The Pulaski Citizen September 15, 1898


A Summary of the History of this Old Congregation

Bethesda Church, Richland Circuit, Tennessee Conference, situated in Giles County, Tenn., seven miles southeast of Pulaski , was erected in 1819 by James Paine, father of the beloved Bishop Paine, assisted by James Abernathy, father of Colston Abernathy and H. P. Abernathy, and Lewis Brown, father of Hartwell Brown.

In the dedication ceremonies, which were conducted by Phillip Bruce, the remark was made by Bruce that "I suppose we all need mercy, and as Bethesda means the house of mercy, we will call our new house Bethesda."

McCallum, in his History of Giles County, says that this was the second Methodist Church built in this county, the first one being Rehobeth house near Tarpley, in this county.

The Bethesda building was of heavy log work with eight rib poles to nail the boards to, and for heating utility in winter was provided with a chimney composed with of sticks and dirt, with a fireplace six feet wide. Seats were made of split logs, with holes bored for the legs, and were without backs of any kind. The above is the concise history of this primitive church in its infancy. In 1835 the house and lot on which this house was located was transferred to Hickerson Grubbs in consideration of a deed for another lot one fourth of a mile northeast of the original place, upon which was built the frame house that occupies the lot. The difference between the lots was $15, paid to Hickerson Grubbs.

The lumber in the building was all sawed by hand. From the best obtainable information, the carpenter who planned the construction and assisted in the building of this house was Joab Ross, father of Jack Ross, of Lynnville. The pulpit was a kind of box on legs that almost concealed the preacher from view, and when Uncle James Stevenson or Albert Stevenson preached they stood on an extra step to see over the box.

The first trustees of the present house were Davis Brown, James Abernathy, Colston and Ethelbert Abernathy, James Paine and Beverly Brown.

Among the worthy divines who gave their active support and influence to this church, some living, but many passed away, we note the beloved and Reverend Bishop Robert Paine, one of the ablest of all the Bishops, and Rev. T. G. Paine, his half-brother, a zealous and lovable man, who spent his life and fortune in the cause of Jesus. Rev. John H. Birdsong, whose life and character are history known to all in the section near this church, where he lived and died. We cannot fail to mention Rev. S. H. Brown, whose life and character were synonymous with love and truth and purity, and who was the first to be buried in the churchyard of the church he loved so well. Rev. W. T. Andrews, the able author and writer, now of the North Alabama Conference, was next, and his life since he was transferred from Tennessee to Alabama is good witness to his work.

There was a Sunday School connected with this embryo church, but conducted quite differently from the present mode. Each member who had a Bible would take it with him or her and the teacher would select a chapter to read, then would ask such questions as might occur to be pertinent. If no Testament or Bible was obtainable, some kind or any kind of sacred history was taken, while the smaller pupils answered questions out of a catechism provided for them.

Submitted by: Rita Birdsong