The exact date the Clarksville Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized has not been determined. It would have joined Nashville Presbytery but the earliest minutes in the archives are for Fall 1853. Please contact the archives if any minutes of Nashville Presbytery from 1813 - 1853 are located.
"On motion resolved that this Presbytery do hereby agree to aid the Clarksville Congregation in supporting a minister and that a committee by appointed to consist of three members whose duty it shall be to cooperate witht he session of said congregation in securing the services of some efficient minister to fill that station & that they use their best efforts to secure the money to pay him for his labors. The Moderator then appointed Bros. Berry, Goodlett & Jackson said committee.
[Source: Minutes of Nashville Presbytery, Fall 1853, unpaged]
Clarksville congregation was organized in 1847 by the Rev. Samuel Caskey with about forty members. An old church house was bought from another denomination fronting on Fourth street, which was remodeled and turned around so as to face Main street. The earliest elders of which there is now record were James Mitchell, Henry Smith, _______ Brown, Henry Davidson and _______ Tarpley. The first regular pastor was Rev. Elijah Knight, who remained two or three years. He was followed perhaps by Rev. J. C. Provine, D.D. From a MS. sketch of the latter we quote: "During the latter part of the summer of 1850, Rev. J. C. Provine was asked to assist in a camp meeting to be held at the McAdoo Church in Montgomery County. While assisting in this series of services he was visited by Ruling Elders Smith and Brown, of the Clarksville congregation, and interviewed relative to his taking charge of the church in Clarksville. The result was that he agreed to come and supply for awhile, the congregation being greatly in debt for its church house and its membership being too weak to obligate itself for much support for a minister. An attempt was made by the new pastor to raise sufficient money to pay off the church debt, to do which he traveled horseback over western Kentucky and Tennessee soliciting funds for the cause, and was fairly successful in his canvass. Having succeeded in paying off the debt he closed his labors with the congregation at the end of one year's service, being called to the church at Nashville."
A number of supplies served the congregation in the succeeding years, among them, Rev. Mr. Marlowe and S. P. Chestnut D.D. [sic.: Chesnut]
The Civil War brought disorganization to the little congregation, but new life was taken on and progress made under the services of various pastors, some of whom were Revs. Martin, B. M. Taylor, J. R. Goodpasture, G. J. Donnell, D. A. Brigham, J. W. Sullivan, J. W. Mount, G. W. Shelton and L. N. Montgomery. The present church building, cut of which is presented here, was acquired under the pastorate of Mr. Goodpasture, but has been wholly renovated and furnished with all modern conveniences through the efforts of succeedings pastors. It now presents a handsome and comfortable appearance, having a large, roomy auditorium well lighted with electricity and gas, steam heated and furnished with handsome polished oak pews. Below is a modern Sunday school room with seating capacity of over two hundred.
The pastor-host of the Synod, Rev. A. M. Williams, entered into his work as pastor at the close of his seminary course in May, last, and much advance has already been made in the work of the church under him, the church building having received a number of improvements and contracts let for a handsome pipe organ to be installed at an early date. The present membership of the congregation is about two hundred.
[Source: Minutes of the Synod of Tennessee of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. October 20-22, 1903, pages 1-2]
The Clarksville Cumberland Presbyterian Church is located on the corner of Fifth and Franklin Streets, Clarksville, Tennessee. However, the church has purchased a building lot at 1410 Golf Club Lane, and many of their meetings are being conducted there. It is their plan to build a new church on this site in the near future.
The Clarksville Cumberland Presbyterian Church "was organized about the year 1843, by the Rev. Elijah Knight. [source: History of Tennessee. Nashville: The Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1886, page 801.] It has not been determined as to how many charter members there were, nor to what presbytery they applied for admission. The church was a member of Lebanon Presbytery as early as 1884. [source: "Minutes of Lebanon Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church," Fall session, 1884.]
The first building. The Clarksville Methodist Church built a church on the corner of Fourth and Main Street in 1832. They remained there until 1841, when they moved into their new location on the corner of Fifth and Franklin Streets. The Cumberland Presbyterians bought the building on the corner of Fourth and Main from the Methodists. [source: Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Tennessee. 1950, page 3.] This building was used until 1882, when it was sold to Dr. Hendricks, who converted it into a residence. [source: History of Tennessee. Nashville: The Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1886, page 801.]
Second building. On January 1, 1883, the Cumberland Presbyterians again purchased the church property belonging to the Methodists. This property was located on the corner of Fifth and Franklin Streets. The purchasing committee at that time consisted of a Mr. Goodpasture, Wallace Covington, and W. T. Atkinson. The property was bought for the sum of three thousand dollars. The Methodists refused to sell their bell, so the Cumberland Presbyterians brought the bell from their old building with them to the new location. [source: Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Tennessee. 1950, page 5.]
The tower. The second building had a tower which was very unique. Its top was a great wooden hand five or six feet tall. This hand was carved by a Mr. Barksdale, of Clarksville. It was a right hand, and all fingers were folded down in the palm with the exception of the index finger--which pointed upward. The hand was painted white, and on sunny days could be seen quite a distance. In the fall of the year 1888 the great hand toppled from the tower and crashed to the ground. [source: Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Tennessee. 1950, page 5.]
Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr., described the building of 1883 very vividly in the following manner:
It must not be thought that our church at the time we bought it appeared as it does today. When it came into our possession, it lacked much of its present beauty. The windows were broader than those we now have, were of plain glass, and were square across the top with stationary blinds on the outside. The blinds were for protection, but they gave the auditorium a dim and shadowy light which effected a rather depressing lack of brightness. Over the entrance doors, and reaching down the sides a short way, was a balcony. The pulpit was situated where our present choir loft is and there was a solid, straight wall just back of it. To relieve the severity of this wall there were wooden pilasters which reached from the floor half way to the ceiling. Against the wall and from one pilaster to the other at the top was heavy wooden strip. The people called this the mantle.
On the pulpit was a stand, or lectern, which was tall and narrow and flat topped. On this rested a very large Bible.
The pews in the auditorium were dark and straight of back with severely square ends. In proper adjustment with the center section of pews and at the front of the church was a small and rather low standing reed organ. To bring forth music from this instrument, the organist had to sit on a little round stool and, as her hands were busy with the keys, she must pump vigorously with the pedals. The faster she pumped, the louder she played.
The choir occupied the pew just back of the organ and two seats on either side of the organ, these seats having been shortened so that there was room for the instrument to be placed in that relation to the singers.
. . .
The ceiling in the auditorium was of white plaster, but this soon was removed and our present ceiling took its place.
On the outside, it could be seen that the entire church grounds were enclosed with a fence of wood palings. [source: Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Tennessee. 1950, pages 6-7.]
The organ. Mafeus M. Rudolph died in 1893 and left a will to the church. This was set up as a fund which became the nucleus for purchase of a new pipe organ. The fund was soon completed, and the organ was purchased. [source: Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Tennessee. 1950, page 8.]
As the church continued to grow, it became evident that the old church building was too small, and that additional facilities were needed. On August 26, 1955, the church purchased a five acre lot at 1410 Gold Club Lane for the sum of $37,500.00. A building program has been anticipated for the near future. [source: Glenn Willoughby. Personal interview by author on January 29, 1956.]
It has been impossible to determine when the old building, directly behind the church, was purchased. However, this building was used as a manse until 1948. On September 10, 1948, the session voted to buy the Charlie George Smith house at 822 Richardson Street for a manse. The pastor, Rev. M. D. Stott, moved into the new manse, and the old manse was then sued as an educational plant. The property at 822 Richardson Street was sold on December 10, 1955, for the sum of $9,000.00. The buildings at 1410 Golf Club Lane was then used for a manse. [source: Glenn Willoughby. Personal interview by author on January 29, 1956.]
The Clarksville church had quite a struggle during and after the Civil War days. Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. has expressed it in the following way in her history of the church:
The Civil War came one, and Federal soldiers took possession of the church buildings, and services were of necessity discontinued. The membership scattered.
Among those returning home after the war was Col. W. F. Young, father of the late Clint Young of New Providence and of W. B. Young of Clarksville. Col. Young brought back an empty sleeve and other injuries of battle, but his heart was filled with the love of God and a longing for his own Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
One Sunday morning as Col. Young stood on his porch in deep thought, he was startled to hear the sound of a bell--a church bell. He lifted his head and listened! It could not be--and yet it was the bell in the tower of his beloved church! Never had Col. Young failed to answer the call of that bell and he answered now. Reaching the church he found one man and a small boy there. The man was a Mr. Emery, a faithful member of the church, and the boy was Ed. Alward. Mr. Emery had helped the boy into the church tower and instructed him to ring the bell.
. . .
The lad who rang the bell became an honored member and Elder of our church and was for years the teacher of the Bible Class which was continued into new generations under the name of the Alward Bible Class.
. . .
The ringing of the bell on that Sunday morning, as mentioned, was the resurrection call of the church. Those two men talked, planned, and prayed. Members were notified to assemble and the bell continued to call. The church soon was functioning again and services were held each Sabbath. [source: Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Tennessee. 1950, pages 4-5.]
VI. THE ATTEMPTED UNION OF 1906
There was some controversy in the Clarksville Church at the time of the attempted union. Mr. Burchett has expressed it in the following way:
Only three members of our Church Session were in favor of the Union and they would not have taken the matter into Courts. Probably those higher in authority were not too eager to get possession of a church with so few members in favor of the Union. The three elders who did favor the Union were Mr. W. H. Rudolph and his son James Rudolph, and Mr. W. T. Atkinson who was the son-in-law of Mr. W. H. Rudolph.
. . .
It may be the influence of our friends that saved us from litigation. Anyway, all concerned wished to be fair, so while we were awaiting results of the outcome of all this, the session decided to divide time; the Unionist having services two Sundays in the month, and the Cumberlands the other two. The Unionist had a young minister from our college, situated in Lebanon at that time, to come to them for their week-ends, while we called Rev. S. A. Sadler to pastor us.
. . .
Gradually, slowly things grew quiet, lawsuits ceased, we had the deed to our property and were at peace. [source: Mrs. R. E. Burchett, Sr. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Tennessee. 1950, pages 4-5.]
The following ministers served the Clarksville church during the corresponding years: D. A. Brigham, 1888; J. W. Sullivan, 1890; G. W. Shelton, 1897-1898; L. N. Montgomery, 1900-1902; A. M. Williams, 1903-1904; W. L. Atkisson, 1905-1906; S. A. Sadler, 1907-1909; W. H. McLeskey, 1910-1913; W. W. Rudolph, 1914-1917; A. C. Biddle, 1918-1923; O. W. Parrish, 1924; E. Reub, 1925-1928; [source: Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian General Assembly. 1888-1928, statistical tables.] H. M. Guynn, March 3, 1929-March 1, 1934; G. S. Thompson, May 26, 1935-August 1, 1936; Blake F. Warren, September 27, 1936-February 12, 1939; B. F. Guinn, August 6, 1939-December 23, 1945; H. C. Walton, Jr., February 24, 1946-December 29, 1946; M. D. Stott, February 12, 1947-September 1, 1949; W. T. Ingram, Sr., September 4, 1949-October 25, 1953; and Glenn Willoughby since December 6, 1953. [source: "Minutes of the Clarksville Session." 1929-1956.]
Entertained presbytery. The Clarksville church became a part of Clarksville Presbytery in 1899. [source: "Minutes of the Synod of Tennessee of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." October 17-20, 1899, pages 47-48.] Since that time, Clarksville Presbytery has met with the Clarksville congregation on the following dates: December 12, 1899; [source: "Minutes of the Synod of Tennessee of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." October 17-20, 1899, pages 47-48.] March, 1903; ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." October 10-12, 1911, page 25.] March, 1911; ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." October 10-12, 1911, page 25.] March 12-14, 1918; ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." March 12-14, 1918, page 16.] March 31-April 1, 1925; ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." March 31-April 1, 1935, page 3.] April 12-13, 1938; ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." April 12-13, 1938, page 1.] March 28-29, 1944; ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." March 28-29, page 21.] Mach 30, 1948; ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." March 30, 19481, page 1.] and March 25, 1952. ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church."March 25, 1952, page 1.]
Member entered the ministry. The Clarksville church has had one member to enter the ministry--Rev. Russell Bracy. Mr. Bracy came under the care of Clarksville Presbytery on March 29, 1949, ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." March 29, 1949, page 2.] and was licensed on March 28, 1950. ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." March 28, 1950, page 2.] His name was dropped from the presbyterial roll on September 25, 1951, "due to the fact that he has joined the Methodist Church." ["Minutes of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." September 25, 1951, page 3.]
Entertained the General Assembly. The General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church met with the Clarksville congregation May 21, 1850. Reuben Burrow was elected moderator of the Assembly. There were one hundred and two members of the Assembly. [source: "Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian General Assembly." 1955, page 223.]
[Source: Ollie Newsome Harvey. "A History of the Existing Churches of Clarksville Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church." B.D. Thesis. Cumberland Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1956, pages 40-48]