Ridge Meeting House was originally in Sumner county, Tennessee, about twenty-five miles north of Nashville, near the line of Robertson County. It was originally a Presbyterian church.
In Beard's Biographical Sketches, Ist Series, in the life of Rev. Robt. Guthrie, on pages 120 and 121, he says: "In 1872, Mr. Guthrie left North Carolina for the West, and spent one year in East Tennessee, near Jonesboro. The next year he left East Tennessee, and after spending some time in the neighborhood of where Gallatin now stands, he finally settled on the Ridge, near the Old Ridge Meeting House."
Mr. Guthrie and wife had letters of dismission and recommendation from a Presbyterian church in North Carolina, and soon after their settlement in Sumner county a great religious movement, which originated in McGready's preaching, began, and on page, 121, Dr. Beard says: "Mr. Guthrie was attracted to one of Mr. McGready's early meetings, and there became convinced for the first time that he had never experienced a change of heart."
It is said that he soon afterwards professed religion while holding family prayer. In the posthumous works of Jas. McGready, in his narrative, in speaking of the different sacramental meetings which he held in 1800, he says (page xi.): "At Ridge Sacrament, in Cumberland, the second Sabbath in September, about 45 souls, we believe, obtained religion."
In Biographical Sketches, Ist Series, page 79, in the Life of Rev. Thos. Calhoun, is a sketch written by said Calhoun, in which he says: "The same year my father emigrated to Tennessee, there was a camp meeting at what was called Ridge Meeting House, in Sumner county. My father took his family to that meeting. I was then in my 18th year [he was born May 31, 1782]. . . . We stopped about 100 yards from the pulpit where the religious exercises were going on. Many sinners were on their knees, crying for mercy. I never before heard such cries. A trembling at once seized my whole frame, so that it was with some difficulty I walked to the ground where they lay. Shortly after taking my seat, a sermon was delivered, which seemed greatly to increase the work of my conviction."
In speaking of the mourners at said meeting, he says: "Wm. McGee and Samuel King were talking to them."
Three weeks after this, Mr. Calhoun was converted at Big Springs.
In the Life of Rev. Jas. S. Guthrie, on page 200, Dr. Beard says that he, Guthrie, professed religion in 1816 and joined the Old Ridge congregation.
In the Biographical Sketches, Second Series, on page 142 in the Life of Rev. Wm. Harris, Dr. Beard says:
"I have a few personal recollections of Mr. Harris. . . . My first distinct recollection of him goes back to a camp meeting held on the Old Ridge Camp Ground, in 1812. . . . In the course of the meeting he ordained an elder. This is a common occurrence, but what made a vivid impression on my mind was the officiating minister and the person taking upon himself the vows of eldership, and the whole congregation seemed to be in tears. I have never witnessed so much solemnity and tenderness upon such an occasion."
This shows that in that early day they had genuine heartfelt religion in the Old Ridge congregation.
It was in this church that the last effort was made by the parties who afterwards organized the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to make terms with Transylvania Presbytery. In the Circular Letter, issued in 1810, and signed by Samuel King, Chairman, he says: "But some of the members wished to make the last effort with the synod, who now had the business in their own hands, and the whole agreed at the Ridge Meeting House, in August last, to propose their last terms, and forward them to the Transylvania Presbytery, or Synod, by two commissioners to be appointed for that purpose. Which was accordingly done; and the terms in substance were as follows:
"'We, the preachers belonging to the council, both old and young, from a sincere desire to be in union with the general body of the Presbyterian Church, are willing to be examined on the tenets of our holy religion, by the Transylvania Presbytery, Synod, or a committee appointed for that purpose. Taking along the idea, however, that we be received or rejected as a connected body. Also all our ministers, ordained, and licentiates retain their former authority derived from the Cumberland Presbytery. It was moreover understood, that if the synod should require the preachers to readopt the Confession of Faith, it should be with the exception of fatality only.'"
Our commissioners were directed to go, and take a copy of the above minute, without any discretionary power, whatever, to alter the propositions in any way, and it was unanimously agreed and determined, that if the synod would not accede to the propositions, on the fourth Tuesday in October ensuing, they, the whole council, would go into a constituted states. The commissioners accordingly went to the synod; and after their return, informed us that the synod would not consider our case, as a body, but as individuals. Neither would they suffer any of our preachers to make the exception to the Confession of Faith."
In the latter part of said Circular Letter, it shows that it was agreed that each ordained minister, licentiate, elder and representative was to meet at the Ridge on the 3rd Tuesday in March, 1810.
Immediately after the organization of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, to-wit, on March 20, 1810, Cumberland Presbytery met at Ridge Meeting House, Sumner County, Tennessee. Present: Ministers, Samuel McAdow, Finis Ewing, Samuel King and Ephraim McLean; and Ruling Elders Chatham Ewing, Alexander Astin, Young Ewing, Witherel Latimer, Henderson Baits, John Wheeler, Benjamin Lockhart, Hugh Telford, Samuel Donnell and John Williamson.
Samuel McAdow, moderator, and Young Ewing, clerk, James B. Porter and Hugh Kirkpatrick, ordained.
Ordered: "That Messrs. Samuel McAdow, Finis Ewing, Ephraim McLean, James B. Porter and Young Ewing, or a majority of them, draw a circular letter, as soon as they can, which is to be carefully examined, and superintend the printing of a thousand copies, to be distributed under the direction of the Presbytery."
Hugh Kirkpatrick appointed treasurer and stated clerk.
There were several meetings of the Presbytery there in the early history of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and it seems that the entire congregation went into the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. By removals and death, the church became almost disorganized, and at one time, only one male member, Wm. Latimer, remained in said congregation, and their preachers were the circuit riders. The circuit riders insisted that Wm. Latimer should be made ruling elder, but he protested, and in order to be relieved from this duty, he procured two young men from that neighborhood to go with him to Dry Fork Meeting House, east of Gallatin, to a camp meeting, in order to have them get religion, so that they could be made elders. These young men were Wm. H. Guthrie and S. G. Burney, both of whom professed religion, and came home and organized a prayer meeting, which continued all winter, and out of which grew a gracious revival, and a reorganization of the church. This reorganization occurred in December, 1832, when Wm. H. Guthrie, S. G. Burney, A. H. Guthrie, Thos. Latimer and Harris L. Burney were ordained as elders.
It must have been about this time that the church house was moved into Robertson County, about two or three miles from where the first house stood. It was moved on the land of Wm. Burney, father of Rev. S. G. and Rev. H. L. Burney, and a camp ground was established, which was continued until about the commencement of the Civil War.
In 1857, a church was built in Sumner County, four or five miles east of the camp ground, and was dedicated on the second Sabbath in September, 1857. Rev. Wm. Eatherly preached the dedication sermon. This house is still standing, and is called Walnut Grove Church.
There is another good frame house, about two or three miles north of the camp ground, known as "Horse-shoe," which occupies part of the territory once occupied by the Ridge Church. There is also a church house at a village known as White House, about one mile south of the camp ground, but this does not belong to the Cumberland Presbyterians. Soon after the reorganization of the Ridge Meeting House, in 1832, S. G. Burney and Wm. H. Guthrie must have joined the Presbytery as candidates for the ministry. In 1838, Rev. John Luther Smith was called by the session to preach for them. In 1839, Rev. Hamilton Parks was called to preach to them. The next name to be found on session book is in 1847, when Rev. Wm. Eatherly was called to preach to them. In all of these cases the session promised to pay as the Lord prospered them, but did not promise any specific sums, and from the best information we can get, they did not pay very large salaries.
In 1847, Jas. H. Burney, Richard Derritt and John Derritt are named as part of the session. The next record we find is in 1857, when Rev. David Hunter is mentioned as being in charge of the church, and July 11, 1857, Elias M. Hall and W. C. Jackson were ordained as elders. This meeting was held in Union Schoolhouse, in Sumner County, about one mile from where Walnut Grove now stands, in a southwestern direction, and the preaching at this schoolhouse gave strength to that part of the congregation, and was the cause of Walnut Grove Church being built. Rev. David Hunter supplied them with preaching for the years 1856-57. In 1858-59, the Rev. David R. Marshall was their preacher. After him, Rev. N. F. Gill preached to them about one year, including the winter of 1859-60. The Rev. Jno. D. Kirkpatrick preached to them from the fall of 1860 until the commencement of the Civil War.
On January 27, 1861, Geo. Dillon, Albert Kelly and Edward Wilkes were ordained elders by Rev. D. R. Marshall.
The first record after the war is in 1868, and the Rev. J. B. Garrett is pastor, or supplied a preacher to them until September, 1871. From the reorganization up to 1859, A. H. Guthrie is clerk. On July 6, 1859, Albert Kelly was elected clerk of the session. From 1871 to 1880, the session met regularly, but there seemed to have been no regular minister. The minutes on August 15, 1874, show that Rev. H. H. Marshall was moderator of the session, and that J. W. Linck and A. J. Warren were among the elders. On September 3, 1875, Rev. E. A. Huffines is mentioned as moderator. On December 10, 1875, A. J. Bond, T. F. Dillon and J. W. Griffin are mentioned as elders. On August 23, 1878, the Rev. Hamilton Parks, who was there on a visit, acted as moderator of the session, and on August 29, 1880, Rev. J. A. Hickman is moderator, and is recorded as a missionary.
On September 4, 1880, Rev. J. H. Smith is recorded as moderator and as pastor of the church, and he continued as such until his death in August, 1900.
On September 10th, 1881, T. L. Lanier is recorded as elder. On March 12, 1883, Miles H. White was elected clerk of the session, though not an elder, and on July 10, 1886, he was ordained deacon. On March 10th, 1884, the session requested the presbytery to change the name of the congregation from Ridge to Walnut Grove. On March 12th, 1887, the record shows the name of the congregation as "Walnut Grove" and it is still known by said name.
On March 13th, 1886, Thos. Pardue is recorded as an elder. On September 13, 1891, W. Frank Johnson and S. M. Griffin were ordained elders. On September 7, 1895, C. P. Hardaway and M. H. White were elected and ordained as elders, and T. S. Covington as deacon. On September 11, 1896, Paris Hester is made deacon.
In the spring of 1899, a group of Dry Fork, Portland and Walnut Grove was formed by presbytery, with Rev. J. H. Smith as pastor, and Chas. Welsh, a probationer of Logan Presbytery, as assistant, which arrangement continued until the death of Rev. J. H. Smith, which occurred August 20, 1900.
There are at present one hundred members, five elders and two deacons.
Quite a number of men prominent in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church came from the Ridge congregation. Wm. Latimer, who was at one time the only male member of the church, was afterwards an elder in said congregation, and was a very successful instructor of mourners.
Among the preachers from this congregation were Rev. Jas. Guthrie, Rev. Eli Guthrie, Rev. Wm. H. Guthrie, Rev. Hamilton Parks, S. G. Burney, D.D., and H. L. Burney. The present elders are Albert Kelly, J. W. Linck, S. M. Griffin, W. F. Johnson, C. P. Hardaway and M. H. White, the latter of whom is clerk.
In the early history of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church nearly all of the congregations were country congregations, and the Ridge Meeting House was one of the strongholds of Cumberland Presbyterianism, and it sent out men who did valiant work in their day and generation.
Los Angeles, Cal.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, July 2, 1903, pages 6-8]
Another church of even greater historic interest is that which was known as the Ridge Meeting House, also originally in Sumner county, Tenn., though it appears that the church was moved at an early day into Robertson county. The building erected in Robertson county still stands, though for many years it has not been used for church purposes. It is on the property of Mr. G. H. Burney, a brother of the late Dr. S. G. Burney, and we are enabled to present the picture of the old building from a photograph taken by Miss Sue Burney, of Nashville, their niece.
It was in this old church, in August, 1809, that the last effort was made, the the parties who afterward organized the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, to bring about a reconciliation with the Presbyterian synod. The record says that some of the members wished to make a last effort, earnestly desiring to avoid the necessity of organizing a separate denomination, so a communication was prepared and forwarded by two commissioners appointed for that purpose. The substance of the communication was as follows: "We, the preachers belonging to the council, both old and young, from a sincere desire to be in union with the general body of the Presbyterian Church, are willing to be examined on the tenets of our holy religion, by the Transylvania Presbytery, synod or a committee appointed for that purpose; taking along the idea, however, that we be received or rejected as a connected body; also that all our ministers, ordained and licentiates, retain their former authority, derived from the Cumberland Presbytery. It was, moreover, understood that if the synod should require the preachers to readopt the Confession of Faith it should be with the exception of fatality only." How the commission and communication were received is told in the famous circular letter: "Our commissioners were directed to go, and take a copy of the above minute, without any discretionary power whatsoever to alter the propositions in any way. And it was unanimously agreed and determined that, if the synod would not accede to the propositions, on the fourth Tuesday in October ensuing they (the whole council) would go into a constituted state. The commissioners accordingly went to the synod; and, after their return, informed us that the synod would not consider our case as a body, but as individuals. Neither would they suffer any of our preachers to make the exception to the Confession of Faith."
The council that sent out this last appeal had agreed to meet again in March at the old Ridge Meeting House, the understanding being that if, in the meantime, it should seem best to organize a separate presbytery, then the meeting at Ridge should be a meeting of presbytery instead of a meeting of the council. Therefore, the synod having refused to accede to their proposals, a new presbytery was organized on February 4, 1810, and its first meeting was held at the Ridge Meeting House on the 20th of the following month. At this meeting the committee was appointed to prepare the Circular Letter, which tells the story of the conflict with synod, and sets forth the reasons for the organization of a new church.
At one period, because of removals and deaths, the Old Ridge Church became almost disorganized. At one time only one male member, William Latimer, remained in the congregation. Circuit riders insisted that he should be made a ruling elder, but he protested, and the story about how he planned to have others bear these burdens is intensely interesting and typical of the times. He procured two young men from that neighborhood to go with him to the Dry Fork Meeting House, east of Gallatin, to a camp meeting in order to have them "get religion," so that they could be made elders. These young men were William H. Guthrie and S. G. Burney, both of whom became Christians at that meeting, and upon their return home organized a prayer meeting, out of which grew a gracious revival and a reorganization of the church. While there is no congregation now known as the "Ridge," the organization still continues in what is known as the Walnut Grove Church of the Lebanon Presbytery.
This old building, so long used by the Ridge congregation, is constructed of hewn logs fifteen to twenty inches broad and eight inches thick. The cracks were daubed and pointed with lime, and, in the early days, the building was plastered inside and made a very attractive meeting place. We do not know just what arrangements could be made, but we have long been of the opinion that this rare and historic old building ought to belong to the church, and that steps ought to be taken for its preservation. Without proper care this old structure may soon be torn down or perhaps fall for lack of attention. At present it is not used but stands in an open field, the decaying monument of great and stirring times.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 4, 1904, pages 131-132]