The Heritage of Daniel Haston


History of White County, Tennessee
By Rev. Monroe Seals

Chapter II - Education and Religion


Some of our educators ranked well with any in the State. Prof. R. L. Jones, State Superintendent of Schools, two times, head of one of our State Normals, and Superintendent of Schools for Memphis; W. N. Billingsley, President of the State Text Book Commission and teacher in one of our State Normals; Harrison Martin, after teaching several years in this County went west and established a noted law school in California; Thomas L. Passons, teacher in Tennessee Polytechnic Institute; Prof. Kittrell, who taught two years at Hutchings College, is now Registrar at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute; Q. M. Smith, teacher in White County High School one year, is now President of Tennessee Polytechnic Institute; Martin White, noted as a teacher here and in Texas; Ed Rotan, noted both in Tennessee and Texas as a teacher; Joel Barnes, S. H. Proffitt, W. T. McCall, B. O. Duggan, were all Presidents of the State Teachers' Association; Joe McMillan, brother of Benton McMillan, taught in Sparta and later at Andrew Jackson College.

Prof. H. F. Srygley taught his first school in White County. He is now Supt. Nashville City Schools.

The early settler either taught his own children, or some one in the neighborhood was selected for that purpose. In the early days the text books used were Goodrich Readers (McGuffey's not coming into use until 1836), Webster's speller, not the famous blue back, but one by Webster before the blue back and different (I once owned a copy); Jedediah Morse's early days the text books used were Goodrich Readers, Mc­Universal Geography, Pike's Arithmetic with all calculations in English money and Smiley's arithmetic. Writing was done with a goose quill pen made with a sharp pen knife, and samples I've seen were excellent. The teacher gave
instructions to one pupil at a time, the pupil coming at his call up to his side and reciting. Discipline was usually severe, the hickory being in frequent use. Girls and boys sat on different sides of the room and played on separate grounds. The first school houses were built of logs and had benches made of split logs with legs and leaned against the walls, or without backs. To pass the school and yell, ''Schoolbutter,'' was a challenge to the whole school. The teacher calling out to his boys, "Catch him." Then they proceeded to do so and demanded of the offender that he would treat, the school or take a ducking, or both.

The first chartered school in White County was chartered as Priestly Academy in 1815, with Dr. Hezikiah Priestly as its head. Dr. Priestly was also pastor of the Presbyterian Church, the only church in Sparta then. The church services were held in the Academy which was located where the old cemetery now is. The school campus gradually filled up with graves until it became a cemetery. This school was probably conducted as an unchartered school before this for the school house was built as a church and school in 1813. Dr. Priestly continued as head of the school until his death in the early twenties. Rev. Memucan Wade, a Cumberland Presbyterian, succeeded Dr. Priestly in church and school, the Cumberland Presbyterians having captured most of the Presbyterian churches of this section in the revolution which took place after 1810. Priestly Academy continued until 1831, at which time a brick county academy was built. This school was headed by a brilliant young lawyer, David Ames. The school now went out from the sponsorship of the church, and yet the Cumberland Presbyterian Church reached its prime of influence in 1834, being then the largest congregation in the County.

A rival school to Priestly Academy was started in a log house on the hill, then called East Sparta, in 1823. It was not successful. Rev. William Jarrett, (born in 1797, died in 1860) came here in late middle life. Having a horrible throat trouble, he taught school. He stuttered badly. It is not known how long Ames taught nor when Jarrett came, but Jarrett was teaching in the Academy in 1846. In 1850 the Academy was sold and the proceeds used to purchase the brick residence of H. L. Carrick which was converted into a school called Nourse Seminary with Prof. Nourse in charge. It is probable that Nourse taught the last year or two in the Academy. In 1882 a frame addition was made to Nourse Seminary. In 1887 Dibrell Normal was erected on the foundations of Nourse Seminary with Prof. Nourse in charge. It is probable that taught one and a half years before McCall came. This later became the Sparta City School. Under the administration of Mal C. Wallace in 1924 a new city school was built at a cost of $90,000.00. Arless Passons, one of the strongest teachers in administration in Tennessee, is now principal. In 1910, due to the efforts of Miss Ella Snodgrass, then County Superintendent, White County High School was established. A building was erected at a cost of $20,000.00. This burned in January, 1918. It was rebuilt at a cost of $75,000.00. This building also burned November 25, 1932. It was rebuilt in 1933.

Cumberland Institute.
The charter for Cumberland Institute was granted in 1825. A man named Compton was then at its head. It was in existence before 1810. Cumberland Institute was one of two classical schools in the Cumberland Mountain region, the other being Alpine in Overton County. Some of the subjects taught were Higher Mathematics, Latin, Greek, and German. Cumberland Institute was a boarding school and at one time is said to have had students from seven states. It was sponsored by the Presbytery and one of the buildings on the campus was known as Preachers' Hall, where candidates for the ministry lived. Perhaps the most famous head of this school was Rev. James Williams. He became nationally known after his death through pupils he
had taught. Part of his fame rests on the fact that this Presbytery has now become famous as one of the Special Presbyteries under the direction of Dr. Warren H. Wilson. Williams was at one time head of Old Zion Academy. He died in Texas. After Williams left Cumberland Institute French Crawford was at the head of the school for a while, but it soon disbanded.

Onward Seminary. This school was chartered about 1840. The high mark of its influence was reached during the administration of W. N. Billingsley who taught there for fourteen years. Some pupils of this school during that period were R. L. Jones, Judge Harry Camp, Captain James Camp, M.D., Willie Belote, M.D., A. F. Richards, M.D., R. E. Lee Smith, M.D., Prof. W. E. Shockley and S. H. Proffitt, both of these last filling the office of County Superintendent. During this period there was a society of pupils and neighbors, called the Atheneum, which got together for debates, essays, music, both vocal and instrumental, talks, and fun. William Marcus Taylor and John Sparkman also attended school here.

Old Zion Academy. This school was established about 1825 and was later chartered. Some of the teachers in this school whose names have come down to us were T. L. Mitchell, Fons Holmes, James Nowlin, Rev. James Williams, Dr. A. F. Richards, R. L. Jones, D. L. Lansden, and Harry Camp. There is now a good brick public school there.

Yankeetown. This school was established by a colony from the North about 1840. Col. S. H. Coims gave the land for the school. Prof. Abbott was the first teacher. Yankeetown furnished three or four persons nationally known. It is now a public school and the best equipped rural school in the County.

Doyle College. Was established in 1884. Rev. William Huff was its President, and Ben Gist was president of the Board. It ran for forty years but its greatest success was during the first ten years. Some of its noted pupils were: L. D. Smith, who at his death was Attorney General of Tennessee, Judge D. B. Bell, a popular Judge in Texas; Supreme Court Justice D. L. Lansden; Supreme Court Justice F. T. Fancher; J. B. Bill, President of the L. & N. Railroad; Lawyers J. M. Welch, J. W. Scott, and Waggoner. Teachers who were products of this school: Brett, Brown, Cameron, Carver, Hampton, Porter, Seals, Scott, and Waggoner. Teachers who were products of this school were numerous. Perhaps Miss Minnie Moyers is the best known. Doyle was for many years the intellectual center of White County. The school is now a public school.

Peeled Chestnut. In 1845 an academy was chartered at Peeled Chestnut. Little is known of this school now.

Eaton Institute was founded just before the Civil War. Its only period of note was the two and a half years during which W. N. Billingsley taught there.

Ver Del Normal was established by John S. Cooper in 1887 and named for his two daughters, using the first syllable of each name. Their names were Vernon and Delmer. It was short-lived.

Hutchings College was remarkable for its influence. It was established as an unchartered school by our Ex-State Senator, Ransom Hutchings, in 1897. A graduate of Pleasant Hill Academy, just out of school, ambitious and energetic, he conceived the idea of building a college. With not a dollar he burned the brick himself and with his own hands built his school, and opened it debt free. Judging from its work and influence it was the greatest school in the County in its time. The influence of the school reached out beyond the bounds of our County. Besides Mr. Hutchings there were the following teachers: Miss Patty Irving, W. B. King, whose biography may be found in Vol. II, "Noted Men in Middle Tennessee," J. B. Rollins, who afterwards was County Superintendent of Grundy County for sixteen years, and Dr. Mayberry, now a physician in Texas. Some of its pupils were Rev. Sam Edwards, once County Judge of Putnam County, and Tom Kittrell, Bursar
of Tennessee Polytechnic Institute.

Some of the early unchartered schools of White County were Union, established in 1826, and taught by Benny Mays, and Upper Cherry Creek, established in 1845, and taught by Fletcher Jackson. There were other schools, both chartered and unchartered, but even the names of some of them are now lost.

The first record of public schools in this County was in 1838. The scholastic population of the County in that year was 2,886, and the County in that year received from the State Fund $1,798.41. In 1850 the scholastic population was 2,500. There were fifty teachers and as many schools. In that year the public school fund amounted to $1,550.00. No records of schools were kept by the State until 1858. The State Treasurer then acted as State Superintendent of Schools. W. F. McGregor, State Treasurer, in that year appropriated $2,262.00 to White County for public education. The State School Law of 1867 provided for a State Superintendent and' for a County Superintendent of Schools. Under this law negroes and whites alike shared in the benefits of public education, negroes heretofore not being admitted to public schools. Since then negroes have had their own schools and their own teachers. W. F. Carter was the first County Superintendent of White County. In his first report he reported as a total enrollment in the schools of the County 2,505 pupils, 200 of whom were negroes. Salaries averaged twenty-five dollars a month. After Carter, Dr. W. S. Findley was County Superintendent for a number of years.

The subjects taught were Reading, Arithmetic, Geography, Grammar, and Spelling, the last named being emphasized very much. Not much attention was given to writing. Little folks were not taught writing at all until they were in their teens. Some attention was given to public speaking and occasionally an essay was presented by some young lady on some such subjects as, ''Improvement of Time,'' '' Obedience to Parents,'' "Industry," and the like.

The County Superintendent visited the schools once a year. As late as 1890 the schools ran only about three months. They usually began in July and had two weeks intermission for fodder pulling in September. Children carried water for the school from some convenient spring. It was a treat for two little boys to go to the spring. Students took turns sweeping the house. In some schools this was managed by the girls only. Students sometimes had to walk as far as four miles to school. There was a prejudice against the public schools because they were at first only for those who could not pay tuition. All those who were able to do so sent their children to the private academies. Public schools, for the most part, were taught in church houses or in houses used for
both church and school. Schools were stopped for protracted meetings. The consolidating of schools in this County began with the building of the consolidated school at Old Zion in 1914. Under the superintendency of R. L. Sutton the building of school houses received a great impetus. He also put on school busses which transported students to the consolidated schools and to the High School, thus enabling large numbers of pupils to get the benefits of the High School. This was an outstanding feature of progress. Before the secondary schools came into existence most of the County schools were one teacher schools. During the days of the Secondary Schools there was a large number who had a higher grade of education than any arrangement before or since.


In our early history superstition was widespread. It was sometimes mixed with religion. A man had a full jug of liquor behind the door and a fiddle hanging on the wall. He would get converted at a meeting and go home and throw the fiddle out a back window, but leave the jug behind the door for future use. Most people then believed in witches. In one neighborhood in the lower end of the County the children had been afflicted strangely and much stock had died. "Witches are at work,'' they said. In this neighborhood was a witch doctor named Bear. He was sent for and came. He drew a picture which he called "according to the scriptures" then he molded a silver bullet for his gun, loaded the gun, saying, "I could kill her, but I'm only going to cripple her." At a little past four o'clock in the afternoon he shot. Thirteen or fourteen miles away, in the North of the County, at the time he shot, a woman named Nancy Gunter was carrying in some wood for the night. She fell, saying, "Oh, Lord I've stumped my toe." It was noticed that she limped ever after this.

This story was about on a par with another one. A man said to his brother, "Jim, the witches are about to ride me to death." "You lie, Bill," said Jim. "No I don't, they shake a bridle over my head, turn me into a horse, ride me through the keyhole, and ride me sixty miles arriving at the back of my field before day, and there they hitch me to a dogwood until daybreak." "Bill, you lie," said Jim again. Then Bill proposed that Jim come over the next morning that he would gnaw the dogwood and that he would lead Jim to the spot. Jim came over next morning to find that Bill had gnawed a gap out of the wooden headboard of the bed. Some old women used to put a ten cent piece of silver in the churn when the butter would not come. It is said that an occasional woman still does that. Pioneers refused to burn sassafras for fear the lightning would strike the house.

Methodist, Baptists and Presbyterians were the denominations of the County. Presbyterians were organized into a church at Cherry Creek as early as 1800. This was the first church organized in the County. This church was organized as a result of a camp meeting held on Cherry Creek by the famous Lorenzo Dow in 1800. Camp meetings were common in the early history of the County. There were various places tit which these were regularly held. Besides Cherry Creek camp meetings were held at Mount Gilead, Mount Pisgah, one in walking distance of Sparta, and other places. Mount Gilead was a camp ground before the church there was founded, which was in 1826, the present old cemetery there being the hitch ground for the campers. To these meetings the people came in wagons with food and cooking vessels, on horse back, and walking, camping out for weeks at a time. Usually some local preacher did the preaching or some minister who was known to White Countians.

Strange things happened at these meetings. Some people would take the jerks, jerking backwards and forwards. The jerks described to me by those who saw them were forward. For instance a woman would take the jerks. In two or three jerks the combs came out of her hair, and so violent and sudden were the jerks forward, that the hair would pop at each jerk like a whipcracker. Usually the ones who took them were sinners or backsliders. When the person affected would pray, the jerking stopped. A person might take the jerks at home, on the way to church, and some took them who had not been to church at all. Another phenomenon which seemed to have passed away was the trance. A person under the powerful preaching, the pioneer preacher having a few sermons on which he had labored for a life time, and especially the realistic descriptions of the judgment day, and at the close of the sermon all about Gabriel blowing his trumpet, his voice, which was cultivated for all his ministry so as to be effective, the minister's firm conviction of the power and presence of the Divine Being, this sermon to men, most of whom. were of limited education, was calculated to stir them to the depths of their being. People would go into a trance, sometimes, for a few hours, in some cases for three days and nights. If left alone, the person invariably professed conversion at the end of the trance, and lived a Christian life afterwards. After the trance passed, the persons would rise, and begin to tell about being in Heaven, whom they saw there, and the conversation they had, too. I have seen one or two in a trance as late as the year 1889.

Shouting was common. I saw a lady begin to shout, clapping her hands, looking up all the time, while standing on a six-inch plank which was used for a seat. She turned around on this plank while looking up three times without falling. At Dodson's Chapel a woman began to shout at the north bank of the river opposite the Sally Dodson place. She kept her head up and went across the dry river bed, walking over the large, slick rocks without falling. Other strange things occurred at meetings, the reason for which has been a mystery to most people.

Our early history was one of religious polemics, as is seen in the rise of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Mormon Church in 1810, the early division of the Baptists into two groups, one being the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Baptists, led by the Dentons in the mountain sections of Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky, and later by the rise of the Disciple Movement, and still later by the Baptist Church of Christ, commonly called "The Baptist,'' and last by the Baptist Church of Christ as Founded on the Scriptures. The first division of the Baptists mentioned above came in 1823. We have never had a first class religious debate in our County. Lida Stone and Josle Williams, Christian ministers, debated with Rev. Dick Simpson on Cherry Creek. The audience claimed Simpson was the winner. Another audience might have reversed this decision. Dr. Brents, noted Christian debater came to the Methodist Church where Dr. Collinsworth had lectured for twelve days, having left for McMinnville the previous day. Brents remained in Sparta for four days to "clear up some of Collinsworth's mistakes," and to tell the story as Dr. Brents told it. Brents upon leaving went into Dr. Rudd's drug store saying, "I'm going to McMinnville to meet Collinsworth, I've not been feeling well for a few days, let me have a package of Simmon's Liver Regulator." Dr. Rudd replied, ''If you are going to meet Collinsworth, you had better get two packages.''

Isaac Woodard, who has been heard by some now living, was the greatest opponent Isaac Denton ever had. Woodard was a Methodist minister. He never attacked Denton or anyone else with logic. This would have been folly, but he attacked him with ridicule, sarcasm, epithet, and other species of wit. Riding along the road one day he met Denton. An argument ensued. Woodard must have been worsted, because he invited Denton down off his horse to settle the argument with fists.

When Woodard was old he had three divisions to the one sermon he preached, each division half an hour long. He had large audiences.

Division One was on the Presbyterians; this is a summary: "There are the Presbyterians. They believe in the final perseverance of the saints. One of them, my neighbor, got drunk last week and beat his wife. He was a nice saint, a wife-beating saint. He may have been a nice fellow before the devil shot the feathers off of him. A Presbyterian preacher told me that he was sorry for me, as I had to move by the almanac. I told him that I was sorrier for him, as he had to move by the boot jack. I'd rather be under a Bishop who is a hundred miles away than be under an Elder next door, pecking and spurring at me like an old domineeker rooster all the time. A Presbyterian deacon cheated his neighbor out of his horse, then went to prayer meeting and prayed for his neighbor's conversion. He thinks he is going to heaven, but there are three who know better. Down in his own heart he knows better, the Lord knows better, the devil knows better. When he dies he will try to go to Heaven, the devil will try to drag him to Hell. There will be an awful scuffle, until, finally both will go kerflop right of into Hell. One of my neighbor ministers, a Presbyterian, cuts ice off the pond for use in the summer. He uses it in the summer, too. Listen to one of his sermons and you will agree with me.''

Division Two was on the Baptists: ''There's Ike Denton slandering the Lord, saying that there are infants in Hell. I never heard of but two places where there were no infants, one is Hell, and the other is the Baptist Church. Denton claims that Christ organized the Baptist Church. I cannot believe that Christ ever made such a mistake. Denton claims that the devil holds most of the world in spite of God, that God cannot get what the devil has. God is stronger than the devil, and if Denton was better acquainted with God than he is with the devil, he would change his mind. It is suspicious when a preacher knows too much about the devil Denton knows more about the devil than any one I know." For half an hour his thrusts were worse than he made against the Presbyterians.

Division Three, the Methodists. Here he reached the climax of his sermon, being severer than on either of the other two. "There's your little two by four Methodist preacher. Your Uncle Ike can preach three times on Sunday and go on about his business. Your little sissy preacher preaches once and he is so exhausted that when he reaches the house, he has to get some of the sisters to fan him. Some Methodist preachers are like Si Dugan's old red steer. They make noise enough to pull the world, but not a pound will they pull. There's your little sissy Methodist preacher who stretches up two or three inches taller, saying, 'I'm not afraid of the devil' Well, I do not know about that, but I'm sure that the devil's not afraid of him. There are some Methodist preachers who will never create a flutter in the world unless it is the chickens getting away when he goes home with some one for dinner.'' He won his battle with the masses in this way.

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

The Presbyterian Church U. S. A. has the following churches in White County: First Presbyterian, Sparta, Hickory Valley, and a larger parish composed of Blue Springs, Cherry Creek, Robinson's Chapel, Spring Hill Community Church, and Johnson's Chapel. The churches of this larger parish are bound together by a larger parish council which determines the policies for each. Cherry Creek, the oldest church in the group, was organized in 1800 and remained Presbyterian until 1833 at which time, being then the only Presbyterian Church in the Cumberland mountain section, it went into the Cumberland movement and became Cumberland Presbyterian. After the union of Cumberland Presbyterians with Presbyterians in 1906 Cherry Creek returned to the mother church, being the last church in this section to leave the Presbyterian Church and the first to return after the union. In the days when it was practically the only church of any denomination covering a wide territory it had a membership of nearly four hundred. It has been called the mother of churches in White County, twelve other churches having been organized out of its membership. Blue Springs was organized in 1820 as a Presbyterian church, but soon after became Cumberland Presbyterian, Presbyterian again after 1906. Robinson's Chapel was organized as a Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1882 and became Presbyterian in 1906. Johnson's Chapel was organized as a Presbyterian Church in 1800 became a Primitive Baptist Church in 1833, then Christian Baptist in 1844, again Presbyterian in 1911. Spring Hill was organized as a community church, Presbyterian in government, in 1924. Each church elects one member to the parish council. The Presbyterian Church in Sparta was organized first as a Presbyterian Church in 1813, went into the Cumberland movement sometime in the early twenties and was reorganized as a Presbyterian Church after the union in 1906. Hickory Valley Presbyterian Church was organized under the name of Union in 1805, became Cumberland Presbyterian in the early twenties and again Presbyterian after 1906; but the community was divided on the question of union, a part wanting to continue as Cumberland Presbyterian. These continued their organization and held Union church. The factions in favor of union with the mother church moved further up the valley and built the present Hickory Valley Church. The combined communicant membership of the Presbyterian churches in White County is five hundred and eighty-seven.

Cumberland Presbyterians

The Cumberland Presbyterians have two churches in White County, Old Union in Hickory Valley and Old Zion. Together they have forty-five members.


The first Methodist Church established in this section was Bethlehem Church established in 1818. Bethlehem Church was then in White County, now in Putnam. The Methodist Church in Sparta was established in 1828. The congregation worshiped in the Courthouse until the present house was built in 1852. Colonel Bill Stokes while holding Sparta tore out the floor and used the church as a stable for his cavalry horses. The United States Government later paid the church damages. Mount Gilead was established in 1826 on the site of the old Gilead camp ground. It is the oldest Methodist church now in White County. The other Methodist churches of the County are Mount Carmel, Findley, Almyra, Shady Grove, Ravenscroft, Wesley Chapel, Doyle, Dodson, Frazier, Lost Creek, Rogers, and Mount Pisgah. These are all Southern Methodist Churches. Their combined
membership is twelve hundred and eighty-six. The Methodist Episcopal Church has two churches in White County, Peeled Chestnut and a church in Wild Cat Cove. They have a combined membership of two hundred.

Churches of Christ

The first sermon preached by a minister of the Disciple Movement was in Sparta in 1834 by Raccoon John Smith. There are three branches of the Disciple Movement which claim Raccoon John Smith as one of their early ministers. The Christian Baptist Church, the Church of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ. In the days of Smith no division had come. A camp meeting was ending just out of town and the preachers would not announce the meeting for Smith. Judge John Catron was holding a term of the Court of Appeals in Sparta at the time. He had known Smith in Kentucky, and he dismissed his Court and he and the Sparta Bar attended Smith's meeting. Preachers of this Movement continued to preach in Sparta from time to time but no organization was formed until 1842 when Jesse Sewell organized the church. The congregation worshiped in the Courthouse, in the schoolhouse, and in private homes until 1853. In that year this congregation and the Cumberland Presbyterian congregation bought the old County Academy which they used jointly. Two years later the Christians bought out the other interest and worshiped there alone until they built a brick church on the present site of the Church of Christ in 1887. This building was destroyed by fire in 1927. The present handsome structure took the place of the one destroyed in the same year, the congregation having their first meeting, a wedding service, on Thanksgiving night. The other Churches of Christ are, Bethlehem, Doyle, Jericho, Walling, Quebeck, Hebron, O'Connor, Cherry Creek, Big Spring, Board Valley, Ravenscroft, Eastland, Lost Creek, Hickory Valley, Corinth and DeRossett. The total membership of the Churches of Christ in White County is twelve hundred and twenty-five.

Disciples of Christ

Disciples of Christ are represented by one church, First Christian Church of Sparta. The congregation has one of the best houses of worship, in this. section of Tennessee, which was erected in 1928.


The Baptist Church is represented in White County by four branches. The largest unit of the Baptist Church in White County is the Missionary Baptist which has congregations in Sparta, Pistol, Hampton's Cross Roads,
Liberty, New Hope, Pleasant Hill, Boiling Springs, Doyle, Gum Springs and Greenwood. They have a total reported membership of thirteen hundred and seventy-five. The first Baptist Church organized in our section was the old Cane Creek Church organized in 1821 in what was then White County, but now Putnam. Another branch of the Baptist Church is the Baptist Church of Christ, generally called The Baptist. These are sometimes nicknamed '' Stypeites.'' This branch of the Baptist Church came into being at Greenwood in White County and takes it nickname from Rev. Jacob Stypes who was the leading spirit in the beginning of the movement. This denomination has congregations at Macedonia, Spring Hill, and Bethel with a total reported membership of three hundred and thirty-two. About fifteen years ago there was a split in The Baptist Church, one faction taking the name The Baptist Church of Christ as Founded on the Scriptures. The leader in this faction was Rev. James Luney who was a White Countian. They have no church in this County. An old branch of the Baptist family which was once powerful in the County is the Two-Seed-in-the­Spirit Baptist Church. They are represented now by only one congregation in White County, Philadelphia, with a reported membership of ten. The Free Will Christian Baptist Church which was at one time a part of the Disciple Movement and became a separate organization after the disagreement between Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone is represented in White County by congregations at Baker's Cross Roads, Board Valley, Glade Creek, Hensley's Chapel, Millsap Grove, Pleasant Ridge, and Yankeetown, with a reported membership of two hundred and fifty-two.

Church of God

The Church of God as we know it in White County today came out of an older Holiness Movement which began in this County in 1895. The first preacher of this movement in White County was a man known as Evangelist Butler. He preached rather widely over the County. Rev. H. C. Morrison had held one revival in this County before this time with no apparent results. Shortly after the coming of Butler came Rev. Thomas Curry, a man of comprehensive mind, a close reasoner and diligent in his labors. The County was stirred over doctrine as a result of his preaching as it had not been for half a century. Most of the churches in the County contributed members to this cause. He believed in no church organization but in the sanctified meeting together to worship. Old Zion finally went down. So did Baker's Cross Roads, and various other churches lost several members to Curry. A debate between Oscar Jones and Curry on one side and Elam and Goodpasture on the other did no injury to Curry's cause. One of the results of this movement was the Church of God. They now have congregations at Black Oak, Cassville and Bon Air, with a reported combined membership of one hundred and sixty-seven.

The Church of the Nazarene came out of the same Movement in White County as the Church of God due
largely to the preaching of Rev. Thomas Curry. Both the Church of the Nazarene at Sparta and at Doyle were organized as a result of Curry's work. They have a total reported membership of one hundred.

Negro Churches

There is a negro Church of God in Sparta with perhaps thirty members. This church was organized in 1927.

The first church for negroes in White County was half a mile north of Sparta, west of the Cookeville Road where the junction of the Cherry Creek Road is made. This Church was founded soon after the Civil War and continued until in the eighties. Since then churches for negroes have been organized in Sparta. The first Baptist Church of Christ was organized May 5, 1906, by Rev. J. H. Hillman, Rev. W. M. Hamilton, Levi Maddox and Elisha Fleming. It has a membership of thirty-five. Another negro church in Sparta is Kynett M. E. Chapel, Rev. R. R. M. Robinson, pastor, with a total membership of eighty-six. Still another church in Sparta is Murray Chapel, a M. E. Church with a membership of thirty. For s long time the negroes had a church on the
Warrior, but this church was disbanded several years ago. There is an M. E. Church at Yankeetown with a membership of about forty.


The first Mormon who came to White County for any length of time was named Miller. He preached here and in adjoining counties all summer, but when autumn came, his dead body was found under a flat rock in Putnam County. This was in 1887. Two years later, the Southern Convention of Mormons with headquarters at Chattanooga was held at the Sparta Courthouse. At that time forty-five members were taken into the Mormon Church. Prof. James Nowlin, a prominent teacher, and Van Haston, County Surveyor, joined them, the former going to Utah.


There are a few Spiritualists in White County. The first Spiritualist of prominence in this County was Mrs. Echols. According to her neighbors she seemed to be successful in telling how many people had died in any home she might enter. She said that the spirits would come into her home at night and eat pickles out of her pickle jar.

The Place of the Church in Pioneer Life

Some people have supposed that the religion of the Pioneers was rather a stiff formal affair. It was not so in White County. The church fostered more than formal worship. Gatherings of young people for picnic occasions were frequent. The camp meeting furnished an outlet for social life. People coming from so many different communities and living together camp style for weeks at a time came to know each other well and to enjoy each others' fellowship. People looked forward with eagerness and planned their work so as to be free from responsibilities during the period of the camp meeting. The coming together of the pioneers in social and religious contact was not unlike that of the Jews in Old Testament days. But the camp meetings were not the only great occasions when people got together. There were singing schools and singing. People traveled great distances to these singing schools and singings. Very much was made of singing on all religious occasions. Every church had a song leader who knew half a dozen short meter tunes and as many long meter ones. The preacher would give out two lines of a hymn then the congregation would sing it, then he would give out the next two lines which would be sung in the same way and so on to the end. This was called "lining the hymn." The church served as a get-together organization and social center. The minister and the school teacher who were often the same person had an influence over the life of the community which nothing in our time even approximates. They molded the life of the time in which they lived and religion was a real, moving force in people's life. Even people who were not religious had great respect for worship and for the things belonging to the church, as the Lord's Day. Preparation was made on Saturday for Sunday. All baking was done on Saturday so that in the average home there were no fires kindled for cooking purposes on Sunday. Saturday afternoon was used as a time for recreation, shooting matches, games, and sports of all kinds known then, but
Sunday was the Lord's Day in which there were none of these things.