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Bethesda Cumberland Presbyterian Church

On August 12, 1848, the tract of land (6.4) acres known now as Bethesda Cumberland Presbyterian Church was purchased from William A. Denwiddie, for the amount of $22.50, for a worship-school house and public burying ground, the location being Crockett County on the Crockett Mills and Eaton Road. After the land was purchased, a one-room log building was erected on what is now the north side of Bethesda Cemetery.

Bros. James McCaleb and H. N. Rose were two of the early pastors in the 1850’s.

In 1877 a one-room school building was constructed where the church now stands. The first school teacher in this building was Molly Taylor, followed by Mrs. Newell Dunagan McIlwain. The school was conducted here until about 1904. Mr. and Mrs. Odell McCaleb now reside in part of this frame building; it was moved to the farm that was known as the Bob and Kitty McCaleb place. There have been additions made to the building over the years. This approximately 97-year-old landmark is within sight of Bethesda Church.

In the late 1800’s a wood framed church building was erected across the valley near where the church manse is located today. There were nine charter members, Mr. and Mrs. Albert M. Odle, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Hay, Mrs. Rachel Strange, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Cochran, Mr. Jim Harris and Mr. and Mrs. Mit Dunagan. Some of the early pastors were Bro. Jonathan Davis and Bro. John McIlwain.

In 1933 a modern brick building was constructed just south of the frame building, or about in the same place the 1904 school building stood. Bro. Raymond was pastor at that time.

In May of 1951, Sunday School rooms and a fellowship hall were added to the church. Bro. Carl Davis of Gadsden was pastor then. Loraine O. Jackson, Huron H. Hall, Warren White and Clarence Morton were on the building committee.

In July, 1955, another addition was made; classrooms were made of the previous fellowship hall, and a new fellowship hall and kitchen were added.

In 1960 Bro. William Cottrell, now president of Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee, was called as our pastor. In 1961 some land was given to the church from the Dr. Sherwood Byassee estate. Then in 1965 Hautie, Bertha and Effie Harber gave some land near where the manse was constructed.

In 1965, with Bro. L. E. Turner, Jr. as pastor, a new manse was constructed, $5,000 from Mrs. Mary Warren’s estate having been left for this purpose.

In 1966 a new organ and piano were purchased for the church; central heating and cooling were installed in 1967.

On April 28, 1969, Bethesda Cumberland Presbyterian Church voted to become a full-time pastorate, hiring Bro. Ronnie Pittenger as pastor.

In July of 1972 a complete remodeling program was carried out in the sanctuary; new pews, pulpit and lectern were included in this program and the sanctuary was completely carpeted. All of the pews and many other items were donated by families who were connected with the church. The balance of our building debt was paid in 1973.

Today we have approximately 80 people who attend the church, and Bro. Wayne Morgan is the pastor.

Thanksgiving service (with dinner on the ground) was observed during the entire history of the church until 1972.

Homecoming is an annual event, being held the first Sunday in June. Recently a trust fund for the upkeep of the cemetery was established, with $2,000 as a start.

Young men from this church who have become ministers during its history are John McIlwain, George McIlwain, Cleveland McIlwain, Oakley Woodside and O. E. White. All of these are now deceased except for O. E. White, who resides with a daughter in Val Pariso, Indiana.

Former elders of the church, now deceased, include Will Taylor, Jake Harber, J. M. Cochran, Jim Harris, George White, Charlie Smith, B. A. Harber, Fate Tillam, Austin E. Harber, J. A. White, Jerald White, Willie Weatherford, Huron H. Hall, Loraine O. Jackson, Marvin Hendrick and O. M. Bates.

Bethesda Church has been richly blessed. Many, many souls have been saved during the history of the church. We are looking forward to continued growth through Christ our Lord.

This article was contributed, with permission of the Crockett County Historical Society, by Natalie Huntley.

This information was compiled and written by Mrs. Robert Irvin and Mrs. Jerald White, and published in the book Crockett County Courthouse Centennial, 1874 – 1974, prepared by the Crockett County Historical Society.