Category Archives: Son-Shine Newsletter

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?



Annual Conference 2019 Highlights


In her “State of the Church” report, Bishop Dindy Taylor read Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 12 about unity and diversity in the church: “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church”.  She said she had attended meetings in which both progressives and traditionalists felt “deeply hurt” because they believed “the United Methodist Church no longer wanted them to be part of it”.  Despite disagreements between members, the church can still work together to love people, Taylor said.  “That’s Christ’s body.  That’s who we are.  We must never forget that, because God is counting on us”.

In the Lay Leader’s Report, Del Holley said Holston Conference has two paths:  one is a path filled with worry, hand-wringing, and asking ‘What is the future of the church?’” Holley said, “We must avoid that path at all costs for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.”  Instead, he challenged members to “choose the path of devotion, recommit yourself to sharing the good news of God’s love and claim the power of the Holy Spirit that the Kingdom of God may come upon the earth”.

A $9.1 million budget for 2020 was approved.  This is less than the $9.25 million approved for 2019.

The Hands-on Mission Project was valued at $220,131 with all districts exceeding their goals with total 9,042 kits.  Scenic South (home buckets) goal was 400.  Actual received was 1,375.  Change for Children received $61,990.  The Addiction Ministry offering was $129,733.  This will be distributed in grants for new and existing ministries addressing addiction.

Tim Hilton, addiction and recovery expert, shared his personal story of substance abuse, while explaining brain chemisty during addiction and the nature of the disease.  His presentation prepared church members for ministry to help individuals and families struggling with addiction.  Stephannie Strutner, executive director of ASAP of Anderson, said more than five people die of an opioid overdose every day in Holston Conference.  Faith communities are needed to work with other sectors in addressing the epidemic in multiple ways, she said.

The Rev. Betty Furches shared a moving tribute to Hiwassee College, which closed its doors May 10 after 170 years.  The presidents of Emory & Henry College and Tennessee Wesleyan College asked for a “moment of silence” in recognition of Hiwassee College.

There were 33 clergy honored at the Retirement Recognition.

The Service of Ordination, Commissioning, Recognition and Sending Forth featured 5 ordained elders, 8 provisional elders and 1 associate member.

Delegates to the General Conference and to the Jurisdictional Conference were elected to represent Holston.

More details and reports may be found at


June Haman, Lay Member

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 – April 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
April 2019

     Cartwright was considerably older than Abraham Lincoln but in the 1850’s, Peter continued on the fringes of politics, backing Senator Steven Douglas in the election of 1858 in which Douglas prevailed.  But Cartwright’s attitude toward Mr. Lincoln mellowed with age, in 1862, Cartwright visited New York where he spoke before a dinner of New Yorkers unfriendly to the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln: “Once we were opposing candidates for a seat in Congress, and measured up in the ballot-box, I went down in defeat.  But it was defeat by a gentleman and a patriot.  I stand here tonight to commend to you the Christian character, sterling integrity, and far-seeing sagacity of the President of the United States, whose official acts you have, your blind money-madness, so critically assailed tonight.  I am confident he is the man to meet and go forward in this crisis to lead his countrymen amid and through the terrible strife in which we are now engaged.  He is a cool-headed, God fearing, and unselfish love of his country, and knows from the top to the bottom the life and spirit of men both North and South.  When you go from here to your homes tonight, I want you to bear with you the assurance of his neighbor and once political opponent that the country will be safe in his hands.  I wish to have you understand that back of him will stand an unflinching host of Western men, who have no financial ghosts that terrify them and who are destined to rescue this nation from the perils now before us.  We have got the men who have got the right-kind of grit in them out West.  Why stand ye here idle?  My God send patriotic light into your stingy souls.”
     Peter Cartwright’s style of preaching is characterized by William Henry Milburn, a fellow Methodist circuit rider who saw him frequently and claimed him as a friend.  Milburn gives this description of Cartwright’s preaching:  “  A voice which, in his prime, was capable of almost every modulation, the earnest force of homely directness of his speech, and his power over the passions of the human heart, made him an orator to win and command the suffrages and sympathies of a western audience, and ever through the discourse, came, and went, and came and went, a humor that was resistless, now broadening the features into a merry smile, and then softening the heart until tears stood in the eyes of all.  His figures and illustrations were often grand, sometimes fantastical.  Like all natives of a new country, he spoke much in metaphors, and his were borrowed from the magnificent realm in which he lived.  All forms of nature, save those of sounding seas, were familiar to him.  You might hear in a single discourse, the thunder tread of a frightened herd of buffalo as they rushed wildly across the prairie, the crash of a window as it fell smitten by the breath of the tempest, the piercing scream of the wild cat as it scared the midnight forest, the majestic Mississippi as it harmonized the distant East and West.  Thunder and lightning, fire and flood, seemed to be old acquaintances, and he spoke of them with the assured confidence of friendship.  Another of his attributes was the impulse and power to create his own language; and he was best lexicon of western words, phrases, and proverbs, that I have ever met.”

       Peter died at 87, leaving behind an autobiography which has become a classic as much for the exploits it recounts as for the pictures of frontier life.  Cartwright summarizes his life stating “That with all the losses and crosses, labors, and sufferings peculiar to the life of a Methodist traveling preacher, I would take the same track over and over again with the same religion to bear me up rather than be the President of the United States.  I ask your prayers that you remember an old man who has spent life in the service of the church, and I would do it again.”


*Compiler’s Note:  At the completion of this article, I realize that today’s Methodist of settled denominations may not approve of the methods of Peter Cartwright.  However, he possessed the needed qualities to survive the harsh and dangerous world of the American frontier.  The Reverend Cartwright possessed three things: (1) a Bible (2) a horse (3) a gun…and he knew how to use all three.  During his ministry, he baptized 10,000 converts and preached almost 15,000 sermons.

Sources:  (1) Dan Graves, MSL “Colorful Peter Cartwright, Circuit Rider” (2) Rev. Alfred Day, (3) Robert Bray, Illinois Wesleyan University “Beating the Devil: Life and Art in Peter Cartwright’s Autobiography” (4) Leewin Williams and Kenneth Alley:  “The Encyclopedia of Wit, Humor, and Wisdom” (5) The Gilder Lehrman Institute “Mr. Lincoln and Friends”

Question: What pastor instituted the first Christmas Communion at Chapel Hill?  Tom Tucker

Next Month’s Question:  Where did Francis Asbury do most of his readings and rehearsing of his sermons?


History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – March 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
(continued from last month)

March 2019

This encounter with General Jackson would lean one to believe that Preacher Cartwright and General Jackson did not know each other, however in 1814 Cartwright was reportedly a Chaplin in the War of 1812, and present at the Battle of New Orleans.  Before entering the battle, General Jackson called his Chaplin’s together and exhorted them “to preach to the soldiers of the cause and assure them, if they die in battle, they would go straight to heaven.”  Cartwright replied, “General, I can’t quite go that far, but I can say I believe our cause is of God, and that any of them should be killed, God in that last account would give any of them credit for their sacrifices.”  Apparently in the 1818 church encounter, Jackson and Cartwright already knew one another, and imposing their little joke on the “city preacher” and his credulous congregation.

Rowdies often interrupted Peter’s meetings.  When one thug promised to whip him, Peter invited the man to step into the woods with him.  The two started for trees.  Leaping over a fence at the edge of the campground, Peter landed painfully and clutched his side.  The bully shouted that the preacher was going for a dagger and ran away.  Once, on a ferry boat, Cartwright overheard someone denounced him as a “Methodist horse thief” by a man who promised him a good liking should they ever meet.  “Come” said the preacher, making himself known, “I am the man you propose to trash.  Either whip me as you threaten, or quit cursing me, or else I will put you in the river and baptize you in the name of the devil.”  The sinner quailed, and became converted to Methodism under the grip of the compelling Cartwright.

Such events gave him a name.  A story spread that he even confronted legendary river boatman Mike Fink.  Cartwright claims this encounter never happened, but stories kept cropping up in newspapers and books from Georgia, to New York, to Illinois State Journal.  According to the article, Fink appears with his gang and attempts to disrupt one of Cartwright’s meetings in Alton, Illinois.  Cartwright soon grows tired of the rowdies and descends the pulpit in order to “make the devil pray.”  He quickly fells the riverman with a “prodigious punch of his herculean fist,” then pins him by the windpipe until Fink agrees to repeat the Lord’s Prayer after Cartwright, line by line.  Thereafter, the rowdies behave with “exemplary decorum” throughout the remainder of the meeting.  The story was repeated by James B. Finley, another gifted and famous Methodist circuit rider.

Peter Cartwright tells the story of two fashionably dressed sisters that attended one of his meetings in 1804.  Their brothers, who didn’t attend the meeting, but stayed outside, saw their sisters get the jerks.  This greatly disturbed them, and they determined to horse whip Cartwright outside the church.  They said they had seen him take something out of his pocket and give to their sisters and that’s why they got the jerks.  What they didn’t know was Peter Cartwright often carried a tin of peppermints in his pocket and would put one in his mouth before he spoke.  Peter, trying to diffuse the situation, answered them directly.  “I need not deny it,” he said, “Yes, I gave them the jerks and I can give them to you.”  Fear struck the brothers and they ran away yelling at him not to follow them or they would kill him.

Cartwright also demonstrates his humor when he relates a story of a woman in one of his parishes who often annoyed him by going off on a high key.  One day in class meeting, with her soul in ecstatic emotions, she rapturously cried out, “If I had one more feather in the wing of my soul, I would fly away and be with my savior.”  “Stick in the other feather, Lord” interjected Cartwright, “and let her go!”

(To be continued next month)

Sources: Dan Graves, MSL “Colorful Peter Cartwright, Circuit Rider”
                Robert Bray, Illinois Wesleyan University “Beating the Devil: Life and Art in Peter Cartwright’s Autobiography”
                Leewin Williams and Kenneth Alley: “The Encyclopedia of Wit, Humor and Wisdom”


2018 Mission Report

Mission Report for 2018


We added CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) to our mission project list for the first time this year. On January 14th Margie Clemmer spoke about the work of CASA and we collected $702.

Daniel Sukowski talked on February 11th about his upcoming mission trip with Campus Outreach to New Zealand and we collected $3,589 over several Sundays for his trip.

We continue to help the Ark Singers with their church, orphanage, and building fund in Ukraine. The Ark singers visited on March 4th and presented a concert and a visual update of their ministry. Our four quarterly collections this year and the love offering totaled $5,900.

On April 29th Pam Kiper spoke to our congregation about Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to feeding starving children around the world in body, mind and soul. We collected $906. Our church had 35-40 volunteers participating in packing meals at Ewtonville Baptist church on November 2nd and 3rd.

Our Hands-on Mission Project in May, coordinated by Dawn Jones, was to make up home buckets for Zimbabwe. We sent 26 buckets valued at $28 each including shipping – $728.

Delanie Sukowski spoke on May 21st about her upcoming training and gospel sharing experience in the Smokey Mountains this summer with Campus Outreach and we collected $1,103 to help with her expenses.

On June 3rd we collected for the Bishop’s Special Collection $293 (children from South Sudan in refugee camps in Uganda) and Change for Children $293 (needy children from the Holston conference)

The Gideons visited Chapel Hill on June 24th and $590 was given to their ministry.

Our July project was school supplies for Sequatchie County students to support the “Give a Kid a Chance” event coordinated by a group of local agencies. We collected $176 and 85 packs of notebook paper – we sent 300 packs of paper for the event.

Boo and Phylis Hankins, former missionaries from the Houston Conference to South Sudan, spoke at the morning service on Sunday August 26th and we collected $734 for South Sudan.

Many people at our church support the Next Step Resource Center (formerly the Women’s Care Center) by attending their annual banquet in March, sending in personal donations, or participating in the “Walk for Life” in September. Our church had 25-30 youth and adults on the walk.  Debbie Chandler, Director of the center spoke on August 19th at our morning service and $150 was collected.

September 30th brought us a guest speaker for the Hands of Christ, a medical mission in Honduras, run by John and Dr Ana Lamon. Sarah Hathaway gave us an update on the Women’s Clinic that is being built and showed pictures of the work done by the many medical teams that help serve the poor of Honduras. We collected $520.

On Sunday October 21st we collected $2,350 and on Sunday October 26th we collected $365 for UMCOR to help with relief after Hurricane Michael.

Our Local Food Bank, run by the Sequatchie County Fellowship of Churches, was our mission focus for November. Denise Kell came to our morning worship service on November 18th to give us an update on the program and we collected $257 to help fund the continuing work of the food bank. Our church also donated 496 pounds of food this year.

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse – Thanks to the efforts of Ethel Powell, Lynna Griffith and the K-5 group of children, 20 shoe boxes were packed. The value of this donation is $500

The mission project in December involved providing Christmas gifts for 26 local needy children. Dawn Jones passed out names and collected the gifts. This was the largest number of children we have helped.

We continued our support of the Holston Home with $3,475 collected from 5th Sunday offerings and Sunday School Funds.

The Benevolence Fund is a special fund administered by our pastor to help families and individuals with emergencies. This past year $2,812 was dispersed.



Each year we hold a craft and bake sale at the October Men’s Barbecue to raise funds to finance mission activities.  We dispersed mission funds to be recognized as a Holston Conference Five-Star Mission Church. To be eligible, a church has to pay its fair share in full, which Chapel Hill pays from general church funds, and:

  1. Give to at least one International Advance (we sent Maria Humbane in Zimbabwe $150 and Helen Roberts-Evans in Liberia $150)
  2. Give to at least one U.S. Advance (we sent the Appalachian Service Project $150)
  3. Give to at least one UMCOR Advance (we sent $500 to UMCOR Disaster Response in U.S. to help after hurricanes Florence and Michael)
  4. Give to at least one Conference Advance (we sent Fred and Libby Dearing in South Sudan $500, Camp Lookout $150 and the Bethlehem Center $150)

The total for our Five-Star giving was $1,750.

We were also able to send $1000 to the Hands of Christ and $250 to Feed My Starving Children from our craft/bake sale funds. A total of $3000 has been dispersed from our craft/bake sale mission funds this year!

Thanks to the generosity of everyone at Chapel Hill our mission outreach for 2018 was approximately $28,443 and many volunteer hours of service. This dollar total does not include individual contributions to the Next Step Resource Center, food donations to the food bank or the cost of Christmas gifts for needy children.


History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – February 2019

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
“The Lords Plowman”
February 2019

          During my time reading and researching Methodist circuit riders, one of the most colorful preachers was Peter Cartwright.  He was physically imposing, his face wrinkled and tough, his eyes small and twinkling, and his hair looks as if he had poked it into a bag of kilkenny cats, and had not had time to comb it.  He rode circuits in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, in a ministry that spans over fifty years.  Born in Virginia in 1785, just two years after the ending of the Revolution War, he was taken west to Kentucky.  There he became a tough guy in rough Logan County known as “Rogue’s Harbor” because of its swarms of badmen.  His Methodist mother pleaded and prayed for him.  Her prayers won.  In a camp meeting, sixteen-year old Peter was convicted of his sinfulness and need for a savior.  For hours he cried out to God for forgiveness until finally the peace of Christ flooded his soul.  At once he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Within two years he was a traveling preacher, bringing the gospel to the backwoods of the new nation.  His rough past and hardy constitution served him well, for he faced floods, thieves, hunger and disease, meeting every challenge head on. 

          Crowds flocked to hear him.  Peter preached to host of men and women, three hours at a stretch, several times a week.  Women wept and strong men trembled.  Thousands came to Christ in meetings that sometimes ran day and night, adding them to the church.  He urged new converts to build meeting houses.  To meet a desperate need for preachers, he championed the creation of Methodist colleges.  Wherever he went he left behind religious books and tracts to convert and strengthen souls.  The joy of soul winning compensated him for all his hardships.  Hardships were many, several times Peter went days without food.  Once he returned from his circuit with just six borrowed cents in his pocket.  His father had to re-outfit him with clothes, saddle, and horse before he could ride again.  Traveling preachers were paid thirty to fifty dollars a year.  Nonetheless, Peter married and raised children.  Once when his family was forced to camp in the open one night, they were startled awake when a tree snapped in two.  Peter flung up his arms to deflect the falling timber, but unfortunately it crushed his youngest daughter to death.  In 1823 Peter sold his Kentucky farm.  He feared his daughters would marry slave owners.  Slavery, he felt, sapped independence of spirit, his family readily agreed to the change, and his bishop appointed him to a circuit in Illinois.  In Illinois, Peter braved floods, where once he had to chase his saddle bags which were swept downstream.   In every circumstance, the Lord brought him to safety.  In Illinois he ran for a seat in state legislative against Abraham Lincoln, beating him, but later Lincoln beat him in a race for U.S. Congress.

             Cartwright, unlike the preachers of settled denominations, possessed the needed qualities to survive the harsh and dangerous world of American frontier wilderness.  The circuit rider had to fight and preach, oftentimes dealing with ruffians, rowdies, and disrupters who attended their meetings.

             Once Peter, warned General Andrew Jackson that he would be condemned to Hell just as quickly as any man if he did not repent.  Another preacher apologized for Peter’s bluntness.  Jackson retorted that Christ’s ministers ought to love everyone and fear no mortal man, adding that he wished he had a few thousand officers like Peter.  (to be continued next month)


  1. Dan Graves, MSL “Colorful Peter Cartwright, Circuit Rider”
  2. Alfred Day



History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – November 2018

Compiled by Johnny Cordell
November 2018
(Continued from last month)

After Sunday dinner, the remainder of the day was invariably reserved for visitation.  Daddy would never do any work on Sunday except for normal farm chores, or unless the Biblical Donkey was in the ditch.  As I alluded to previously, Daddy enjoyed stimulating conversation and gospel music.  If there was “a singing” at another church on Sunday afternoon or evening, we would most likely be counted among those present.  Daddy sang in a quartet when he was a young man, and they traveled about the countryside whenever they could.  One time he said, “we even went all the way to Spring City”.  I guess in the 1920’s that was a considerable distance.

     Our visitations were normally confined to immediate family and sometimes cousins.  Family being Aunt Beulah and Uncle Hugh Mabry, Aunt Janie Hartman brood, Uncle Frank Cordell, Aunt Bessie Easterly, Momma’s brother George Smith and Aunt Ruth.  Aunt Ruth was also Daddy’s first cousin.  There are others too numerous to list, but we rarely missed our Hartman cousins when they were having dinner and music on Signal Mountain.  Earl Hartman, who sang many a solo at Chapel Hill Church was a product of those family musical productions, as well as Norma Narramore, who was one of the best piano players to ever tickle the ivories.  She played for many years at the Chapel Hill Homecoming Church Service each 3rd Sunday in May.

     The Sunday morning that we would have the circuit church service was rather normal for most of my friends and myself.  We would sit in the pews away from our parents when possible and pass notes to each other or surreptitiously play tic-tac-toe.  I enjoyed music, so I remember the old hymns such as, “The Solid Rock”, “Blessed Assurance”, “What can Wash Away My Sins”, “Into the Garden”, “Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb”, “Bringing in the Sheaves”, “The Sweetest Name I Know”, “Just Over in the Gloryland”, “Near the Cross”, “Take Time to be Holy”, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”, “We’re Marching to Zion”, and many more including Christmas and Easter songs.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about the content of the sermons, but that was probably normal for a pre-teen boy except on a couple occasions.  In those days the basement of the church was used to house the oil burning furnace and to collect whatever was not needed upstairs.  There was not a stairway to the basement, only an entrance on the south side of the building.  It was not locked, but that was not unusual since no door in the church was ever locked.  Since there was a ten or fifteen minute break between Sunday School and Church, a friend and I decided to spend our time in the basement during the church service.  Since we had not been under direct parental supervision for several Sundays, we felt we would not be detected, besides there were a lot of kids, so who would miss two of the flock.  We didn’t worry about the other children telling on us, because the code of “no tattling” was quite prevalent.  So, for a couple of those Sundays we pretended the church was a ship and we became stowaways within its hold.  We sat on an old short pew that had been discarded several years before.  The pew was located under a heating air ventilation opening, and we could hear plainly every word of the preacher’s sermon.   We listened intently so if questioned about not possibly being topside, we could quote scripture and verse.  During this time my mate (sailor slang) had a pen knife, so we scratched our initials on the pew so someday posterity would know of our great adventure.  I think my friend’s mother became suspicious, or we felt guilty, I don’t know, but it seems we were absorbing more from the ventilation duct than we were from the pews in the sanctuary.  However, I did pay more attention to the sermons after that, so maybe God does move in a mysterious way?

     Several years ago I discovered the old short pew in the small building next to the cemetery, and yes, it had the outlines of two sets of initials.  I will be refinishing the old pew and it will occupy a place in our mountain home.  And no, the initials will not be removed, and yes, God does move in mysterious ways!  Postscript:  My friend is still attending Chapel Hill Church, but I will not reveal his identity.  My advice to him is that Brother Jared is always receiving confessionals.


Last month’s question:  How many times has the original Chapel Hill Cemetery been enlarged? 
Four times – 1905, 1935, 1956, 1996


Next month’s question:  In 1952 Chapel Hill celebrated its centennial and Col. Creed F. Bates assisted in the church service.  What was his historical connection to Chapel Hill Church?

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – March 2018

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
Reminiscing of a Chapel Hill Youth

     I do not really remember my first time of attendance at Chapel Hill Church since I was a very small child.  My mother was of the Church of God faith and she did not attend church at Chapel Hill except on special occasions when the children were involved in programs.  She attended Fredonia Church of God when she could, but it was not very often, so my Dad was the one who brought us to church.  My mother was a God fearing individual and always made sure we were dressed and ready for church.  My first Sunday School Teacher was Miss Louise Johnson who taught us the familiar children’s Bible stories.  She was a dear saint of an individual who cared about her students outside of the Sunday School room.  As we became older and more rambunctious, we moved to Ms. Claudia Rogers’ Sunday School class.  Ms. Claudia was an active person, full of life, and not opposed to good natured humor and fun.  She drove a station wagon and always brought a load of kids from Dunlap to church.  Ms. Claudia started a yearly trip to Lake Winnepesaukah for her class, which later morphed until a large transit bus and basically allowing any child in town to participate.  In those days a lot of children had never encountered anything like Lake Winnie.  The rides were a nickel and you could eat a good meal for less than a quarter, so you could have a lot of cheap entertainment for a dollar.  The favorite ride was the “boat chute” which went through a dark tunnel, hooked to a pulley system and hoisted to a high point above the water and released down a steep track to impact onto the lake amid squeals and laughter as one usually got wet.  There was a rumor, that in the past a person had been bitten by a water moccasin snake in the tunnel, so there was no problem with everyone keeping their hands in the boat.  For some of the older boys, it was probably their first life experience opportunity, while in the tunnel, to strategically place their arm around the shoulder of a member of the opposite gender.  I think the trip was an event that everyone looked forward to each year.  I assume Ms. Claudia and possibly other adults in the church paid for the bus, but even a dollar was difficult to obtain as spending money. 

     I remember that during the year I would collect empty coke bottles and redeem them at Wade Swanger’s Store for a penny a piece.  Sometimes I would spend the night with Uncle Frank Cordell and he would pay me a dollar to mow his yard.  I think because I worked for the money, I enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity for a day of jocularity and frivolous fun.  Also, I remember one year, for the March of Dimes, we walked from Dunlap to the Hamilton County line.  You have to realize that in those days, you might encounter two or three cars as we ascended the mountain on Highway 127.  For safety reasons and traffic density, you would not be able to do that today. 

     We have had some excellent Sunday School teachers who have provided outside activities over the years, but Ms. Claudia was my first teacher at that age level, and I appreciated the time, effort, and money that she contributed.  We, the boys, were a handful and personally I do not think I would have tolerated some of our antics and behavior that she had to endure. Ms. Claudia is no longer with us, but I’m sure if there are any raucous rowdy angels in Heaven, she has it well under control. 

Last month’s question:  Volunteers from this community (Sequatchie Valley) served in West Tennessee Units during the War of 1812.  Why were they not assigned to the East Tennessee Units?  In 1812 all territory West of Knoxville was considered the West.  There was no Middle Tennessee geographic region at that time.  Andrew Jackson of Tennessee was considered the first president to be elected from the Western United States.  

Next month’s question:  What year did Chapel Hill Church organize a youth baseball team?


History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – October 2017

History Leaves of the Methodist Tree

Compiled by Johnny Cordell


Camp Meetings and Circuit Riders: Did you know?

             In most camp meetings, the focal point of the gathering was receiving Communion.  The circuit rider often over saw the preparations of the site for the camp meetings.  A site previously used could be “reclaimed” in a single day, and he would direct volunteers in clearing away fallen branches and making any needed repairs to the plank seats.  Preparing a new site, however, took three or four days.  Many camp meetings lasted six days or even nine days.  Eventually, four days became the fixed number, with meetings beginning on Friday afternoon or evening and continuing until Monday noon.  One saying was “The good people go to camp meetings Friday and backsliders Saturday, rowdies Saturday night, and gentlemen and lady sinners Sunday.”  Many people at the early camp meetings displayed unusual physical manifestations:  fainting, rolling, laughing, running, singing, dancing, and jerking (a spasmodic twitching of the entire body), where they hopped with head, limbs, and trunk shaking “as if they must… asunder.”

          Camp meetings were one of the few opportunities for young people to meet future spouses since everyone they knew in the immediate community were relatives.  At some camp meetings, watchmen carrying long white sticks patrolled the meeting grounds each evening to stop any inappropriate conduct.  Enemies of camp meetings sneered that “more souls were begot than saved.”  After several days of courting at the camp meetings, many couples were married after the meeting concluded, or soon thereafter.

Experience taught circuit riders that “Christians enjoy those meetings most which cost them the greatest sacrifice.”  A fifty-mile journey was “a pretty sure pledge of a profitable meeting.”  An observer describing the preaching of James Mc Gready, an early leader of camp meetings, said “He would so describe Heaven, that you would almost see its glories…he would also describe hell and its horrors before the wicked, that they would tremble and quake, imaging a lake of fire and brimstone yearning to overwhelm them.”  Defending camp meetings, James B. Finley said, “Much may be  said  about camp meetings, but, take them all in  all, for practical exhibition of religion, for unbounded hospitality to strangers, for unfeigned and fervent spirituality, give me a country camp meeting against the world.”

           Methodist Francis Asbury (1745-1816) became one of the best know circuit riders in America.  Letters addressed “Bishop Asbury, United States of America were promptly delivered.  Plagued by illness all of his life, he continued to visit circuits even when he had to be tied to the saddle to remain upright.”  The early American Methodists asked four questions:

  1. Is this man truly converted?
  2. Does he know and keep our rules?
  3. Can he preach acceptably?
  4. Has he a horse?

          Methodist circuit riders were also book distributors.  Their commission on sales provided some of them the only cash they ever saw.  This helped spread Bibles, hymnbooks, and other religious material throughout the frontier.  Peter Cartwright, long time circuit rider, was twice elected to the Illinois legislature.  His one defeat was in a congressional race when he lost to a lanky opponent by the name of Abraham Lincoln. Beef or venison jerky was the circuit riders staple food because it would not spoil easily.  Riding a circuit was demanding on those who undertook this grueling ministry – half died before reaching age 33.  Yet many ministers thrived on the rigors of the circuit.

          Peter Cartwright likely held the record for endurance:  he enjoyed 71 years as an itinerant.  A circuit rider was to take good care of his horse.  The First Discipline of the Methodist Church said “Be merciful to your Beast.  Not only ride moderately, but see with your own eyes that your horse is rubbed and fed.”  When Francis Asbury came to the colonies in 1771, there were only 600 American Methodists.  When he died 45 years later, there were 200,000 American Methodists, largely because of camp meetings and circuit riders.

Source:  Timothy K. Beougher “Christianity Today, Issue #45”

Last month’s question:  What Methodist Civil War General helped to establish a well-known college within the Holston Conference following the War?   College was named after a U.S President located in East Tennessee.  Answer: Major General Oliver Otis Howard, who was known as the “Christian General.”  He lost an arm in battle in 1862, yet he continued to command and lead troops until the end of the war.  Helped to establish Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.  Compiler’s Note:  If you ever occasion to be in the vicinity of LMU, I would recommend to visit the Lincoln Museum located on campus which houses memorabilia and history of the Lincoln Era.

Next month’s question? What are the two oldest Methodist Churches in the Sequatchie Valley?