Thanks to The News-Examiner for permission to reprint this article!
Note: All spelling, punctuation, and omissions are as they appeared in the article in the newspaper.
Situated in the heart of the Bible belt, Sumner County has moree than 100 churches. Sumner County churches represent many denominations and are growing with new additions each year.
One footnote to the increasing numbers of churches: There is no complete record numbering churches in the county, but estimate are that they number more than 150.
Gallatin, Portland, and Hendersonville have ministerial associations formed by clergy in the community. The associations are to promote fellowship between the churches and community and serve as a clearing house and coordinating place for religious activities in the community.
Any history of a community should include a record of its religious faith. When the settlers moved to Sumner County, they brought their faith along with their possessions.
As early as 1783, a lot meeting house was built two miles from Gallatin near the present Highway 31E near what is known as the Chipman Community. The church is located in what is known as Sideview. It was named Shiloh and the church was Presbyterian.
Early names that made up part of the church registry included Barr, Anderson, Alexander, Reese, Blakemore, Bryson, Donnell, Wilson and Rutherford.
The church later helped start the Presbyterian Church in Gallatin with two elders of the Shiloh Church, Richard King and Thomas Anderson, being part of the first session of the Gallatin church in 1830. The Shiloh congregation-161-is credited as being the largest in the county in 1830.
Some 38 members of the church were blacks with the first two being Michael Blythe and Jack Kilpatrick.
The church began to decline in membership during the next 20 years as some members transferred to the Gallatin congregation.
The Presbyterians were the first to be represented by ministers.
The oldest church in use in the county is the Beech Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located on Long Hollow Pike in Hendersonville.
In 1798 the church was organized as a Presbyterian congregation and has been in continuous existence since that time. The Beech Presbyterian Church, which was erected in 1882, has withstood the ravages of two fires that gutted the building. The present Beech Church building of native stone is still there and the place of worship has never been moved. The church now boast a membership of more than 350.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church has its origin in Sumner County as the result of a great revival held in 1800 on Deshea's Creek near the Cumberland River.
The Gallatin Presbyterian Church was organized in 1828 with 77 members. In 1837, the building now standing on West Main Street in Gallatin, was erected. It is the oldest surviving religious edifice in Gallatin. During the Civil War, the church was used as a hospital. It was repaired in 1868. This church recently has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The growth of Methodism in Sumner County started when a new brick meeting house was built in Salem about 1828. About the same time the members of Rehoboth Methodist Church in Cages Bend built a chapel.
The First Methodist Church of Gallatin, now the First United Methodist Church, was organized in 1829 with 170 members in a one-room log building.
Although the Presbyterians and Methodists were the largest denominations in Sumner County, they were not the only Protestants. The Baptists were also active in the area prior to 1800.
The Roman Catholic Church was organized in Gallatin in 1837.
The First Baptist Church, East Main Street, Gallatin, was located on the site of the present church. The construction of the building was completed in 1860. It was destroyed by fire in 1897 during a severe electrical storm. The present sanctuary was built in 1948.
The Baptists, the Church of Christ and the Seventh-day Adventists are among the largest denominations in the county.
Sumner also has two inter-denominational churches, the Hendersonville Chapel, which opened in 1977, and Gallatin Chapel, which opened in 1983.