First Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama

Robert Donnell Presbytery
Synod of the Southeast

First Cumberland Presbyterian Church
1802 Bankhead Parkway, N.E.
Box 777
Huntsville, Alabama 35804

1828 - organized as First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Huntsville
1906 - Central Presbyterian Church organized as Presbyterian USA
1937 - Huntsville First Cumberland Presbyterian Church organized
1996 - Huntsville First Cumberland Presbyterian Church reorganized June 2

History of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church, as a denomination, was organized on February 4, 1810 in Dickson County, Tennessee. There were workers in the Huntsville area who were related to the Revival Party prior to 1810. In fact, a council had sent missionaries to Huntsville, where Rev. Robert Donnell was preaching and traveling, when news reached them of the organization of a new Presbytery that was called Cumberland Presbytery.

In early years, a common meeting place for camp meetings was the "Big Spring." Early Cumberland Presbyterian churches had a part in the organization of many churches in Huntsville that are now active in other denominations.

The General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church met in Huntsville, Alabama in 1858, 1873, and 1882.

After the attempted union of 1906, many Cumberland Presbyterian churches merged into the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The Huntsville church was officially made a part of the merger and still exists as the Central Presbyterian Church (USA) in downtown Huntsville. The remnant of Cumberland Presbyterians in Huntsville finally united with Bailey's Cove Church, which was four miles southeast of Huntsville.

Late in 1919, a new attempt was made to establish a Cumberland Presbyterian Church again.This time, it was located on what is now the corner of Maple Hill Cemetery. The land was given by an interested woman. pastors of that group included: Rev. J. A. Rodgers, Rev. T. J. Williams, Rev. Glasgow, and Rev. J. H. Stroud. The property was sold and the group disbanded in 1936.

A former pastor, Rev. J. A. Rodgers, returned to Huntsville on September 4, 1937 to organize a Sunday School in the old J.E. Pierce house on East Holmes Street. The Church was reorganized out of this Sunday School. In 1942, the church sold its Holmes Street property and moved to a new location on Pratt Avenue where the present Zesto Restaurant is located. The frame church was razed in 1948.

A perma-stone building was erected on Andrew Jackson Way and Beirne Avenue under the leadership of Rev. J. W. Bright, and experienced growth.

The new prosperity was not to last, however, and a difficult experience developed when the church, under the leadership of Rev. J. W. G. Harper, split on the controversial issue of the 1950s concerning the use of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The controversy also was over the participation of our denominational boards in the work of the National Council of Churches. The result was that the pastor and most of the congregation left to form the Bible Church, located on Andrew Jackson Way. Only seventeen members were left and there was a large building debt. The remaining members, on faith, called Rev. Donald Carter as their pastor. New life once again developed, and the church grew. Rev. J. W. Dancer became pastor following the resignation of Rev. Donald Carter.

In the later 1950s, both the city of Huntsville and the church began to grow. In 1959, Rev. Charles Hughes became pastor following Rev. Dancer. It was during Rev. Hughes' pastorate that a mission church was begun. A group of members from First Cumberland formed a fellowship which later became Good Shepherd Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located on Pulaski Pike. It was also during Rev. Hughes' tenure that Terrell Fulmer was hired as the first organist/choir director. Plans for relocation of First Church from Andrew Jackson Way were also initiated under the leadership of Charles Hughes.

Completion of the relocation and a building program was accomplished under the leadership of Rev. Donald Caperton, who succeeded Rev. Hughes. The congregation moved into its present facility in August 1971, and the dedication services were held on Sunday, October 3, 1971.

Rev. Norlan Scrudder became the pastor in January 1975. During his ministry, the church bought a new organ and employed Ronnie Simmons as organist/choir director. About this time, IBM closed much of its Huntsville operation and several very active families moved away. The church struggled again to survive the loss, and it did!

Rev. Scrudder moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in December of 1980, and Rev. Wendell Trotter became the pastor in September of 1981, and continues to this day.

In recent years, this congregation has installed a $10,000 sound system, bought a new baby grand piano, added a steeple to the building, carpeted the sanctuary and fellowship area, had the pews padded, bought two new vans to transport people to and from church, added stained glass windows, and relocated the offices to the lower levels. In addition to these things, the church has contributed approximately $40,000 to the Denominations Capital Funds Campaign; $10,000 to build a new church in Manizales, Colombia, South America; and $2,000 for a second church there. The church contributes about $1,000 annually to the Love Loaf Program, and contribute generously to community sponsored events and assistance programs. The congregation provides the pastor with a generous amount of money to be used in helping people in need. This congregation is very generous in its outreach ministry in giving to needs beyond the congregation. Huntsville First is a member of IMS (Interfaith Mission Service) and, through it, contributes to the local Food Pantry.

Nina Alspaugh has been our organist/choir director since 1983. Other choir directors during the era mentioned above have been Delbert Bailey, whose tenure overlapped Rev. Hughes and Rev. Caperton, and Tommy Esslinger, who overlapped Rev. Caperton and Rev. Scrudder.

In recent times, six people have entered the ministry through this congregation. They are Bill Young , Ed Herring Weatherly, Ronald Livingston, Ray Howton, Evelyn Brodeur, Roy Roberts.

At the present time, two of our people serve on denomination boards and five of our people serve on Presbyterian boards and agencies.

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Updated October 19, 2009