By W. Thomas Carden

August 25, 1904

Pisgah is noted far and near on account of its being, and having been, prominent as a site for religious worship. The chief feature in its history is the church and campmeetings Methodistitinerants were generally first in striking out into unknown territory or else shortly followed emigrants into new settlements. The Methodist Church has ever been a missionary body: and the heralds of the cross sent out, or who voluntarily went, under its auspices, often were instrumental in establishing law and order. They were heroes, good citizens, and indefatigable leaders in the advancement of civilization. Intrepid, humble, simple, honest, they were examples for the pioneers and proved a blessing to every community they labored in, by their good deeds, earnest advise and Godly counsel.

The next Methodist preacher, of whom any record is made, in this section was John Craig, who came here in 1811. In 1812 T. Stillwell preached here. I do not find any reference to these men further than these mere facts. The territory embraced in what is now the Tennessee Conference was known as the Cumberland Country in early days. Before 1801, Conference lines had not been drawn and Conference names were not known. The first Conference within the bounds of the Tennessee Conference was held in 1802, in Sumner County, at Strother's Meetinghouse, near the head of Big Station Camp Creek. Bishop Asbury presided. The minutes of this session show the name attached to the Conference for the first time - it was Western Conference, with three districts, viz; Holston, Cumberland, and Kentucky. In 1806 the Mississippi District was added and embraced this part of Tennessee. In 1812 the Nashville District is recorded and the first session of the Tennessee Conference was held November 12, at Fountain Head, Bishops McKendree and Asbury, presided. William B. Elgin was secretary. In 1813 the Western Conference was divided into the Ohio and Tennessee Conferences, the latter including all the work in Tennessee, Mississippi and Illinois. Reverends Craig and Stilwell were doubtless sent out by the above named Conferences. North of this place, on the branch near the old Oliver home, the first carnpmeeting in these parts was held in 1811 or 1812, probably in the first named year. Dissatisfaction arising in regard to the location led to the camps being moved on top of the hill in 1814, and the name Mount Pisgah was given the place.

Reverend Alexander McDonald was so well pleased with the change that he gave ten acres to the Methodist Church and it remains until this day in possession of this church. The change from the valley to the top of the hill was a wise move. Five roads joined on the hill, wood and water were plentiful and the air was purer and sweeter, which made the change more convenient and adaptive in many respects for continued services. The location selected is where the present church stands and there could scarcely be found a more suitable spot for a church edifice anywhere. It is a pre-eminently appropriate location.

There is a slight confusion as to who served as preacher here in these days. One record gives the name of Bray Ady as Circuit Rider for the year 1812. And another the name of T. Stillwell. Perhaps they traveled the work together. John Lemaster served in 1813. Benjamin Edge was here in 1814. Learner Blackman was Presiding Elder of Nashville District which embraced this work. The first camprneeting was a small affair. In 1814 Learner Blackman, Presiding Elder, and nineteen other preachers, were present, and a great revival was held.

The society here was the second organized in Giles County, but it has been regarded as the first. It was instituted at the home of Reverend Alexander McDonald, in 1812. The first Methodist Church in this County was built near Cross Water Creek, about six miles southeast of Pulaski. This society was organized in 1811, It was a log house named Rehoboth. Later a frame building took its place and was destroyed by the Federal Army during the Civil War. It was built by Reverend Aaron Brown, his brothers, David and Lewis, Reverends Samuel Harwell, Sr., and Coleman Harwell. Reverend Aaron Brown was the father of Governor Aaron V. Brown.

For several years the circuit Rider and local preachers preached at the home of Reverend McDonald, who lived where R. C. Smith now lives. In 1817 or 1818 a house of worship was built just behind where the present house sits.

While Pisgah was the second society in the County, Bee Springs claims the distinction of having the second Methodist Church, which was a log house that was burned accidentally in 1815.

It is claimed that the old Zion Baptist Church was the first church built in the County. It was built in 1809 or 1810.

Bethesda Church was built in 1819. James Paine, James Abernathy and Lewis Brown, were chiefly those who erected the house. Philip Bruce chose the name and dedicated the Church. The name signifies house of mercy. Mt. Zion Church, on Bradshaw Creek, was erected in 1818, near the residence of Reverend Coleman Harwell. A society was formed earlier. This church is twelve miles east of Pulaski and is surrounded by a fertle section of the country. It was built by Coleman Harwell, Lewis Williamson, and Levi Sherrill. Coleman Harwell, local elder, George Davenport, Catherine Harwell, Lewis Williamson,Levi Sherrill, Elizabeth Sherrill, Stith M. Harwell, local elder, Nancy Williamson and Nancy Harwell, were the names on the roll at that time.

Joshua Boucher, with Clifton Tucker as junior preacher, traveled this section in 1815. Thomas L. Douglass was Presiding Elder. Joshua Boucher was a noted preacher. He was born in West Virginia, October 23rd, 1872. His father was cruelly killed by the Indians, and he was raised by his grandfather in Kentucky. In early life he was very gay. His education was deficient. He lamented this misfortune all of his life although he had splendid natural ability. He was an accomplished musician, playing the violin as few could play that melodious instrument. He came to Alabama in 1808. It was then known as the Territory of Mississippi. He joined the Church in 1806 and was a classleader and exhorter for some time. In 1811 he began to preach. He served here in 1815, and in 1830. Pulaski and Elkton were preaching places on the work with this place and several others. He was on the Forked Deer District, when it extended from Pulaski to the Tennessee River above Florence, thence west to the Mississippi River to Memphis, up the River between Memphis and Paducah, then up Tennessee River to mouth of same, all the country on Wolf, Hatchie, Forked Deer and Sandy Rivers, last, taking in the counties of Wayne, Hardin, Humphries and Lawrence. He was Presiding Elder of the Richland and Huntsville Districts, and was an active itinerant for thirty two years. While serving the Richland Circuit, 1830, he was appointed to the Tennessee District.

Philip Bruce, who was closely identified with Giles County, was a celebrated minister, who participated in campmeetings here for several years. He was born December 25, 1755. In 1800 he did much revival work in North Carolina with good results. He and Reverend Elam Stephenson were intimate friends. The latter brought part of Bruce's belongings to Tennessee in 1813. Arnold, Seaborn, and Joel Bruce, brothers, came with him and settled in and around Bee Springs. Philip Bruce was simple and childlike in manner, but was a flaming evangelist in the pulpit. He was so gentle and kind that no young and timid preacher was embarrassed to preach before him. He was also a school teacher. He never married. He lived with a brother and buried by the side of his mother and two brothers who sleep near Bee Springs. He died, May 1825. The Virginia Conference erected the handsome granite shaft over his grave. He was a member of that Conference and was a Methodist preacher for fifty years. In 1816 Benjamin King was preacher on the Richland Circuit, this place being on that charge. Miles Harper was associate preacher. In 1817 no Bishop was present at the opening of the Tennessee Conference, October 30, to November 8, at Franklin. Peter Cartwright opened the session and Thomas L. Douglass presided. Bishop R. R. Roberts came later. Reverend Alexander McDonald, a local deacon of this place, was elected to elders orders and ordained at this Conference. John Seaton was sent to this place. He afterwards transferred to the Mississippi Conference.

Eighty dollars was the salary paid a single man. A small allowance was made for wife if the preacher was earned. Horse-shoeing was gratis and gifts of woolen socks were helpful. Preachers did not board. It took one month to make the circuit. For quite a number of years the Richland Circuit had about twenty eight appointments. Six days were given the preachers to rest in. Pulaski, Elkton, Delrose, and Lynnville, Pisgah, Diana, and the present Richland Circuit constituted the Richland District.

Miles Harper, who was on this work in 1816, afterwards was Presiding Elder of Cumberland District. Bishop Robert Paine began his ministry under Harper about 1818.

Part 1   Part 3