Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Home of Abraham Church

One of the ways I like to look at history is by identifying places. All the better if the place has survived relatively unchanged by time. One such place I was looking for recently was the home of Abraham Church.

The Church family first met missionaries in 1840. At least one son, Haden Wells Church, was so intrigued he made the trip to Nauvoo to meet Joseph Smith himself. A modern day descendent of the Church family described Haden's intent this way. "If you want to know if the water is pure, trace it to its source." Several of Abraham's other children and grandchildren joined the church as well.  Some stayed in Tennessee, others joined the saints in the West. In 1875, while on a mission to Tennessee, Haden Church contracted typhoid fever and died in the home where he was born.

The home served as the headquarters for the Church in Tennessee for many years. Missionaries received their mail there and returned there to rest. J. Golden Kimball was resting at the Church home when he heard about the massacre at Cane Creek. By then it belonged to Robert Robins Church. It was there that B. H. Roberts made his final preparations to retrieve the bodies of Elder Gibbs and Elder Berry from their temporary graves in Lewis County.  It was in the smokehouse attic where he donned his now famous disguise.

As the generations moved on, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren spread out over Tennessee, Utah, Colorado, Texas and other states. Eventually the home was sold. A performer known for her work at the Grand Ole Oprey and on Hee Haw, Minnie Pearl (aka Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon), bought the home and dismantled it, log by log. Careful notes were taken so that it could be reassembled near Centerville, Tennessee. Miss Pearl was creating a tourist attraction to match the stories she told on stage. Her fictitious home town, which she dubbed Grinders Switch, was to include the log home for authenticity. Sadly the park did not become a reality (Minnie Pearl passed away in 1996), and although the logs were moved, the home was never reassembled. The logs sat at Grinders Switch for years, slowly deteriorating until nothing usable remained.


Ardis E. Parshall said...

Oh, wow. This article tracing the life of the house and what happened there is as good as telling the biography of a person and what he did! Thanks for this.

Last Lemming said...

This is great stuff. You ought to sell it harder. Like titling the post "Mormonism's Minnie Pearl Connection" or something. (The first time I read the title, I thought "Gee, I didn't know there was a 'Home of Abraham' Church!"

BruceCrow said...

Thanks, This was my first attempt at tracing the life of a house. Who knows what is next.

I hought about doing it that way, with a short bio on Minnie Pearl and her connection Mormonism at gthe end. Maybe a title change would be enough though.

Jonathan K said...

Great story - I agree it is too bad the building was never reassembled.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks. The disappointment that the building was not properly preserved is a common thread whenever I talk to the descendents.

Anonymous said...

hi I am a decendent of Abraham Church and I want to thank you for telling us about his house. Do you or anyone have some pictures of it that we could get a copy of or tell us where to look for more information.

Chris Ficken

BruceCrow said...

Funny you should ask. Just last Friday, I was sent some photos of the house dating from 1915 to 1982 shortly before it was dismantled. I am woring on editing them for an upcoming post. If you want copies, send me an email and I will be happy to reply with the files as soon as I am done.

BruceCrow said...

My email address is

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a couple of photo's of mine that will add a bit to the Church Family History.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for the link. Nice photo of Grinders Switch and the additional article about the home.