Monday, July 25, 2011

Church History in Crossville, Tenn 1878-1957

Crossville is a city in east central Tennessee which today has about 11,000 people. It sits at what was the crossroads for Nashville-Knoxville traffic and Chattanooga-Kentucky traffic. Its "on-the-beaten-path" location meant it was hard hit by the depredations of the Civil War from both sides. Elder Parley Pratt Jr. and his companion Daniel Stuart undoubtedly passed through in 1878 on their mission to east Tennessee, since there would be no other way to go. Though he does not note it in his letters, one Crossville newspaper reported that in the nearby town of Newton [seven miles southwest of Crossville] in November 1878 that...

We had quite a confusion at church Sunday on account of the appearance of two Mormon brethren – “Normans” as they are styled in this community. Brother Simmons, Baptist preacher in this place spoke against their beliefs and when he was through one of the Mormons asked permission to speak and he came down on the Baptist denomination. Brother Simmons came very close to giving him the “ghost” but not so very holy either.

The earliest baptisms in the Crossville area are in 1906. On April 15th of that year Sallie Durham Barnes, a 43 year old woman joined the Church without her husband. They lived in Linary, about 6 miles south east of Crossville. Also baptized on the same day was 15 year old Johnny W. Carpenter. His mother, Mary E. Carpenter, was already a member, says one source, but without an explanation of where or when she was baptized.

The record from there on is equally sketchy. On August 6th 1911 Malisa "May" Hyder was the first to get baptized in her family. How she met the missionaries, even who she met, has been lost to history. The Hyder family lived in Slate Springs about 8 miles north of Crossville.

On September 15th 1912, Sallie Durham Barnes, had her son Charles Henry Barnes taught and baptized.

In January of 1913, two missionaries Elders Earl B. Hales and Orson Sprague held meetings in nearby Dorton, about 4 miles east of Crossville. They were well received, although they had no baptisms before obligations elsewhere required them to leave.

In the next few years adult children from both the Barnes and Hyder families were taught the gospel and were baptized; Ulysses Grant Barnes on 18 June 1914, Carrie Hyder (Warf) on 9 Aug 1914, Maude Hyder (Jolly) on 9 Aug 1914, and Nora Hyder (Warf) on 7 Nov 1915.

In 1918, Elders Lionel LeCheminant and Charles A. Robbins had a "protracted appointment" at Crossville. It was at this meeting that Ivan Leland Barnes was baptized on Oct 9th 1918. A year later, Elders Langston and Davis were in Crossville receiving even greater attention, and more baptisms. Catherine Hyder (Hamby) joined the Church about this time, though the exact date is unknown.

From 1922 to 1924, Elder Rulon Killian and his several companions visited the Crossville area and baptized several families. There were relatives of existing members, like the Hamby's, Barnes', Hyder's, and Goss' as well as new families like Jesse and Amanda Adams.

In 1926, "The East Tennessee conference was held in this place Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25, and the court officials generously granted us the use of the Courthouse in which to meet. The courtroom is large, cool and well seated. At all the public sessions of the conference there were fair-sized congregations but on Sunday night, when Prest. Callis gave an illustrated lecture, the large auditorium was filled. Fully seventy per cent of those who attended the conference were non-members. Prest. Douglas and his associates are entitled to much credit for the excellent arrangements made which contributed largely to the success of the gathering." (Liahona: The Elders Journal)

Sister Mayme Goss (Pugmire) remembered that meeting. It was the one and only time she walked to Crossville. When it was over the missionaries stood at the doors thanking the people for coming and passed out tracts. Some people took several, others took them and threw them on the ground once they were outside. The missionaries just gathered up the discarded tracts saying "That was too bad they did that, for one day they'll want to know what was in those tracts."

Conference organizers even arranged a baseball game between the Elders and the local Crossville team on the Saturday between sessions. The game, no doubt, drew out some who would not have come otherwise. The missionaries lost three to four.

In general the people of Crossville were accepting and tolerant of the Mormons. Although the elders were once invited to an outlying community where they were pelted with eggs and tomatoes, the honest and accepting folks of Crossville did not tolerate violence. In addition to being allowed to use the courthouse, the missionaries were even invited to speak in the chapel of the Union Methodist High School in 1928 through the efforts of Gladys Hamby, a member of the church and a student at the school. Another conference was held in the First Congregational Church with the permission of the Reverend Abram Nightingale.

In 1930, a Sunday School was organized with Ivan Barnes as the superintendent. Harold Goss, and Richard Hamby assisted him along with Mable Hyder, Stella Hamby and Ruth Hamby.

Wayne J Stephens and his wife Ida "Ethel" Stinson Stephens came to Crossville from Glenobey, Tennessee. to assist in building up the church. Wayne had joined the church in 1911 and had already been ordained an Elder. His business was in motor freight. When conferences of the Church were held in other areas of east Tennessee, he would take one of his trucks and install seats in the back. There was room in the truck for whomever wanted to attend the conference from Crossville. The novelty of the Crossville saints arriving by truck was described more than once in mission reports. But they did more that provide rides. The built leadership too. Willima Harold Goss was probably the first person from th area to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. He was ordained an Elder in 1938. It was through Wayne and Ethel's hard work that a branch of the Church was finally organized in 1939 at Slate Springs, eight miles north of Crossville.

A Relief Society was organized in 1943, with Stella Hamby as President, Amanda Adams as First Counselor, Frances Goss as Second Counselor and Minnie Goss as Secretary. In 1946, two sister missionaries Rowena Russell and Meta Johnson organized a Primary. They also began collecting pledges for work on a new chapel. The branch had been using the community school house, but after the school moved into a new building, it began to fall into disrepair.

Land was purchased and construction began in 1951. The building was a simple four room structure made of masonry walls and a cement slab floor. It was dedicated in 1957.

[postscript: The Slate Springs Branch was renamed the Crossville Branch in 1972, and in 1976 a new chapel was built closer into town. In 1991 the Crossville Branch became a Ward.]
Crossville chapel today


Heather said...

I'm enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing your information! My husband is a descendent of Catherine Hyder (Hamby). It is fun to learn more about church history in the Crossville area. Thank you.

BruceAllen said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed what you found. Do you, or your husband, know when Catherine joined the church?