Clopton United Methodist Church Index
Submitted by James E. Overman
Brighton, TN

Clopton's roots as a Methodist Community were planted in the 1830's when a parcel of land specified for the purpose of establishing a Methodist Church was donated by Anthony M. Clapton (b. Goochland Co., VA; 1770).  Mr. Clopton and his wife Rhoda H. Clopton, themselves Methodists, had moved to this area from Davidson Co, TN and settled on a plantation that included land in the present Clopton Community.  The manor house stood near the location of the present church.  

Mrs. Clapton died on November 23, 1831 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery which later became the Clapton Cemetery.  She was the first to be buried on this site.  Anthony Clopton sold the plantation to William L. Winston in 1844 and moved to DeSoto Co, MS where he died on July 17, 1848.  Heirs of the Winston plantation, originally, the Clopton Plantation later sold 346 acres to Robert Roane.  In the mid-1850's the Clopton family cemetery was acquired from Mr. Roane.  Some sources indicate that he gave the cemeteries to the trustees of the Clopton Episcopal Methodist Church.  Other sources state that all five acres were purchased for $62.  Though it is not clear when the Clopton Methodist Church was formally organized, records show Methodism had reached the area as early as 1830.  

At that time Clopton was part of the Wolf Circuit.  Summer camp meetings were held there as early as 1836.  The first minister on record was James McFerrin who held regular services in the Clopton family home. The second quarterly conference of the Wesley Circuit was held at Clopton on April 23, 1836.  Reverend McFerrin was present and Clopton paid $2.75 for the quarter.  A record of big spending continued.  The Wesley circuit held it's fourth quarterly conference at Clopton campground on September 7, 1839 and Clopton paid $4.75 for the quarter.  When the second quarterly meeting was held in Clopton in 1841 Clopton did not make a payment.  Shelters were built on the campgrounds and in the years before the war between the states, these grounds were covered with huge, lush trees.  Large flowing springs dotted the grounds and a never failing stream called Tipton Creek or Tipton Branch snaked it's way across the land.  The camp meetings held there lasted from ten days to two weeks and were refreshing socially as well as spiritually.  

The original building used for services was built west of McLennan Rd.  Minutes of the third quarterly conference held July 17, 1841 at the Clopton Campground indicate the conference resolved that a committee of three be appointed to obtain a deed for the parsonage and make their report to the fourth quarterly meeting.  The first parsonage was built on the west edge of the campgrounds near the original church.

Some of the prominent families of the antebellum years include the families of Benjamin Adams, J.J. Culbreath, Dr. George Warren Gray, William Holloway, The Keithleys, Dr. Thomas A. Kyle, Cornelius McLennan, The Rhoades, Robert Roane, J.B. Sharpe, Abner Slaughter, Billy Wilson, William L. Winston, Andrew Jackson Whitley, and the Wrights.  Descendants of some of these early citizens still live in the area and are active in the life of the church and the community.

However pastoral this farming community might have been, it was not to escape the reach and scars of the Civil War.  The Clopton campground became a mustering grounds for confederate soldiers who camped and drilled there.  A volunteer company from Tipton Co. was formed there and consisted mostly of farmers, teachers, shopkeepers, ministers and college students from Portersville, Covington, Mt. Carmel, and Clopton.  This company described as "one of the grandest companies of the Confederate army" was sworn in at Jackson in May 1861.  In 1863 the shelters on the campground and the original building were burned by Federal troops.  Records show that Federal soldiers later used the campground for a base of operations.  The Confederate volunteers from Clopton and surrounding communities fought as a company throughout the war in TN, KY, MS, and GA.  Of the original 113 men in the company, 27 were killed in action, 15 were wounded, 4 were made prisoners of war, and 14 deserted.  On the last official roll call only 13 were present to answer.

After the war the community bounded together by determination and galvanized by lively progressive leaders, reconstructed it's center of worship and community life.  (No carpetbaggers allowed in these parts!)  The church was rebuilt on the east side of the creek near the site of the present church.  The shelters, however, were never replaced.  In the mid-1870's the Clopton campground covered 17 acres.  On April 2, 1899 a group of church members organized the Epworth League of Clopton.  This was the forerunner of the current UMXF.  The officers of the original Clopton Epworth League were:  T.A. Kennedy; President, J.A. Simonton; first vice president, Musette Rhodes; second vice president, Edna Holloway, third vice president, Clifton Poindexter; Secretary, J.R. Pullen; Treasurer.  Other members were W.C. Anthony, Cary Brown, Mattie Holloway, Flora McLennan, J.N. McLennan, Tyrell McLennan, Willie McLennan, Horace McMillen, Thomas Pullen, Duke Rhodes, Minnie Sigmon, Charles Simonton, Cora Smith, W.B. Wethered and Ellen Wright.

The second Clopton Church building remained in use until approximately 1910.  A building committee was appointed to sell or tear down the church and parsonage and rebuild.  The church was sold to Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Harris who moved it approximately 100 yards east and converted it into a dwelling.

The third church house was completed in 1910 on the site of the present building.  The building committee members were:  Jim Anthony, J.H. Cook, Ernest McLennan, John Rowlings, George B. Rhodes, C.A. Wright, S.A. Wright.  Ed Smith was supervisor of construction of the church.  In 1916 the western portion of the campgrounds including the parsonage was sold to Arthur Poindexter.  The parsonage was moved from its location near the road to its present site and is now the home of Lina Poindexter Morrison.  The congregation purchased from W.C. Whitehorn a four acre lot approximately a mile east of the church and erected a new parsonage.

Tragically, the picturesque white frame country church built in 1910 was destroyed by fire in 1946.  All contents with the exception of the pulpit chairs and piano were lost.  Until the cold weather set in, the congregation worshipped in a tent.  For the winter months the majority of the congregation worshipped with the Mt. Carmel church.  The Clopton pastor Rev. J.P. Archer filled the pulpit twice a month.  After the loss of it's house of worship, the Clopton congregation purchased the chapel at the Hall's Air Force Base in Hall's, TN.  The chapel was dismantled and reconstructed over a full basement on the site of the destroyed church.  The building committee was composed of:  Thomas Anderson, J.B. Anthony, Sr., C.E. Byrd, Dan McLennan, James McLennan, Mildred McLennan, N.W. McLennan, Leonard Watkins and S.I. Wright.  B.F. Harry and Roland Weir were in charge of dismantling and erecting the building.  With the addition of brick veneer it was completed in 1948 and dedicated on May 20, 1951.  Continuing the long history of service to the community, Clopton designed the large basement of the church to be used for community activities.  Many tasty suppers of Brunswick stew, spaghetti, chicken and fish, "homemade" dinners prepared by various organizations and groups have filled the hall with pleasant aromas and memories.  Untold gallons of ice cream have been churned and devoured there.  "Dinners on the ground" at Thanksgiving, Homecoming and other special time throughout the year have provided all in attendance with very special and delicious "together" times.  Meetings of the Clopton Community Club, the Home Demonstration Club, folk games, visits from Santa and a not too wicked witch, as well as frequent government elections have found a home at the "new" Clopton Church.

The original furnishings of the Chapel at Hall's were used for the first few years.  Later, Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Byrd gave new pews in memory of their son and life long resident of Clopton, Elmer Byrd.  The pulpit furniture was given in memory of Mr. Byrd by the official board of the church.  Through the years carpeting, an organ, choir loft, stained glass windows, central air and heat and other furnishings have been added.  Through gifts and memorials the kitchen facilities were also remodeled and included all new cabinets, refrigerator, steam table and grill.  These improvements are made possible by efforts, gifts, and memorials from generous members and friends.  New front steps and a ramp funded by memorials and gifts to the building fund were approved by the Clopton United Methodist Council in 1990.  They were completed in February of 1991.  

In 1952 the parsonage was torn down.  A buff brick building was built on this same site.  The construction was supervised by Malcolm Wylie.  In 1985 under the auspices of J.E. Overman, major renovations were made.  New furnishings were added and helped refresh the interior.  More recently, the exterior wood trip has been covered by vinyl.  A lovely home, it continues to serve as the Clopton parsonage today.

Education and learning were valued commodities in Clopton.  It is known that during the Civil War some young ladies were sent away to schools in Jackson, TN and others in MS.  The first records of a school in the community indicate that Mrs. Mattie Kyle built and opened a school in 1875.  It was near the present home of Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Anthony, Jr.  Her husband, a medical doctor, also taught in the school.  Students were taught subjects such as Latin and Greek.  Their school was burned by a man whom Dr. Kyle had prosecuted for stealing one of his hogs.  The people of the community then built a school near the location of the present church.  A Mr. Saddler operated this new school.  It was said that this school master was strict in the enforcement of rules, disciplining the boys himself.  When, however, an errant girl required correction, she was sent to his wife to be punished.  Records also indicate a Clopton Academy was located very near the original campgrounds.  It is unclear if the school operated by Mr. Saddler and the Clopton Academy were the same.  Some of the prominent teachers at the "Academy" were Richard Bannister Baptist, Sr., Edith Dewese, Dr. Thomas Absolon Kyle, W.S. Moore, Hugh H. Robinson, and Ralph E. Robinson.  Other early teachers in Clopton were Lucado and J. R. Wilson. Around 1900 a new school was built on an acre of land in the northeastern corner of the junction of McLennan and Clopton roads.  This new schoolhouse remained in use until approximately 1916 when two acres of land were purchased about 1/2 mile north, near the present home of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Malone.  It was believed this new site would be a healthier location than that afforded by the lowland near the springs. Students at the Clopton School learned under the tutelage of such teachers as Ruby Baird (Kinney), Alice Beddingfield, Nellie Beddingfield (Wright), Lyde Beddingfield (Strong), Mrs. R.P. Clark, Cora Gray, Virginia Gray (Dearing), Helen Kirkpatrick, Ines Lyles (Poindexter), Irene McQuiston, Mildred Morrison, Gladys Peterson, Bertie Poindexter (McLennan), Grace Simonton, Ralph Strong, Eunice Williams and Bertha Willis.  Grades 1-10 were taught in Clopton until 1926 when the 9th and 10th grades were dropped.  Finally, in 1937 the school was closed and classes were consolidated with Brighton.

The Clopton Cemetery which began with the burial of Mrs. Anthony Clopton, remains a central part of the community.  Grave markers show that John Bradshaw who died in 1842 was one of the next people to be buried there.  Markers also show the earliest birth to be recorded in the cemetery to be that of Dennis Cannon in 1775.  Many members of the early prominent families such as the Winstons, Whitleys, Roanes, McLennans, and Wrights rest there.

Much of the information we have been able to compile in this summary as well as many documents displayed in the history room, are made possible by the foresight of the late Rev. Robert Venerable Taylor, 1822-1919.  This highly esteemed Methodist Minister was himself a bit of West Tennessee history.  He treasured and guarded a vast collection of records and documents which allow us glimpses of times and peoples in our history.  These papers are now housed in the Lambuth College Archives and are available for research.  The life of the church and community has served for over 150 years and has been punctuated by events that shaped both our nation and our world.  It is a rich and valuable past that is shared by all who have been touched by the Clopton Church and community......and despite all these reports of physical characteristics and changes, we do recognize that a church's greatest gifts and most valuable assets are it's people.  

The information contained in this narrative was researched by Clopton United Methodist Church Historians Roy and Kathryn Cross and Assistant Historians Winfield and Vivien McLennan.  It was then compiled and edited by Mary Nelle McLennan.

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2003 Tipton County Coordinator