Bee Spring Methodist Episcopal Church
Sterling wrote, "This material has been compiled from former material gotten together by myself as well as, with quotations from the highly-valued work of the late Hon. John H. Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson's historical notes are of to date, 1902 (52 yrs. ago ). Supplementary matter was compiled by myself in the year 1938 (or 21 yrs. ago).
(This is of date = 1954, That Paul Springer sent it to me in 1980, and I am entering it here on Jan. 1, 1996.)
Bee Spring Methodist Episcopal Church South was located in Giles County, Tennessee, three miles northeast of Bryson, Tennessee, and fifteen miles southeast of Pulaski, Tennessee.
On the night of April 29, 1909, it was totally destroyed by that memorable and terrible tornado which passed through this section of Giles and Lincoln counties, leaving in it's wake, destruction, ruin, wreck and death the like of which has never been experienced by any locality in the Southland's history.
Until this date (April 29, 1909), and for many years previous to this time, it is quite probable that no rural church of any denomination in middle Tennessee surpassed or even equaled "Old Bee Spring" in strength of membership, loyalty, and all other qualities contributed, in order to have a strong, active, progressive church.
Within a short time after the total destruction of the old church, the parsonage buildings, and surrounding residences together with all the hundreds of great old trees and practically everything else that was destructible, a very substantial, beautiful church which was built at Bryson and named " Bee Spring Memorial" And, of course, this was suggestive of and in memory of Old Bee Spring.
Bee Spring Memorial Methodist Church, at Bryson, is today a good progressive church. About the same time, the Southern Presbyterian Church, now located on the Old Bee Spring grounds, was built. Personally, although a Methodist, knowing that this beautiful Presbyterian church is here brings to me a feeling of satisfaction that nothing else could. For had it not been, I am thinking that today (forty-five years after the Methodist church was destroyed) the sacred old grounds, with its well-kept "City of the dead," might be almost a forgotton place.
Notwithstanding, while chronicleing these notes, relative to Old Bee Spring history, there comes to me a feeling of sadness, with the realization that today, both the Presbyterian church here and the Methodist church at Bryson combined, do not have nearly the numbers in membership that Old Bee Spring Methodist Church had. This should not be true.
Bee Spring M.E. Church, South, was founded in the year 1815--139 years ago. Its chief founder, being my great-grandfather, the Rev. Elam Stevenson. He was and is the progenitor of many, many others, not only in this particular section of Tennesee, but also in many other states. In the founding of the "Old Meeting House", Stephen Loyd, Meshack Boice, and James Mc Gowan, together perhaps with others, gave assistance.
The Hon. Jno. H. Stevenson tells: "The first house was built of logs, with rib poles, to nail the crude but substantial boards together for a roof. Forheating in the winter, a huge stone chimney was used, taking up almost half of one end of the house. The seats were made of split logs. Holes were bored into the logs, and pegs were driven in for legs. The seats had no backs."
"This house was built by the Rev. Elam Stevenson (grandfather of John H. Stevenson and a preacher for sixty-two years), Stephen Loyd, Meshack Boise, and James Mc Gowan, and with the assisance perhaps of others."
"This building was used for both church and school. (No free schools then). On account of the small size of this house, another was built of logs about seven or eight years later, or about 1822 or 1823."
"In those days, we have been told, the people often walked ten or twelve miles to this crude church (meeting- house), in order to worship God." "The owner of the land upon which the church was built was Alexander Mc Donald, who lived in the Pisgah community."
"In the year 1830, on a Sabbath morning, our forefathers had met to worship. It was suggested by one present that there was a probability of certain parties buying this land from Mr. Mc Donald, in order to erect a distillery of liquor on it."
"It was an ideal place for distilling, because of the fact that on this particular tract of land, a bold spring of water (Bee Spring) gushed out from under the rock, (and still does), near the top of the hill."
These wise old forbears decided immediately that they would do some land trading. So, on Monday morning long before the break of day, Grandpa Elam (the writers great-grandpa) was up, astride his horse or mule, and on his eight or ten mile, before daylight, ride, in order to to put through a most important real estate deal."
"For the consideration of twenty dollars ($20.00), the fifteen acres of land was bought by Grandpa Elam from Mr. Mc Donald. It was donated to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and at this date 1902, was the property of the Tennesse Conference." (End quotation).
In Dr. J. B. Mc Ferrin's second volume "Methodism in Tennesse", it is said of my great-grandfather, the Rev. Elam Stevenson, "that he was the son of James Stevenson, of Iredell, now Alexander County, N.C., who was a Captain in the Revolutionary War, and that he was the third son and the first of the family to become a member of the Methodist Church. He professed religion in 1804 and united with the church in 1806, and his parents were Presbyterians. He was licensed to preach in 1813 and the same year moved to Tennesse."
The deed for 15 acres of land was recorded Feb. 22, 1839 in Giles Co., Tenn.
Copying again from Hon. John H. Stevenson's history, he says:' In 1855 they concluded to build a much better church, a frame building 36X50 feet was erected. It is well preserved, having been kept roofed and painted (above date, 1902). The building was erected by W.C. and J.W. Hollis. The building commitee consisted of C. re Mc Guire, J.C. Stevenson, and W.R. Bruce. The price paid for the work was $1200. All the lumber was dressed by hand. The people of the community were all liberal in helping in the works. However, the memberships being small at the time, made it hard on them. The church membership consisting mostly of the Mc Claurines, Loyds, Mc Guires, Sherills, Moselys, Bruces, Rowes and Stevensons."
He (Mr. Stevenson) further states that "We now have upwards of 250 members. (about 1902 or 3). We have only about 120 or 130 regular attendence in Sunday School. Should have 300 or more." He gives the names of the preachers who had served the church from 1819 to the present time, or for a period of 114 years, He also gave the date of appointements and names of preachers who had served the church from 1819 to the present, or 1902. And he states that from 1819 to 1866, with the exception of the years 1859, 1863, and 1865 there were two preachers, one the preacher in charge, the other was the junior or assistant. We must remember that a circuit in those days covered a large territory.
The following is Mr. Stevenson's list of both preachers. The first named is the preacher in charge, followed by the name of the junior preacher, or assistant.
1819- S, Sampson, Peter Buran.
This list contains the names of 108 preachers who served the Bee Spring Methodist Church from the year 1819 until the year 1902. The last that he names is the late, and beloved, Rev. Jno. F. Beasley, who officiated in the rites of matrimony between myself and wife in the old church in the year, Oct. 9th, 1901.
Since that date or until 1909 there were only two preachers on the charge as I remember it, Rev. B. F. Isom and Rev. Thos. F. Kellum. And Old Bee Spring M.E. Church's history was closed by the tornado's destruction April 29, 1909. It cannot be known until the end of time, the extent of reaching power, that the mighty wave of influence for good has had or shall have which was brought about by these sires and matrons of the years gone by, who chose that this sacred 15 acres, were to be dedicated to God, righteouness and for the uplifting and betterment of humanity, rather than to the devil, wickedness, whiskey distilling, and the damning of humanity.
To the writer of these very imperfect notes of history, "Old Bee Spring" is indeed a very hallowed, sacred place. It was here that incidents which occurred even in my babyhood are remembered; it was here that in the year 1888 at Christmastime at nine years of age, I was received into full membership of the Methodist Church by the late Rev. John G. Gibson. It was here that in the year 1901, my wife and I were united in marriage by the late Rev. John F. Beasley.
Beneath the sacred sod of the old cemetery have been interred the bodies of each one of my forebears, both paternal and maternal, including three generations; as well as those of my brother and sisters, and numerous relatives-- together with these are some of the truest friends any man has ever had.
As I stated, my great grandfather, the Rev. Elam Stevenson, was the founder of Bee Spring. One of a few, most outstanding rural churches in the Tenn. Conference, for almost 100 years, was Bee Spring. However, I am bold in declaring that it is my very candid opinion that his grandson, the Hon. John H. Stevenson, contributed more to make it so than any other one individual.
His princely bearing, his very affable, courteous nature, his wonderful endowment in natural mentality, his fine sense of humor, his loyalty and devotion to all things religious, his true worth in character, all well applied, made of him a great leader and an outstanding rural Superintendent of Church Schools and church leader, in the Tenn. Conference, for many, many years.
But, of course we know, that the great efforts upon the part of the grand-father, as well as that of the grandson to make the name "Bee Spring" mean what it means today, one hundred and thirty-nine years after it's founding, had it not been for the loyalty and he true devotion upon the part of many other men and women who contributed their all, it might have been in vain.
Our next annual Home-Comming Memorial Day will be May 30.
In reminiscence, I am thinking that, four years ago, the Adjuiant General, Joe W. Henry, Jr., of Pulaski, Tenn., addressed us on the occasion. Three years ago Dr. Wlm. H. Mansfield, pastor of First Methodist Church, Lawrenceburg, Tenn.; two years ago, the Hon. Jim McCord, former Governor of Tenn., of Lewisburg, Tenn; one year ago, Professor Herschel McCord, one of Giles County's outstanding teachers, of Cornersville, Tenn. And on this occasion of May 30th we are again most fortunate and highly favored in that Tennessee's present governor, the Hon. Frank G. Clement, of Nashville, Tenn., has definitely said that he will be happy to address us.
A former pastor of Gov. Clement's. the Rev. Lantrip, Dist. Supt. of the Columbia District of the Tenn. Conference, of Franklin, Tenn., exspects to be in attendance and introduce Gov. Clement to the people.
We extend to all people a very cordial invitation to attend.
We want everyone to be with us. It is your day, not ours. Please come."
Sterling E. Stovall
(Mr. Stovall sent me the above, April 25, 1956. I copied it April 28, 1956. Tomorrow is the anniversary date (April 29, 1909) of the tornado that destroyed "Old Bee Spring" church. Tomorrow, Sept. 29, 1980 will be 71 yrs. 5 mos. since the tornado.
(Copied by Mary Hulsey, great-great-grandaughter of Rev. Elam A. Stevenson, Kilgore, Texas, Jan. 29, 1996. It is now 181 yrs. since the 1st. "Bee Spring" church was built, and today 86 yrs. and 10 months since the tornado destroyed the building.)
Submitted by: Mary Hulsey