 when the Cherokee were pressured to cede this area with the Jackson-McMinn Treaty thus creating the new County of Marion.  The Jasper circuit assigned circuit riders to minister this area.  One of the most important religious and social events was the annual camp meeting.  Since young people had difficulty meeting future marriage prospects that were not close relatives, this annual meeting provided opportunities for young couples to meet and court.  There were camp meetings that lasted several days and led to many future marriages.  My research indicates, but not definitely proven, that the Methodist campground known as “Richland” was located at a spring presently located near the farm of Tommy and Martha Austin or approximately ½ of a mile south of present-day East Valley Baptist Church.

One of the most prominent area circuit riders was John Henniger and in 1852 the first church was erected on this site was called Henniger’s Chapel.  Allen Kirkland donated the land and Norman Mansfield and his son constructed the building.  The first pastor was the Rev. R.N. Price and a great revival was conducted here in 1853.  Large family connections such as Kirklin, Deakins, Stewart, Barker and Anderson were brought almost entirely into the church to join other families such as the Rogers, Johnson, Thurman, Hatfield, and others.  These family connections eventually produced seven ordained ministers, and indirectly from the Stewart Family, one United States Senator.  The first community Sunday School was led by William Rogers who was the first individual to be buried in the cemetery in 1849.  (Headstone replaced in 2018)

In 1855, a plan was devised to create a third county in the valley, aptly named Sequatchie, by taking part of Marion and Bledsoe Counties.  However, the Tennessee Constitution stated that “no part of a county shall be taken off to form a new county or a part thereof, without the consent of a majority of the qualified voters in such part taken off.”  Affected Bledsonians did not agree with the proposal.  At this point Neill Brown, Speaker of the House of Representatives and later Governor of Tennessee, discovered an interesting loophole in the constitutional requirements.  The Constitution made no reference prohibiting taking parts of counties and attaching to existing counties.  Brown enlisted the help of an influential legislator to enact such a plan with the understanding that the new county seat would be named after him.  William Dunlap agreed to this proposal, and on February 25, 1856. A law was enacted attaching the 1st and 2nd civil districts of Marion County and the 10th civil district of Bledsoe County to Hamilton County.  On December 9, 1857, the Tennessee Legislature passed an act creating Sequatchie County by detaching the three aforementioned civil districts from Hamilton County.   Bledsoe County was vehemently opposed and took the matter before the state Supreme Court to disallow the creation of Sequatchie County.  The Civil War interrupted and delayed for many years a hearing on the matter.  After the war the court basically refused to hear the case due to a statute of limitations.  It would seem that Bledsoe County was the victim of a classical “Catch 22”.  This might explain, over the succeeding years, the rivalry between the two counties, especially the athletic teams.  This also explains how the church was located in three different counties from1852 through 1857.

(Part two continued in next article)

Sources and questions available in July article