(Madison County, Tennessee)

By Jonathan K. T. Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1993.


(Page 18)

            It will be remembered that western Tennessee or the Western District as it would be called for generations, was a large hunting domain of the Chickasaw Indians and it was only in October of 1818 that these Indians ceded this territory to the United States and Tennessee. In 1820 the Western District was opened for actual settlement; beginning in the year previously, a steady trickle of pioneers began to enter and "settle" in scattered areas of Madison County which was located in the heartland of the District.

            Madison County was created by the Tennessee legislature in November of 1821 and the county was organized late that year in the office of Adam Rankin Alexander, principal surveyor of the 10th Surveyor's District, which included the central and western sections of the new county; the eastern area fell within the 9th Surveyor's District. Alexander's office was located in what is presently the West Tennessee-University of Tennessee Agricultural Station, now within the corporation limits of Jackson. The county seat was permanently located early in 1822 in the present downtown section of this city. It was called, this new village, Alexandria but was officially renamed JACKSON by legislative act in August of the same year.[1]

            It was only then and in the ensuing few years that major designated roads were laid out in "all" directions from Jackson. It was also only by 1823 that the settlers in what became the Claybrook vicinity had designated roads over which to travel, to attend county/public business, market their farm goods and for general purposes.

            Ministers of the Protestant churches, principally the Methodists, Baptists and Cumberland Presbyterians visited in the small settlements, preaching as opportunity allowed.



            Major Ezekial Brownlee Mason, an early surveyor of Madison County and one of its foremost citizens would write, "The first camp meeting held west of /the/ Tennessee River was held on the lands of Morgan Howlett in the northeast corner of Madison County. The Cumberland Presbyterians and Methodists unified and came with their wagons and tent cloths and pitched their tents in the forest and worshipped the God who made them and rejoiced together as brethren and sisters who loved the Lord that had placed them in a new and prosperous country."[2]

            This camp-meeting ground was soon named the BETHLEHEM CAMPGROUND, for the little log meetinghouse built in the woods adjoining the campground in northeast Madison County, its location shown on the map given on page 19.

            It was near the Howlett land but deed records would suggest that the meetinghouse and campground were on the Weir land. An announcement was published in THE JACKSON GAZETTE, August 6, 1825, noting that there would be a campmeeting to be held "at Bethlehem Meeting House in the neighborhood of Hugh Weir's, on the 4th Sabbath of the present month, by the Reverend J. W. Hall, to commence on Friday previous. Some clergymen, both of the Cumberland Presbyterian and Methodist denominations have been invited to attend


(Page 19)

Image "clayb-17.jpg" is missing

Shown above is a contemporary map of NORTHEASTERN Madison County , Tennessee. This area is depicted as being divided into three sections of range 2 in the Surveyor's District 9, created in 1819. Land Grants refer to these distinct points of locality. The old Bethlehem Campground is here placed where the surveyors, Keeton Jones and E. B. Mason, would have it on their 1842 map, for which see James H. Hanna's 1993 "Maps of Madison County, Tennessee Historical and Genealogical,"page 4. (The entire right portion of the above map represents the boundary between Madison and Henderson counties.)

and assist us on that occasion"; signed by clerk of the session, James A. McLeary, who lived 13 miles northeast of Jackson on the old stage road, according to the SOUTHERN STATESMAN, Jackson, May 28, 1831.

            Hence, there was already an organized congregation of Cumberland Presbyterians, with its own meetinghouse, at this locality by the summer of 1825. For years to come, campmeetings were held some time in late summer at Bethlehem. People would come together at such times to hear preaching, to sing and to socialize. "The annual camp meetings came to be looked upon as great social events and many a family organized their farm tasks so that they could make the yearly trek to the old campgrounds."[3]

            In selecting a site for a campground, "Aside from its aesthetic appeal, the chosen site had to provide drinking water, dry ground, shade, pasturage for the horses and timber for tent poles and firewood."[4]

            A general description of the arrangement of campground facilities was furnished by an early preacher, Jesse Lee, "The land is cleared . . . to hold as many tents as will be erected, we then have the front of the tents on a line on each side and a-each end. Back of the tents we have a place cleared for the carriages to stand . . . so that every tent may have a carriage belonging to it in a convenient position. Just back of the carriages we have the horses tied and fed. Before the tents we generally have the fires for cooking and to help in giving light at night to see who are walking about. . . ."[5]

            "The main physical feature of any camp meeting landscape . . . was the pulpit. Once a site was cleared, this was set up at one or both ends of the natural amphitheater, facing the parallel rows of seats. These stands were supplemented by fallen logs or wagon beds, from which ministers spellbound groups of listeners. . . . The platforms were commodious enough to hold not only the speaker but also the several exhorters and ministers who were awaiting their turns to speak."[6] Blacks were permitted to set up their own camps behind or otherwise near the general encampment.

              Gifted orators among the clergy could make these meetings memorable for worshippers who attended to listen, to learn, to be inspired, to be emotionally-spiritually cleansed. On the other hands, there were charlatans among the ministry, dingbats and hatemongers who tried to exploit the emotions of the crowds. Sometimes rowdies attempted to break up meetings and to intimidate preachers and layfolk.


(Page 20)

            It would be cynically amiss to deprecate the old-time camp-meetings as backwoods nonsense. Despite the shortcomings that are inevitable with all human endeavors, so it was with the camp-meeting. The best of these religious gatherings were great blessings to the persons who attended them.

Image "clayb-18.jpg" is missing

(From an old-time camp-meeting manual dated 1854.)


            The Bethlehem meetinghouse was built on a long, narrow tableland, surrounded by the virgin forest; beside it was a cleared area set aside for a graveyard. On the slopes that rose from bottoms (close to creeks) on three of four sides of this tableland, people would camp among other persons.

            There were sufficient numbers of Cumberland Presbyterians in the Western District that a new Presbytery was created, from the Nashville Presbytery, known as HOPEWELL, on October 19, 1824. The first Hopewell Presbytery convened at Bethel meetinghouse in Carroll County, April 19, 1825. Bethlehem was still too small and insufficently organized to merit representation at this presbytery. However, it was so represented at the October 1826 presbytery and on subsequent such occasions. John Barnett was an early and constant delegate to the presbyteries from Bethlehem.[7] It was one of the most active congregations in the Forked Deer Circuit.

            In 1846 this congregation fell within the Madison Presbytery, West Tennessee Synod. (Since 1988, the area presbyteries, i.e., Hopewell, Madison, Obion, etc. have been within the Synod Great Rivers.)

            The early records of Bethlehem were burned but the congregation kept the "even tenor of its way" throughout the antebellum period. The congregation was governed in church matters through its Ruling Elders, whom the members elected. The Pastor and Ruling Elders met as needed as a Session. The Session appointed delegates to the presbyteries; employed pastors, negotiated all manner of relevant business.

            One of the favorite ministers late in this period who frequently preached was the Reverend WILLIAM MUNROE DUNAWAY (January 24, 1811-August 22, 1872), a native of Lancaster County, Virginia who migrated to Middle Tennessee and from there, in 1835, to western Tennessee. A gregarious, attractive personality, Dunaway preached with notable success in several circuits of the Western District. He became a deeply-committed Mason (and was at the time of his death, the Grand Master of the Masonic fraternity in Tennessee). His occasional ministry to the Bethlehem congregation continued during and after the Civil War. He resided in Jackson towards the close of his life and died soon after being elected mayor of this growing city.[8]

Image "clayb-19.jpg" is missing

The Rev. W. M. Dunaway


            Having fallen in membership, due to deaths and movings-away, Bethlehem was a shadow of its former self when the congregation was rejuvenated through several families in the Claybrook area. The Pearsons, father and sons, William


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and Jonathan Dudley and John Solomon Pearson, donated to the trustees of the Madison Presbytery, "in the consideration of the love we have in the cause of religion and this church and of education, " conveyed a parcel of land which was "a part of our homestead bought of R. W. Hall in the 13th civil district" on the Jackson-Lexington Road and near the land of E. M. Betts; this, on November 2, 1870.[8]

            Evander M. Betts, clerk of the session (local congregation), wrote on the first page of the new session-book (September 14, 1872): [10}

Image "clayb-20.jpg" is missing

            At this location a small frame meetinghouse was soon erected wherein religious services were held on sabbaths and school was held at different times throughout the year. The Madison Presbytery met in the new house, April 8, 1871. Among the ministers of this period were John H. Day, James D. Lewis and W. W. Estill. Parson Dunaway preached often at Bethlehem during 1871-1872.

            The Session, at its September 17, 1881 meeting, named E. M. Betts, B. A. Fitzgerald and J. D. Pearson as current trustees of Bethlehem, in place of Robert Rogers and other former trustees, to sell the old meetinghouse grounds. However, nothing came of this and years later, November 22, 1903 the Session provided that J. R. McCallum try to dispose properly of the old church property. It was another decade before the seventeen acres, comprising the old church, campground and graveyard were sold to Floyd Sykes, for $100, on May 6, 1913; the trustees, David L. Key, James C. Pearson, Sebon W. Pearson, J. R. McCallum and W. Lester Pearson were particular to note that this transaction "includes and excludes the Bethlehem graveyard and road to said graveyard."[11]

            As early as October of 1883 the congregation considered the purchase of a parsonage or land on which one could be built. Again, there was prolonged indecision. On October 1, 1904 a parsonage lot was purchased from W. G. and Nancy Ella Green, about two acres;[12] it lay to the north, directly across the Jackson-Lexington Road, from the Bethlehem Church. Upon this lot a small, comfortably arranged parsonage was built. By the early 1930s the congregation felt that it could no longer afford a full-time pastor. The parsonage was then rented out.


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            Among the members of the congregation late in the last century and for years afterwards were Lowrance, Fitzgerald, Betts, Elam, Sykes, Wallace, Grant, Nix, Hallford, Crossnoe, Eubank, McCallum, Laws, Oliver, Wilson, Hutcherson and Olive.

            There was no clear-cut date when this congregation ceased to be known as Bethlehem and became known as the Claybrook C. P. Church. This process, though subtle, was an accomplished fact for years before the First World War.

            Early in 1917 the old meetinghouse was demolished and a lovely frame house was erected over its site. The Reverend S. F. Lovett was pastor at the time; he preached two Sundays each month. Sunday School was held each Sabbath. The Ladies Missionary and Aid Society did its "good work for the church." An anonymous member of the church wrote from Claybrook, March 22, 1917 in a letter published in "The Cumberland Presbyterian,"[13] "We are rebuilding our church at this place. In fact, the old church has been torn down and preparatory work is now being done for a larger and more up-to-date house of worship. In this connection, it might be interesting to some Cumberland Presbyterians for me to give some /history/ of this historic old church - Claybrook congregation was originally Bethlehem, commonly called old Bethlehem. The exact date of the old Bethlehem organization is not known as the records were burned but we have strong traditional evidence showing that it was organized in 1820. . . . The first Cumberland Presbyterian preacher the writer ever heard preach was Rev. W. M. Dunaway in the old church. . . . I /Charley Key?/ was then a mere lad, in the late sixties. I can now see Brother Dunaway in my mind and eye, as a man of striking appearance, strong personality and great ability. Those were truly days of great spirituality in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church."

            The new church windows held stained glass, each given in memory of former members of this congregation, paid for by members of their families. Windows on the east side of the sanctuary: David L. Key and Ida M. Key; John S. Pearson and Martha Pearson; DeRoy Pearson and Ludie Pearson. West side of the sanctuary: Mrs. J. D. Eubanks and Ivy R. Eubanks; Martin B. Key and Violet L. Key; W. M. Key and wife, Mammie. East Sunday School Room windows: J. D. Pearson and Cornelia Pearson; W. M. Pearson and wife Jessie. West Sunday School Room windows: E. D. Sneed and Beulah Dean Sneed; J. C. Pearson and wife, Emma. (Some of these windows were installed several years after most of them had been placed in 1917.) Electricity came to the Claybrook area in 1937 but artificial lighting was provided in the church there and in a few of the houses, generated by Fairbanks-Morse engines (a fuel oil burning machine).

            The new roadbed of State Highway 20, the old Jackson-Lexington Road, having been laid through the Claybrook landscape in such a "straight" route that it by-passed the old village site of Claybrook, including its C. P. Church encouraged the Session, in 1931, to gain a right-of-way through Neely Pearson's homeplace (neighboring the parsonage lot to the east) so that the church could be moved onto the old parsonage lot.[14]

            After Meely Pearson's death, his widow, Leila Pearson, agreed to swap some of the parsonage lot for a fraction of her property on which the church could then be moved. In July of 1938 the Session, backed by the congregation, "decided to move the church to the manse lot. " D. F. Crockett and helpers were paid $186 to roll the church-house over on logs from the old to the newly-selected site on the parsonage/manse lot. Redecorating and remodeling cost a further $938. Individual members, acting in committees, assisted in the re-location procedures.

            On February 27, 1940 the trustees of Claybrook C. P. Church, F. L. Exum, W. L. Pearson, J. F. McCallum, DeRoy Pearson, M. B. Key and N. B. Pearson confirmed


(Page 23)

by deed the agreement with Leila Pearson. "Whereas the congregation of the Claybrook Cumberland Presbyterian Church, during the month of August 1938 moved its church building from its former location immediately south of its parsonage lot to the northwestern portion of its parsonage lot; and in order to give access to said church as relocated from paved highway No. 20 known as the new Jackson and Lexington road, the said Mrs. Leila Pearson and the trustees of the congregation of the Claybrook Cumberland Presbyterian Church have opened a thirty (30) foot road leading south from the said highway No. 20 and the east of the said new church location, across the lands of the said Mrs. Leila Pearson and across the lands of the said parsonagae lot, leaving a small parcel of land of the said Mrs. Leila Pearson west of the said new church road and south of the said highway No. 20 which she has agreed to convey to the said congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church; and leaving a small parcel of said parsonage lot east of the said new church road and south and west of the said Mrs. Leila Pearson's eighty-four acre tract, which the said congregation has agreed to convey to the said Mrs. Leila Pearson in exchange for her said small parcel of land. . . ."[15] This action was undertaken by the trustees or Board of Elders of the Bethlehem Cumberland Presbyterian Church, "the former name of this congregation and to which the Claybrook Cumberland Presbyterian Church is the successor."[16]

            The monetary value of the church-house increased from $3500 to $4000 in 1938-1939. The church had a renewal of enthusiasm. Its annual revivals (successors to the camp-meetings) continued to be held, usually in each July. An annex was built, full-length, at the back of the church in 1958.

            The Reverend Clark Williamson entered his pastorate at Claybrook in 1942 and stayed until the summer of 1948; his interest in youth and his friendly religious zeal won him the lasting affection of the church membership. He left to become General Secretary of the Board of Christian Education for the Church but he died suddenly in the spring of 1949.

            Members in this period were the Keys, Pearsons, Kirbys, Eubanks, Pierceys, Pucketts, Elders, McCallums, Woolfolks, Exums, Medlins and Sneeds. Attrition due to the deaths of older members, movings-away, new social alignments brought the church close to closing in the 1970s but a small congregation has continued with occasional preaching provided for years by Allen H. Rietz of Memphis.

          Early in 1920 the congregation decided to hold a centennial observance and the minister, J. T. Buck, "was appointed a committee of one to arrange a centennial celebration of this congregation which was formerly old Bethlehem."[17] This observance was held July 18, 1920. Visiting, upon invitation to participate actively, was James D. Lewis, who first served this group in 1876 and later, in 1905-1907. He was then living in Inverness, Florida. He delivered the centennial sermon. He also presented a handsome Bible to the congregation, inscribed, "presented to the C. P. Church at Claybrook, Tenn. as a small expression of love and a deep toned interest for the church and each member comprising same." The church then boasted six elders, 45 members, a missionary and ladies' aid society.[18]

            The Ladies' Missionary Society (and ladies' aid society) of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Claybrook was organized September 21, 1913 by Mrs. Joanna Alexander. Founding members were Mrs. DeRoy Pearson, president; Mrs. D. L. Key; Mrs. M. B. Key; Miss Beulah Dean Pearson (later Sneed), as secretary; Mrs. W. M. Key; Mrs. F. L. Exum; Mrs. J. R. McCallum; Mrs. Charles Key; Mrs. W. B. Pearson; Mrs. W. L. Pearson, Miss Eunice Pearson and Bess Law.[19] This group of ladies provided the charitable "arm" of the congregation and to the beautification of the church premises for many years.

            Claybrook was and remains essentially a farming community. Its customs and mores, the very fabric of its early existence as a community was based


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upon agriculture. Its Citizenry was as heterogeneous as any other in character, economic variety and its diversity in educational and moral attainments.

            Social living centered around the home, the church and the school. Men were concerned with the raising, cultivating, harvesting and marketing of their farm products (plant and animal) and a few with their small businesses. Women's lives were almost totally centered in their home, families and whatever was culturally uplifting in the community. It was a fulfilling existence with many satisfactions to off-set the inevitable uncertainties and disappointments that lay within the traditional farming life.




Date Ordained

Date of Non-Continuance


Sept. 12, 1875
Sept. 12. 1875
Sept. 9, 1875
Sept. 9, 1875
Sept. 9, 1875
Sept. 9, 1875
Oct. 5, 1883
Oct. 5. 1883
July 19, 1889
March 1907
March 1907
August 1898
Sept. 17. 1889
July 1920
July 1920
July 1926
July 1926
July 1926
April 1942
April 1942
April 1942
April 1951
April 1951
March 1955
Sept. 1959
Sept. 1959

Feb. 1889 - moved to Lexington
Oct. 18, 1890 -moved to Atwood
July 27, 1875 - Died
1874 - transferred
March 2, 1878 - moved
Oct. 17, 1919 - Died
Sept. 8. 1883 - moved
December 5, 1897 - Died
March 11, 1920 - Died
October 10, 1915 - Died
Dec. l, 1891 - moved to Jackson
April 27, 1946 - Died
December 7, 1940 - Died
March 6, 1926 - Died
March 12, 1938 - Died
Dec. 13, 1957 - Died
October 6, 1954 - Died
December 2, 1947 - Died
March 1, 1954 - Died
August 9. 1952 - Died
January 12, 1955 - Died
Transferred August 1968
February 4, 1962 - Died
May 22, 1971 - Died
June 12, 1991 - Died
Resigned 1956


Clerks of the Session

Evander M. Betts

(Sept. 14, 1872-June 8. 1889)

James C. Pearson

(acting clerk, May 11, 1889;
elected June 8. 1889-Jan. 1, 1900)

William M. Key

(Jan. 1. 1900-Sept. 21, 1919)

Needham B. Pearson

(Sept. 21, 1919-
died as clerk, December 7, 1940)

DeRoy Pearson

(December 1940-
died as clerk, October 6, 1954)

Ivy R. Eubank

(acting clerk. Sept. 13. 1954;
full clerk on former clerk's death,
died as clerk, Feb. 4, 1962)

Kenneth D. Sneed

(acting clerk, Jan. 21, 1962;
elected full clerk, March 18. 1962,
and has so continued to the present)


(Page 25)


            The Methodist Episcopal Church, south had a following in the early days of settlement in Madison County. One of the earliest Campgrounds locally was some three and a half miles from court square in Jackson and a little less than a mile southwest of the homeplace of the celebrated Adam Huntsman. There was also a small church, evidently built of logs, at this location. The church and campground were known as SALEM. Its earliest known mention as Salem meetinghouse appeared in a Jackson newspaper in the summer of 1824 when it was announced that a camp-meeting would begin there on July 16 and continue for several days.[20]

            Throughout the 1820s and into the next decade, the summer camp-meetings remained constant.[21] The Jackson Methodists organized a congregation in that town in the fall of 1826 with eight members and their church-house was built in 1831.[22] This drew away members from Salem but some of the Methodist families continued to bury their dead at that place of venerable memory eventually called Old Salem. At first, from 1822, the Methodist churches of this area were included in the Forked Deer District of the Tennessee Conference. However, with the organizing of the Memphis Conference in 1840, area churches were included in the Jackson District.

            A considerable settlement of Methodist folk lived in a community, in Civil District 14, almost eight miles east of Salem. These Methodists organized themselves into a congregation called Bethany. Tradition would have it that this congregation met in the residence of ADAM BROWN (August 1780-November 19, 1864) and his wife, Aquilla Brown (February 22, 1785-April 3, 1860) for some time before the husband deeded one acre of his land to Dawson D. Bennett, James L. McDonald, Thomas Rawlings, Fordham Blackmon and Mathew Johnson, as the place where "they shall erect and build . . . thereon a house or place of worship for members of the Methodist Episcopal Church." This gift was dated April 22, 1835.[23]

            Adam Brown had purchased 232 acres from Isaac Rutland, for $350, on December 8, 1824, located in 9th Surveyor's District, Range 1, Section 9; it was part of land grant (#22256), to Rutland, for 282.75 acres, dated July 3, 1824.[24]

            The Methodists soon built a small log meetinghouse, where they met religious services and where neighborhood children probably attended school. When one sat in this house it was on split log benches/pews. It cannot be reported with any degree of certainty when this little house was replaced by another that stood on a rolly knoll near the present church building. One or two frame houses succeeded the log house. In 1922, a red brick church was built to which additions were made in 1947 and 1960.[25]

            William Doak and his family lived on a farm adjacent the Browns and Bethany Church. They were members of this congregation so that shortly after Jane (Wilson) Doak died, in 1841, her husband deeded to Fordham Blackmon, Thomas Rawlings, D. D. Bennett - trustees of Bethany - a half-acre for a burial ground. Hers is the earliest known interment in Brown's Church Cemetery. This gift was bestowed on December 26, 1842.[26]

            Then, years later, on May 17, 1859, Adam Brown made an additional gift of land to Bethany, 1.30 acres "near" the church's cemetery.[27] Other acreage has been acquired for the cemetery over the years.

            The parsonage for this congregation was long located at Claybrook, James C. Pearson having sold them a half-acre lot on the Jackson-Lexington Road in January of 1893. (See, Madison County deed book 65, page 560.) This parsonage was disposed of and the parsonage was re-located, closer to Brown's in 1904.

            This church became known as Brown's Church early in its existence but it was only in November of 1933 that Brown's became its official name,


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displacing the neglected Bethany. Brown's Church is one of the strongest in the Jackson District. The large, adjacent cemetery is not associated with the church; it is well-kept by the Brown's Cemetery Association. Many of Claybrook's former citizenry are buried at Brown's.

            Several miles south of Claybrook was another Methodist congregation known as LIBERTY. It was in existence as early as 1871 and many of its membership are buried in the cemetery there. Martin B. Key mentioned in his diary, May 18, 1871 that he had helped to bury a Replogle child that day at Liberty Church. The old frame church-house, which faced west along the road, slightly towards Cotton Grove. It burned in 1938 and was replaced by a substantial block building.[28] The congregation dwindled and services are no longer held there and haven't been since the late 1960s. Among its membership were Alexanders, Culps, Winstons, O'Neals and Replogles, the latter family especially with ties at Claybrook. (The old Liberty elementary school which stood near the church was closed in 1939, having consolidated with Brown's Church School.)

            On March 17, 1875 William Pearson and his sons, Jonathan Dudley Pearson and John Solomon Pearson, deeded a fourth of an acre, east of Claybrook "a-ways," off the Jackson-Lexington Road, to Barns Meachum, Sampson Willis, Robert Cox and Charles Anderson, as trustees; "whereas loving the Christian religion and being heartily desirous of its prosperity and advancement," this gift was made to the black members of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church for a church site.[29] (This denomination changed its name to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1956.)

            Ten years later, September 18, 1885, the same Pearson brothers - their father having died - made a clearer title for legal purposes and for slightly more land, for this church. The deed expressly states that the gift was for one acre more or less "upon which now stands the C.M.E. Church."[30]

            Around the turn of the century, the black Methodists divested themselves of this little church and relocated further east, on the old Jackson-Lexington Road. There they built a frame house that burned accidentally in 1936. (The black Masonic lodge had its quarters in the second story of this building.) It was named BERRY ZION C.M.E. CHURCH; named for Jack and Jennie Berry, two of its active members in the early 1900s.[31] Charles Sanderlin, another church member, helped supervised the rebuilding of the Berry Zion frame church the year after its predecessor burned. The cornerstone in this church reads:

Rebuilt by
Rev. T. H. Morrow

W. H. Willis
E. C. Cathey
Gilbert Williams
Jeannie Barnett

Laid by
Masonic Lodge
P. B. Pegues No. 358
Roven No. 230
F. & A. M.

              The Berry Zion congregation had never acquired a clear title to its church lot so that on April 28, 1972, Miss Mildred J. Pearson deeded 0.6 of an acre, about 1300 feet from the intersection of State Highway 20 with the old Jackson-Lexington Road, to the church trustees.[32] Long-time family names associated with this congregation would include Willis, Black, Ester, Swift, Barnett, Reid, May, Fly and Williams.



            The Baptists in the Claybrook vicinity had established church called OAK GROVE on Law Road, four miles north of its juncture with the later State Highway 20. Its membership had dwindled so much that the congregation disbanded in the 1880s although the small cemetery there was used for many years. The Reverend B. F. Bartles from Chattanooga was brought in to the community to help organize another Baptist congregation in October of 1885; the meetings were held briefly in the blacksmith's shop in Claybrook.[33] They even asked, early that month, the Cumberland Presbyterians if they


(Page 27)

might use their meetinghouse in which to organize. The Bethlehem elders replied to their Baptist "brethren" that they might hold services in their house of worship if it did not interfere with their regular services and other activities.[34] The efforts to organize another Baptist church failed at that time.

            In 1908, a bush-arbor revival was held in the community some three miles from Claybrook. The revival was held by two Ward brothers. The local Baptists then organized themselves as WARDS GROVE BAPTIST CHURCH. Dr. John Hicks Lanier donated one acre of land to this group as a place upon which to build their new church-house, September 18, 1908.[35] A frame church was built at this location but it was destroyed by a tornado on the second Sunday in May of 1932. Its successor was also frame but it was later neatly brick-sided.[36] This church affiliates with the Madison-Chester Baptist Association.

            A cemetery lot, one acre, was acquired from W. H. Gowan and wife, the $60 it cost having been paid by Miss Alice Lanier, June 26, 1916.[37]

            The old local school, Lanier's, was located for years opposite (west side of Law Road) from the Wards Grove Baptist Church. It was closed in 1945, consolidating with the Spring Creek school. John Hicks Williams purchased from the county school board, as low bidder, the lot, schoolhouse and its well early in that year.[38]


1. The location of the early county seat of Madison County and something of its early history are given in the publication, ADAM RANKIN ALEXANDER, by Jonathan Smith (Jackson, 1992), pages 3-12.

2. WHIG-TRIBUNE, Jackson, April 20, 1872.

3. THE FRONTIER CAMP MEETING, by Charles Albert Johnson (Dallas, 1955), page 87.

4. IBID., page 42

5. IBID., page 44

6. IBID., page 45

7. Cumberland Presbyterian Historical Foundation, Memphis, Tennessee~IHopewell Presbytery Minutes", Book l, pages 10, 20, 42.

8. THE MASONIC JEWEL, Memphis, Tenn., vo1. 2 #10, October 15, 1872, pages 158-159. Encomium for W. M. Dunaway.

9. Madison Co.: deed book 28, page 514. Deed recorded February 22, 1870.

10.. C. P. Historical Foundation. Bethlehem C. P. Session Book, Sept. 14, 1872-July 17, 1915. The other extant Session books (copies of the originals are in the C. P. Historical Foundation ) are: September 21, 1919-Sept. 21, 1945; September 21, 1945-Nov. 17, 1974. No Session records exist from July 1915 to Nov. 1919. Records have been kept sparely since 1974.

11. Madison Co.: deed book 83, page 63. Deed recorded September 4, 1913. Floyd and Ida Sykes sold this tract to Victor Sykes, Nov. 15, 1916. (Deed book 91, page 342; deed recorded Sept. 21, 1918)

12. IBID.: deed book 128, page 458. Deed recorded January 19, 1919. This tract had been bought from J. D. and J. S. Pearson by S. C. Simpson in 1884; Simpsons daughter, Mrs. Ella Green. (Deed book 41, page 591)

13. Volume 89, #35, page 13.

14. C. P. Historical Foundation: Claybrook Session Book, Sept. 21, 1919-Sept. 21, 1945, pages 104-105.

15. Madison Co.: deed book 130, page 283. Deed filed February 29, 1940.

16. IBID.

17. C. P. Historical Foundation: Claybrook Session Book, 1919-1945, page 59.

18. "The Cumberland Presbyterian," Nashville, Tenn., #2, August 12, 1920.


(Page 28)

19. Original Society minutes now owned by Kenneth D. Sneed.

20. JACKSON GAZETTE, July 3, 1824.

21. IBID., Sept. l0, 1825; August 30, 1828; July 25, 1829; August 21, 1830; SOUTHERN STATESMAN, Jackson, August 6, 1831.

22. Weston A. Goodspeed, HISTORY OF TENNESSEE, Madison County (Nashville, 1887), page 833.

23. Madison Co.: deed book 9, page 371. Deed recorded August 31, 1844.

24. IBID.: deed book l, page 308. Deed recorded June 20, 1825. Adam Brown owned several hundred acres around Bethany Church. In 1863, he divided his landed estate among his children:

A. NANCY BROWN LOWRANCE (Nov. 17, 1804-Jan. 14, 1897), wife of Elisha P. Lowrance (Feb. 20, 1797-July 27, 1875) , prosperous and well-respected farmfolk of Civil District 14. Nancy Lowrance joined the Cumberland Presbyterian church, at Claybrook, in 1871 and remained a constant member of that congregation until her death in advanced age. Under March 6, 1897 in the Session Book she was mentioned as "one of our oldest and most faithful members of Bethlehem congregation." The Lowrances are buried near her parents in the Brown's Church Cemetery.
See, deed book 23, pages 283-287, 616, for these conveyances from Adam Brown to his children.

25. Memphis Conference Archives, Lambuth University Library, Jackson: Brown's Church file.

26. Madison Co.: deed book 8, page 523. Deed recorded January 28, 1843.

27. IBID.: deed book 21, page 545. Sworn, November 7, 1859.

28. Conversation, February 10, 1993, the author with Frank Oakley Heavner (born 1910), long a member of this congregation.

29. Madison Co.: deed book 33, page 378. Deed recorded September 1, 1875.

30. IBID.: deed book 43, page 8. Deed recorded December 22, 1885.

31. Conversation, March 24, 1993, the author with Kermit Whitfield Willis (born 1918), life-long member of this congregation. Jack Berry died early in 1916 leaving his widow, Jennie. (will book C, page 98) Conversation, May 19, 1993, the author with Marie (Atwater) Williams, knowledgeable in the history of this church.

32. Madison Co.: deed book 283, page 301. Deed recorded January 29, 1973.

33. THE FORKED DEER BLADE, Jackson, October 31, 1885.

34. C. P. Historical Foundation: Bethlehem C. P. Session Book, 1872-1915, under date, October 4, 1885.

35. Madison Co.: deed book 74, page 111. Deed recorded Sept. 21, 1908.

36. Conversation, February 8, 1993, the author with Ruby (Hanna) Williams and James Ray Darby, long-time members of this church.

37. Madison Co.: deed book 87, page 612. Deed recorded June 27, 1916.

38. Madison County School Board minute Book, Jan. 9, 1935-July 23, 1945, entries: January 10, February 5, 1945.

(Photo of Old Bethlehem Cemetery is too poor to reproduce.)

(Page 29 is Old Bethlehem Cemetery)

(Page 30)

Claybrook C. P. Church (built in 1917)

Stained Glass Window Claybrook C. P. Church


Berry Zion C. M. E. Church


Sneedlawn, home of Kenneth D. Sneed family, Highway 20; the old M. B. Key Farm


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