Methodism came to Bedford County, according to the best information, in 1808 at what was then known as Salem Camp Grounds. Annual camp meetings were held here as Methodism began to take root in this section,
In 1820 at this camp meeting it is said that thousands of souls were brought to Jesus Christ. Out of this meeting, the Methodist Church in Shelbyville was organized.
The first church erected was a plain frame building on Depot Street where the First Baptist Church now  stands. Worship services were held here until 1830 when the church was destroyed by a cyclone.
The next church was located on what is now North Main Street. The building was of brick and cost the sum of $3,000.00. Here the Methodists met for the next fifty years. On August 19, 1880, this building was sold to the First Christian Church for the sum of $1,500.00. On October 20, 1879, the Methodist church bought a lot on the northwest corner of the Square from Connally F. Trigg for the sum of $800.00. On this lot the present  sanctuary now stands.
The cornerstone of this building was laid in February, 1880. Mr. George W. Moody was the chairman of the building committee and the following were the trustees: Cy Maorman, chairman, D. G. Shappard, C. J. Moody, John W. Ruth, J. W. Haynes, W. M. Bryant, Evander Shappard, and W. R. Haynes.
The first Sunday school was organized in 1845.
The first Missionary Society was organized on August 15, 1846, and was composed of men. It is not known just what happened to this organization. Later a society was organized for women with the following women being active in its promotion: Mrs. Annie Myers, Mrs. Thomas R. Thompson, Sallie Landers, Mrs. Evander Shappard, Mrs. Mollie Haynes, Mrs. Annie Crockett Deery, and Misses Maggie and Fannie Cox.
The organ for the church was bought and installed in 1911.
The need for expansion became desperate and in 1933 the church purchased a lot just east of the sanctuary for the sum of $2,501.00 on which to erect an educational building. After several years, plans were made and the Harry L. Woosley Memorial Annex was completed and dedicated by Bishop Paul B. Kern on August 27, 1950.
The First Methodist Church in Shelbyville has been privileged entertain the Annual Conference in the following years: 1825, 1849, 1868, 1883, 1897, 1920, and 1936.
At the present time , plans are just about complete for the building of a much-needed sanctuary. It is the plan of all that this will be completed early in 1956.
From a small beginning the congregation has grown to 1,140 members . The church school has an enrollment of 840. The Woman's Society of Christian Service has a membership of 230.
Paul F. Lanius, Pastor
"Salem Church and Camp-ground, located on Bell Buckle Creek, Bedford County, Tennessee, about ten miles from Shelbyville, are historic. The first cane was cut on this creek in 1805. Here at an early day was formed an important settlement. As early as 1807 or 1808, the neighborhood was included in the Duck River Circuit. Tradition says that in 1807, the neighbors cut round poles, and erected a meeting house on Mr. Norvell's land, and called it Salem." (Christian Advocate, 1876.)
The Rev. John B. McFerrin said it was built of logs and poles covered with clapboards held in place by weight poles. The men and their families who worshiped in that log church were Townsend Fugitt, Robert Blair, Burrel Featherston, William Peacock, Martin Hancock, Major Sutton, Allen Wallis, the Pearsons, Norvells, Armstrongs, McGrews, Hensleys, Davises, Greens, Kelleys,. Lynches, Sruggs, Marshes, Thomases and many others. It: soon became evident that the congregation had outgrown their little log church. Under the leadership of the Rev. John Brooks and others what was known as Norvell's Camp Ground was established just South of Salem Cemetery. A hewn log church took the place of the original structure. It was here that the Annual Conference held its, session in 1821.
The Salem congregation grew and in time the church was replaced by a frame structure. Material from this building was used in the construction of a house, still standing, known as the "Jacobs' Place." The new church was famous for its great revivals held by such men as Thomas Marks, Fountain Z. Pitts, Joseph Myers, C. C. Mayhew, John R. Thompson, and others. The Rev. A. T. Crawford was the last pastor of Old Salem.
In the year 1875 the congregation moved to the town of Bell Buckle which had grown up around the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad depot one mile from Salem. A large brick church was constructed and continued as the place of worship of the Methodists until the year 1893.
In the meantime, Webb School, was moved from Culleoka to Bell Buckle in 1886. "Old Sawney" Webb, headmaster of the school, was a Methodist and there developed a relationship between Webb School and the Methodist Church which continues to the present. Webb School teachers have provided leadership in the church and many Webb students have been a part of its life.
In 1893 the present church was built under the leadership of the Rev. T. L. Duncan. The membership of Bell Buckle Methodist Church still embraces descendants of families which founded the original church at Old Salem. The lives of many young men of Webb School, who later entered the ministry and other professions, have been influenced by its ministry. The congregation has given one member to the world mission of the church. R. M. Paty, M.D., was sent to China in 1923.
James F. Swiney, Jr., Pastor
The Bethlehem Church, though inactive since 1953, is still a part of the Rich Valley Charge. Its history has roots which can be traced to the year 1865 as a part of Dryden's Chapel, which was located between the present Bethlehem Church and the present Shiloh Church.
In 1890 land was granted by Mrs. Manurva E. Muse for the purpose of building the present Bethlehem Church. In 1894 the church was dedicated. At present there are still twenty-seven members whose membership is still at Bethlehem. There have been two ministers who have come from Bethlehem, Thomas F. Harrison and James Douglas Harrison.
Charles Thaxton, Pastor
The Mount Olivet Methodist Episcopal Church had its beginning in an old building across the road from where the church now stands. The old church was built in 1870.
The new church was built in 1902. The first service was field the first Sunday in May, 1902. The Rev. W. B. Ripitoe was the first pastor of the new church.
Mt. Olivet is a growing church. In the past year there have been twenty additions to the church, making a membership of fifty.
In the year of 1954 there was a W.S.C.S. organized and a M.Y.F. Also the first vacation church school was held with about thirty enrolled. The church now has a very strong church school with Lannie Goodley as church school superintendent. The church is on the Wartrace and Normandy Charge. The Rev. Mitchell Sawyer is pastor.
Jim Morton, Historian
In 1885 Shiloh Methodist Church South was organized in the Wheel community in Bedford County. At time of organization there were twenty-five members. In 1899, almost across the road from the Shiloh Church Ligetts Chapel, a Northern Methodist Church, was built.
In 1943 the Shiloh Church burned and soon after Ligetts Chapel was torn down and on that spot the present Shiloh Church was built at the cost of $3,300. At present there are 154 members. Clura Reeder and Wesley Holden are the two ministers which have come from the Shiloh Church.
Charles Thaxton, Pastor
The first recorded deed to the Wartrace Methodist Church in Bedford County, was dated March 25, 1872, entitled "S. R. Hailey to M. T. Griswood and others." Trustees were M. T. Griswood, T. W. Tarpley, Thomas Hart, N. C. Harris and D. B. Shriver. This first church was a wooden structure, replaced shortly by the present brick church. Two large Sunday school rooms with basement were built in 1925 under the pastorate of J. J. Mabry. In October of 1954, the Allen Educational Annex, realization of the dream of Mr. W. J. Allen was added, comprising four new church school rooms and full sized basement with all modern conveniences.
From this church have gone out the Revs. Charles, Berthel and Carl Parker, sons of the Rev. Silas Parker, for many years a member here.
August of 1954 closed one of the greatest Conference years this church has ever had, with twenty-two additions. The membership is now around two hundred. The Rev. Mitchell Sawyer is now the pastor.
Mrs. M. L. Connell
Dryden Chapel- Shelbyville District, organized unknown, discontinued 1900
Shiloah-Wartrace Circuit-organized unknown, abandoned unknown, property sold and proceeds used in the erection of the Chapel at Beersheba Springs, 1948
Salem- Bedford County- organized 1807, became Norvell's Camp Ground 1818; became Bell Buckle 1875
Salem Camp Ground- Bedford County, organized 1807, results of Camp Meetings
Shelbyville Methodist Church was organized in 1820
All histories of the above churches was taken from History of Methodist Churches and Institutions in Middle Tennessee 1787-1956 by Cullen T. Carter, Editor, The Parthenon Press, Nashville, TN, 1956, Material provided by Jane Hembree Crowley.
Jim Phillips also has a page on his web site with info on the Center Methodist Church located just off US 231 South of Shelbyville, TN. He also has a page about the old Center Cemetery that some may call the Holt Cemetery. There are a few pictures and I have started listing the record of grave stone information found in Tim and Helen Marsh's book.
Susan Knight Gore, archivist for the Historical Foundation of the church has informed us that information on the New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church has been posted on-line.
Note: We will gladly publish information on other churches in the county; just send us the information.
- One hundredth anniversary of the Thompson Creek Baptist Church House, 1889-1989: one hundred and sixty-third anniversary of the formation of Thompson Creek Baptist Church and the Duck River ..., 1989]
- Crouthers, Bill J., New Providence Presbyterian Church minutes of Bedford County, Tennessee, 1826-1860, c 1997.
- Historical summary and church directory of First Baptist Church, Shelbyville, Tennessee from 1843-1928, 1928
- Tennessee, Bedford County, church records : New Hope Lutheran Church, 1805-1836, 1938.
- Records of New Hope Lutheran Church, Bedford County, Tennessee, 1805-1836. May be purchased on CD-ROM as part of the publication "Bedford County, Tennessee, Earliest Marriage and Will Records; Church, Bible, Family, and Tombstone Records" from GSC Associates Historical Records Publications for $14.95 plus $2.50 s/h.