History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
I can remember during the 1960’s a youth organization within the church known as the Methodist Youth Fellowship or MYF. I wasn’t able to attend much, particularly after I entered high school due to sports participation. I was allowed to play basketball and football as long as I did not neglect my chores on the farm. I was not allowed to play high school baseball because it occurred during the summer when I was expected to work at my Daddy’s sawmill. I believe at that time, the high school baseball was not part of the TSSAA, but was sponsored by the American Legion. Does anyone know what year the baseball team was officially sanctioned by the TSSAA?
However, the MYF was an important part of the Methodist Church, just as it is today. My limited research indicates that youth programs have been a part of the Methodist tradition for many years, but I have been unable to ascertain what year the MYF was officially included in the church discipline within the national organization or the Holston Conference.
At the local level it appears that the MYF was first active at Chapel Hill during the late 1930’s. This information was provided by Glenn Barker with interviews with Flavius Barker and Anna Mae Hartman. I also interviewed my sister Billie Sue Cox. According to this information, the first youth sponsor was Viva Barker who in 1950 married Frank Rogers. Some of the members in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s were Ana Mae Johnson (Hartman), Katherine Mabry (Gann), Sammie Lou Cordell (Flanagan), Billie Sue Cordell (Cox), Mildred Barker (Talley), Sammy Barker, Christine Barker, Leon Stewart, Joe Stewart, Kelly Barker, Earl Barker, Jack May, Dorothy Kay May, Ruth Stewart, June Kelly, Lella Faye Hatfield, Vivian Kell (Hixson), Thaxton Kell, Vera Yonce, Jack Yonce, and Jane Grissom (Weaver) who was the daughter of the High School Principal, and also first cousin to Glenn and Flavius Barker. Jane taught Chemistry at Tullahoma High School and died in 2009. Her husband Max Weaver was Band director for 40 years and died in 2018. My sister Billie Sue said she remembered that Leon Stewart was “sweet” on Jane Grissom. Glenn said that he remembered going with Flavius to pick-up Mildred Barker during 1942-44. Glenn also remembered that after MYF they would buy candy at George Hamilton’s Gas Station. Mr. Hamilton’s store was located at the intersection of Hwy 283 (East Valley Road) and Hwy 127. At that time Hwy 127, which was built in the late 1930’s to Signal Mountain, ended at East Valley Rd. The current Hwy 127 to Dunlap was not available until the early 1950’s. The old road to Dunlap was Herman Hixson Rd across a metal truss bridge, through the ridge and connected to what is now Cordell Lane on the other side of the ridge behind Kelly’s Barker’s old hardware store. During WWII, Mr. Hamilton was drafted and the state bought the gas station as part of the right-of-way for the new Highway 127 to Dunlap.
Glenn attended MYF from 1939-1953 under the leadership of Ms. Viva. The MYF group would also rotate quarterly and met with other churches in the valley. The churches Glenn remembers were Red Hill, Whitwell, Sardis, Sulfur Springs, Dunlap, and Welch Chapel. Ms. Viva Barker Rogers was not only the youth director for probably twenty-five years, she also provided transportation for many of the youth. As a side note, Ms. Viva was also the Supervisor of Instruction for the Sequatchie County Board of Education during this time. At designated times during the school year, Ms. Viva would bring a large film projector and regale us with educational films on subjects such as geography and science. During the era of very limited availability of television, this was quite an adventure for most of the students.
I think Ms. Viva’s tenure as Chapel Hill MYF sponsor can be aptly summarized by Glenn Barker, “I might not have accepted Christ if not for attending Chapel Hill MYF.”
Viva Barker Rogers 1907-2000
Last month’s question: Who built the original wall of Chapel Hill Cemetery next to the highway? Wall constructed during the 1930’s by the Works Project Administration (WPA) founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Henry Hopkins as part of the New Deal program.
Next month’s question: What is the largest denominational faith organization for women?