Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 Sep 2008

First Presbyterian Church of Huntsville, 1882-2007

125th Anniversay

[webmaster notes:  This article was reproduced in its entirety except some pictures were not included that are available with the original printed copy.  The original center spread included an additional 35 pictures that are not presented here.]

With the 125th Anniversary, of the First Presbyterian Church of Huntsville to be celebrated this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1), the Rev. Martha Anne Fairchild and her congregation have dug through the archives and put together an informative and historic story in words and pictures for the readers of the FNB chronicle.

The written history of the church begins here with excerpts from n the late Esther Sharp Sanderson’s History of the Huntsville Presbyterian Church and Academv and the Mossip Memorial School, and continues with the Rev. Fairchild bringing the story up to date in a separate story.

First Presbyterian Church of Huntsville’s "Rally Day" for Sunday School Promotion in 1918

Organization and Early Years

There came into the little village of Huntsville, Tennessee, in the year 1880, a Presbyterian Evangelist, Reverend Dunlap. He and his wife came from Stanford, Kentucky, in a one horse wagon. They brought with them a small organ to be used for the singing in a series of gospel meetings to be held in the community. Reverend Dunlap's mission, like other followers of Calvin and Knox, was to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people in this remote section on the Cumberland Plateau and to establish churches and worship.

Reverend Dunlap held his revival in a two-story frame courthouse that was erected in 1874, since there was no organized church or church house in Huntsville in which to worship. These services created a great deal of interest, and people came from miles around. Consequently, many were converted or renewed in their faith. Inasmuch as Reverend Dunlap was a Presbyterian, and since the new members belonged to no particular denomination, they decided to establish a Presbyterian church.

The members continued to hold services in the courthouse for two years. At that time, the courthouse was used for court, a cattle market, and other public gatherings. Conflicts, unsanitary conditions, and fleas made it an unsuitable place for worship. Reverend Dunlap advised the people to build a house of worship and organize a church. The members gave freely of their money and labor, and with the help of the Presbyterian Building Board, the members built a one-room frame building that was completed in 1881.

The Huntsville Presbyterian Church, member of the Kingston Presbytery, was organized in the new church building the second Sunday in July 1882. It was organized by Reverend T. H. Allen, assisted by Reverend S. Daniels of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. There were twenty-eight members and two ruling elders, John B. Brasfield and James M. Keen (father of Willard Keen), and one deacon, Daniel Jeffers {father of Elizabeth York).

The charter members were received into the church, some by profession of faith, others by letters and baptism. Some of the charter members were James Sexton, Julian Sexton, Daniel Jeffers, Sarah Jeffers, James M. Keen, Virginia Keen, Wiley Carroll, Dr. John B. Brasfield, Martha Brasfield, Elizabeth Lewallen., J. J. Newport, and Millard Newport.

The Huntsville Presbyterian Church extended the hand of fellowship to all those who worship God. The Baptists, Methodists, and any other denominations of Christian faith were welcome to hold their preaching services in the church. Blacksmith Tom James Taylor, a Methodist evangelist, also held a two weeks revival. Both revivals were very successful. The house was filled to capacity, with standing room only at the evening services.

The little one-room church became center of worship, not only for members of the church, but for the community at large. Inasmuch as the Presbyterian Church held regular services and conducted Sunday School every Sunday, it served the entire community, regardless of denomination. For many years, there was no other Sunday School in the community, and the Presbyterian Sunday School had the distinction of never missing a single Sunday for fifty consecutive years, regardless of weather conditions or outside attractions.

The Presbyterian Academy

Many of the people who settled in what is now Scott County were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. They believed that education and religion went hand in hand for the good of the people. Therefore, only one year after Scott County was founded, they were instrumental in having an act passed December 5, 1851, to establish the Huntsville Academy. It was enacted that Dennis Trammel, Absalem Cross, James Reed, John L. Smith, and Culberth Webb should be trustees of the Academy.

It met in a one-room building from 1851 until 1858. Seeing the need for a larger school, the trustees applied to the Presbyterian Board for help and for funds due the school from 1851 until 1855. The aid was granted, and the school was entitled to all funds and privileges as other academies in the State of Tennessee.

Mossop School students (all girls) and teachers in a photo taken in 1909. The school was sponsored and operated by the Presbyterian Church

Cornerstone laid by Ella York for the church’s second building in 1948. Workmen seen here are unidentified. Groundbreaking for second chuch building in 1948: Ella York, Beulah Sexton, and Clara Frazier

The old Presbyterian Manse with a Miss Jones and Miss Morris posing by the front porch steps. This Victorian style home served as the home of the First Presbyterian Church of Huntsville’s pastor and his family for a number of years.

William Massengale sold the board about one-quarter acre of land, plot number 40, in the town of Huntsville. The frame building was erected upon this plot in 1858. This school was incorporated as the Huntsville Academy and Debating Society.

This Academy served a good purpose in the Huntsville community, but there was a great need for a larger academy that would accommodate students from the entire county who wished to further their secondary education, or to prepare themselves for the teaching profession or for college entrance. The common schools in the county had only three to four month terms. Therefore, the erection of the Huntsville Academy marked a red letter day for Scott County.

The incorporators and trustees of the Huntsville Academy sold lot number 40 in the town of Huntsville and bought two parcels of land suitable for the building in June, 1884. The Academy building was erected on a knoll overlooking the town of Huntsville and was completed in time for the opening of school August 31, 1885.

It was the expressed purpose of the creators and supporters of this Academy to operate in connection with the Presbyterian Board, as was stated in the charter of incorporation. The aim of the Academy was to prepare students for college and to give to those who did not expect to attend college a good English education. Special attention was given to those who wised to teach in the public schools. Better education in the common schools throughout the county was an outgrowth of teacher training in the Academy.

For many years ministers of the Huntsville Presbyterian Church were principals of the Academy. The first principal was Rev. D. A. Clemens. The next principal was Rev. Arno Moore, who served eleven years.

Eventually, Scott County began to receive both state and county aid for education. Huntsville High School was erected in 1908. However, there were some parents who paid tuition for their children to attend the Academy until it closed its doors in 1909.

Even though high schools were springing up throughout the county, they did not meet the need of poor children in isolated sections on the Cumberland Plateau. Lack of money made it especially hard for poor girls to advance any farther than the elementary grades.

Dr. Henry Butler and members of the Huntsville Presbyterian Church were sensitive to the needs of these girls. With the help of the Presbyterian Board of Missions, the Mossop Memorial School was established in 1909. This boarding school was an opportunity school where the girls were allowed to work for most of their tuition. The school was named in honor of Mrs. Butler, who was a Mossop before her marriage.

A dormitory was erected on the church lot that would house as many as forty pupils and the teachers. The Presbyterian Academy building was available for classes. Dr. Butler was minister of the church and principal of the school. He retired from the ministry in 1915. The school continued under the management of its efficient faculty members for a short time. The school was moved to Harriman, Tennessee, where it continued to carry on its good work for a number of years.

Women in the Church

The ladies of the Huntsville Presbyterian Church have always worked over and above the call of duty to help finance and promote the well being of the church and neighborhood. The "Ladies Aid" was organized along with the church. Later, it was called the "Missionary Society," the "Ladies Auxiliary," and the "Women of the Church." Regardless of what the name of the organization was called, these ladies were always ready to do whatever their hands found to do.

They held annual bazaars, where they sold beautiful and useful handmade articles such as quilts, pillows, linens, and wearing apparel. For many years, they sponsored ice cream suppers that proved to be a good money raising project, aside from the social enjoyment before the days of cars, radio and television. The ice cream was homemade, and some of the strongest and most energetic young men were kept busy cranking the freezers. Snap was the favorite game for the young people.

Women of the church met at some member's home each month. One old record book showed monthly dues of ten cents. Following business sessions, they busied themselves with sewing projects. They made layettes for needy mothers, and some of these were sent to missions at home and abroad. They delivered them wherever needed, regardless of denomination. Records show that they paid for a roof on a leaky shack occupied by Jane Lowe. They bought shoes several times for Mary Sexton, a Civil War widow. They filled and distributed baskets for the needy at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They distributed Testaments to the youth groups. They raised money through the years by donating food, sandwiches, and soft drinks to be sold at the courthouse on special occasions.

During World Wars I and II, their hands were kept busy making bandages, hospital gowns, and sweaters for many in the armed services. Once, while working on a sewing project, one younger more affluent member suggested buying the things. Mrs. York answered the question by saying, "Oh, no, that would take the joy out of being useful."

The ladies of the church directed the Sunday School programs for various occasions – Easter, Children's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Mrs. Ella York sponsored the programs more years than any member. Next, we would add Mrs. Emma Lewallen, Mrs. Fred Toomey, Esther Sanderson, and Thelma Lewallen.

Following World War I and during World War II, there was a growing lack of interest in the church. There were few new members, and many of the old members became discouraged. Some even suggested joining another church in town. However, there were three wonderful women who would never say die, namely, Mrs. Ella York, Mrs. Orlena Foster, and Mrs. Lina Doisy. They kept the doors of the church open for Sunday School every Sunday, regardless of weather conditions and lack of attendance. They served as Sunday School Superintendents, teachers, and organists. Mrs. York often filled all three places on many Sundays. One cold, snowy Sunday morning, Mr. York tried to persuade Mrs. York to not attend Sunday school. She said, "The little Sharp and McDonald children will be there, and I must go." Sure enough, they were all there, and Sunday school went on as usual.

Most of the children who attended Sunday school were from very poor families, and the only toy or doll they ever had came as a Christmas present from the church. Mrs. Lina Doisy was instrumental in seeing that every child who came to the Christmas program left with a large sack of candy, fruit and nuts.

(During the Great Depression) there was not a sufficient number of men available who would accept the office of elder. In order to keep the church alive, Mrs. Ella York and Mrs. Orlena Foster served as elders. Mrs. Foster served as elder for twenty-four years, 1931-1955, and Mrs. York served twenty-one years, 1936-1957.

The Second Church Building

For sixty-six years, the small church building served the public for both Church and Sunday School. It became the center of worship, not only for the church members, but for the entire community. Regardless of denomination, everyone worshipped together in perfect harmony.

As the church and Sunday School grew, there was need for more room and modern facilities in keeping with the times. A modern new brick building was erected in 1948 on a lot adjoining the site of the old building (the old Mossop Academy site). This building (had) a large chapel, Sunday School rooms, a nursery, a full size basement for recreational purposes, and the Dan Walker Memorial Library. The latter was named in honor of Dan Walker, chairman of the Building Committee. The building was a dream in the mind of Dan Walker long before it became a reality, and his interest never faltered until he saw the completion and dedication of the present building. He also donated liberally to the building fund and inspired others to do likewise. Loyal members gave freely of their time, energy, and money to finance the erection of the new building.

It was estimated that the new building would cost approximately $15,000. The Building Board received from the National Board of Missions for Building Aid a sum of $5,000 to be used in the building of the new church. The grant was $2,500 and the loan $2,500, to be paid back to the Board with interest over a period of ten years. The Church applied $4,500 that they had on hand from the sale of the Manse and church property, the Women's Auxiliary donated $1,000, and money was donated by the congregation and friends of the church. (A later church manse was built beside the church in about 1950.)

Noteworthy Pastors

The Huntsville Presbyterian Church has been blessed with some wonderful pastors. These highly educated, devout Christian gentlemen, graduates of theological seminaries, brought religion, education and culture to this isolated region on the Cumberland Plateau.

The pastors were also community workers who helped the people acquire higher standards of living. They were great humanitarians who helped the needy, visited the sick, and brought faith and hope where there was doubt and despair. Their remarkable work with young people helped them to broaden their horizons and to seek higher social goals.

(From 1882 to 1978 the Huntsville.Presbyterian Church) had twenty-three pastors. Each, regardless of age or backgrounds, left a lasting contribution to this community. The continuity of this church can be attributed to those pastors and lay members of the church who were willing to accept the responsibilities its keeping entailed.

This church was blessed to have nonresident supply pastors from other churches once a month when in need of a pastor. This church is deeply indebted for the services of Reverend Marion Mansell, Reverend Vernon Robinson, and Rev. Andy Albert, whose interest never faltered. Following the resignation of Reverend Earl Rash, members of the church conducted the services. Each of the following delivered a well-prepared sermon, namely: Bert Walker, Don Stansberry (Jr.), VeRhonda Hembree, Carmel Purdy, William York, John Scale, John Smith, Jimmy Smith, Vicky Merrell, and Janice Taylor.

Reverend Arno Moore and Reverend Henry S. Butler, both ministers and educators, (had) the distinction of serving longer than any others (between 1882 and 1978). Reverend Moore served eleven years, and Dr. Butler served eight years. One minister died while in service, Reverend W. J. Leverett,

Rev. Verne E. Coapman Rev. Coapman and Family

Reverend Verne E. Coapman, a dearly beloved pastor of this church and the entire community, served many years as a missionary in India on two assignments. He was listed in Who's Who in American Agriculture for his previous work in India. He was held in such high esteem by the authorities in India that he and Mrs. Coapman were allowed to go out on the boat that carried the body of the slain leader Mahatma Gandhi for burial in the Indian Ocean.

Major Events

In The History of First Presbyterian Church

Huntsville, Tennessee

1851 – Huntsville Academy holds its first classes

1880 – Presbyterian Evangelist Rev. Dunlap begins holding services in Huntsville

1882 – Huntsville Presbyterian Church is organized

1885 – Huntsville Academy is erected

1909 – Huntsville Academy closes; Mossop Memorial School is founded

1915 – Mossop Memorial School closes

1931 – First woman elder, Orlena Foster, is elected and ordained

1948 – Second building is erected

1982 – Church’s 100th Anniversary celebrated with visit from President Ronald Reagan

1990 – Third (present) building is erected

2007 – Church celebrates its 125th Anniversary

First Presbyterian Church


Through the Years

1880-1882 Rev. Dunlap Evangelist
1882 Rev. T. H. Allen Organizing Pastor
1882 Rev. S. Daniels Organizing Pastor
1882-1886 Rev. James McNeal Pastor
1886-1889 Rev. A. F. Whitehead Pastor
1891-1892 Rev. John C. Lord Stated Supply
1893-1895 Rev. David A. Clemens Pastor
1896-1907 Rev. Arno Moore Pastor
1907-1915 Rev. Henry S. Butler Pastor
1915-1916 Rev. Joseph E. Miller Stated Supply
1917-1920 Rev. Victor C. Detty Pastor
1921-1923 Rev. G. A. Eakins Pastor
1924-1927 Rev. Hutchenson Pastor
1928-1929 Rev. W. J. Leverett Stated Supply
1930-1931 Rev. W. B. McCready Stated Supply
1940-1943 Rev. Vernon Robinson Pastor
1943-1945 Rev. Vernon Coapman Pastor
1948-1949 Rev. Marion E. Mansell Stated Supply
1951-1953 Rev. Charles H. Reckard Pastor
1953-1955 Rev. John Aalfs Pastor
1955-1956 Rev. Vernon Coapman Pastor
1958-1959 Rev. Kenneth Johnson Pastor
1960-1961 Rev. Frank D. Wimp Pastor
1961-1966 Rev. Clifton A. Scott Pastor
1971-1974 Rev. Earl Rash Pastor
1977-1989 Rev. Charles Boonstra Pastor
1989-1994 Rev. Thomas M. L. Wade Pastor
1995-present Rev. Martha Anne Fairchild Pastor

Note – "Stated Supply" is a pastor serving in an interim period between regular installed pastors.

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 18, No. 4 – Summer 2007
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(p1, 3-5)

Scott Co, TN Homepage

This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.