Early Times in Middle Tennessee
Chapter 17

By John Carr, 1857

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne, 2002

Chapter 17

I will now give you a sketch of the first meeting-house that was ever built upon Goose Creek. In fact, there was none in all that section of the country for many miles around, when the great religious excitement took place in 1800. Our dwelling-houses were too small to hold the large multitude of people that flocked out to meeting. At that time, the Methodists and Presbyterians were almost a unit; they could not tell which shouted the loudest. We determined to build us a house to worship the God of our fathers in. We had a meeting, purchased a piece of ground on a beautiful eminence, convenient to a fine spring. We appointed a day to get the timbers to build our house. When the day arrived, it was wonderful to behold the multitude of people that came out-wagons and teams, choppers and hewers. There could not have been less than forty or fifty men on the ground. By evening, we had collected timber to build a large house; and, in the evening, we laid the foundation; and it was proposed we should have prayer before we parted. We knelt down around the foundation of our building, and prayer was offered up to God in a most solemn manner, that our efforts might be blessed, and that the house that we were building to worship God in might be the spiritual birthplace of many precious souls. When we arose from our knees, I was requested to name the house. I saw such a spirit of brotherly love and union between the Presbyterians and Methodists- for there was no other denomination that assisted in getting the timber together -I told them we would call it UNION. The whole assembly gave in to it cordially. We went on, and in a short time put up a large, roomy meeting-house.

The Presbyterians had no regular preacher of their own denomination. Parson William Hodge, an excellent man of God and a great friend to the revival, had moved to the country the year before, and had settled near where Gallatin now stands. The Presbyterians in the neighborhood of our new meeting-house gave him a call to come and take charge of them as their pastor, which call he accepted, and immediately came on and organized a church. There were some eight or ten excellent families around about there that were Presbyterians. He preached to them regularly two days in each month, and sometimes oftener. I stood clerk for him two years. The Methodists also had regular preaching there for some length of time. Parson Hodge became so taken with our class-meetings that he told me he wished to introduce something similar among his people, and asked me if I would assist him in it. I told him that I would with pleasure. He said that it would not do to call it class-meeting: that there was some old hard-shell Presbyterians among them that would not stand it; so he appointed a prayer-meeting on Sunday morning, commencing at about eight or nine o'clock. After singing and praying, he came and whispered to me, requesting me to take one side of the house and examine the people, and he would take the other. It was to be understood that the doors were not to be closed; but before we got half through with our examination, the mighty power of God came down among the people. The shouts of the people were so loud and long that it stopped our examination. Upon the whole, we had a glorious class-meeting, and the old brethren were greatly delighted with it. The next time that he came there we proceeded in a similar way. Before we had gone very far in our examination, up jumped an old hard-shell Presbyterian, and said that he never would submit to such a course-that they might as well join the Methodists at once-that he called it class-meeting, and did not approve of it. This broke up old Brother Hodge's Presbyterian class-meeting, though, I believe, sorely against his will, for he was a great friend to Methodist class-meeting. He had but two elders in his church-David Henry and John Trousdale, a couple of excellent men of God. Parson Hodge then made application to me to serve as an elder in his church: he thought that it would make the union stronger. It was clearly understood that I was to stand as a Methodist. I did not much like the idea, but told him that I would think about it. At that time, I was class-leader of a large society. Shortly afterward, Brother John Page came around; he was our presiding elder. I named to him the request Brother Hodge had made of me, to become elder. I reckon that I never shall forget the talk that Page gave me. Page was a man that possessed a great deal of shrewdness and originality. He observed to me: "Brother Carr, a lazy man is always sure to do a good day's work abroad-first clean your own cornfield, and see that you keep it clean; and then if you have any time to spare, go over and help your neighbor." The next time that I saw Parson Hodge, I told him that I reckoned it would not be advisable for me to act as elder. I did not tell him what Page had said, for I believe that they loved each other as brothers should in Christ.

Parson Hodge preached two years to his congregation at Union, and then told them that he would have to leave them. He strongly recommended them to attend closely to the preaching of the Methodists, and if he could, he would send them another preacher. They were close attendants on our preaching; and after the lapse of six or nine months, several families made application to me to know if they could join our Church as Presbyterians-that they were willing to conform to all the rules and regulations of the Methodist Church; and if they ever had it in their power, and wished to do so, they could go back to their own Church. I told them that I would talk with Brother Page, our presiding elder. I saw Brother Page and named it to him; he told me to take them all into the Church that wished to join. Old Brother David Henry, one of the elders, and his family, Brother John Trousdale, another elder, and his family, two families of the Stevensons, and several of the Cathey family, and several others, came forward and joined the Methodist Church; and not one of them ever returned to the Presbyterian Church. Two or three of the Catheys, and about the same number of the Stevensons, afterwards joined the Schismatics. There could not have been less than twenty-five or thirty that continued in the Methodist Church, and they were most excellent members. Old Brother Henry has a son yet living on Goose Creek, who is the father of Col. John Henry, one of the most popular local preachers we have in Sumner County. John Trousdale's oldest son, William, became a Methodist preacher. I just mention these circumstances to show you how we got along fifty odd years ago.

About that, time camp-meetings commenced in this country. We built a large encampment where the tribes of God's people came up to worship.

Our expectations were fully realized when we laid the foundation of our house, for it became the spiritual birthplace of hundreds of precious souls. We had a set of excellent men of God who labored faithfully in that day. There were John and William Magee-one a Presbyterian and the other a Methodist-who stood shoulder to shoulder together and warned the wicked to flee the wrath to come. There was Alexander Anderson, whose name should never be forgotten-a man of the first order of talent: he was a Presbyterian preacher. He and John Page were two great instruments in carrying on the work at Union Camp-ground. There were Charles Ledbetter and Hubbard Saunders, who used to labor faithfully with us at our camp-meeting. Brother Ledbetter had two sons that became itinerant preachers; I believe that their names were Rufus and Willie; if I am not mistaken, they both professed at Union Camp- ground. Camp-meetings were kept up annually there for a number of years. William McKendree, who was afterwards Bishop McKendree, was our presiding elder, if I mistake not, in 1806-7. It would be useless for me to say anything about his talents or of his preaching. He was then in the prime of life. His gentlemanly deportment and Christian humility drew the attention of thousands, and his sweet, shrill voice, attended by the blessing of the Spirit, pierced the hearts of many that heard him. I well recollect upon one occasion, at a camp-meeting at old Union, where there was an immense concourse of people, he took the 11th Psalm for his text. He proceeded on with his discourse; the congregation was greatly interested. When he came to that part of the Psalm that read, "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup," The mighty power of God came down upon the congregation, and the excitement became so great, and the cries of the distressed so loud, that he could not be heard, and the old elder sat down in his seat with heaven pictured in his face, giving glory to God. It will never be known in time the amount of good that was produced from that faithful preaching, or the number that professed religion on that camp-meeting occasion.

We were favored with the labors of Learner Blackman, that excellent man of God, of whom I have spoken in a former chapter. He was instrumental in turning many from darkness to light.

Perhaps I have tired your patience in dwelling upon old Union, but I assure you that it is a green spot in the history of my former days. I love to write about old Union and talk about it.

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