Scottsboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Scottsboro, Jackson County, Alabama

Robert Donnell Presbytery
Synod of Southeast

Scottsboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church
315 S. Kyle Street
PO Box 639
Scottsboro, Alabama 35768

History of
The Scottsboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church

By Judge John B. Tally

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was born of earnest prayers in the wilderness to serve the needs of a pioneer people. Thus, it was appropriate that one of the earliest churches in the remote river-boat town of Bellefonte was a Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Bellefonte was settled in the year 1821 as a trading post for river-boat traffic along the Tennessee River. In the same year, it became the County Seat of Jackson County and a brick courthouse was erected. The town also had an inn and a few stores and churches.

The downfall of Bellefonte was its decision to prohibit the Memphis & Charleston Railroad from building its lines through the town. Scottsboro, located on the Memphis and Charleston main line, began to thrive as a railroad trading center and, in 1869, it was chosen as the county seat over Bellefonte and several other communities, and many residents of Bellefonte moved to Scottsboro--many of them were Cumberland Presbyterians. The old church at Bellefonte continued past 1872, but finally died out along with the rest of the town. The church also drew members from the surrounding towns of Larkinsville, Langston, Goosepond and from Paint Rock Valley.

The new town of Scottsboro was laid off around a courthouse square and mercantile establishments and other buildings sprung up quickly, (The original town lay North of the Railroad). The new community had neither time nor the money to build new churches, so a cooperative worship system was organized in a brick auditorium which was located in the southeast corner of the intersection of Caldwell and Laurel Streets. This building later became known as the "Opera House."

The participating churches held services on selected Sundays and most of the church people of the town attended all services regardless of who was preaching. Early Cumberland Presbyterian ministers who participated in this cooperative worship program were Rev. R. D. Shook and Rev. E. J. Stockton.

The original Cumberland Presbyterian Church was erected on Willow Street (U.S. Highway 72) in 1883. Some attribute the construction of this building to William Whitworth, although J. R. Kennamer, in his "History of Jackson County," states that John W. Hill was the contractor. It is possible that Mr. Whitworth, a skilled carpenter, was in charge of actual construction of the building. It stood on what is now Word Lumber Company parking lot, just West of Jack's Hamburger Restaurant.

Originally, it was one large auditorium, approximately 36 feet wide and 60 feet long, with a stairway and balcony at the back and three tiers of pews. Later, two rooms were built under the balcony on each side of a vestibule at the front entrance.

This was an imposing building in early Scottsboro, since its tall spire could be seen from all over town and many early settlers depended on its weather vane atop the spire to foretell a change in the weather. In the early years all the membership was Cumberland Presbyterian.

In 1906, the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church voted to merge with and become a part of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., thereby granting to the U.S.A. Church all the property and buildings of the old Cumberland Church. The church building at Scottsboro thus became the property of the Presbytery Church, U.S.A. Many Cumberland Presbyterians of that time refused to accept the action of their General Assembly and proceeded to perpetuate the identity of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. This period of contention and strife within the two denominations was most painful, but the church at Scottsboro refused to allow it to interfere with the strong feeling of brotherhood and love they had for each other.

The two congregations maintained their separate identities. Each sent representatives to its Presbytery, each had its own Missionary Society, but the Church Session was composed of Elders from both congregations and there was more real unity and brotherly love in this church than existed in some churches where there was no division.

The church has been nurtured by the lives and sacrifice of many many saints. Over the years, hundreds of people have shown it love and devotion and I hesitate to mention any of them for fear of overlooking some important contribution, but certainly the ministers should be mentioned. Some, perhaps not all, of the ministers who have served this church are: Rev. R. D. Shook, Rev. E. J. Stockton, Rev. C. B. Sanders, Rev. Z. M. McGee, Rev. Robert T. Reid, Rev. W. S. Bridges, Rev. L. B. Morgan, Rev. A. C. Stribling, Rev. Vance Gordon, Rev. C. M. Zwingle, Rev. J. T. Jones, Rev. O. H. Gibson, Rev. Milford Smith, Rev. Morris Pepper.

There are many, many others who have loved this church and have prayed and worked for the success of its mission who, I feel, are with us in spirit here today. Their work and witness live on and inspire us to continue the work they have thus far advanced.

Rev. J. T. Jones served as minister of this church for many years, holding services, morning and evening, on alternate Sundays, here and at Stevenson. He realized that there was no future for a church divided and began to talk and to preach about union in the local congregation. He believed that you cannot stand still--you either go forward or fall backward. He advocated union either in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., or in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, but he did not live to see his dream come true. He died of cancer in 1952. Death, however, may sometimes be a catalyst-- and this proved to be the case; for, at the death of Rev. Jones, this church began to move toward union--and building the building of a new church.

Churches are born of the power of the Holy Spirit. Shortly after the death of Rev. Jones, the congregation, moved by the Spirit, called Rev. Paul F. Brown to hold a revival meeting at this church with the view of bringing the two congregations together and of commencing the movement toward a new church building. Services were conducted weekly to large crowds and the Holy Spirit moved mightily within the congregation! At the end a "Victory Dinner" was held at the local American Legion Hall. Christian people in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. came to feel that, since they were fewer in number than the Cumberland Presbyterians, they should join the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. One family and then another would change over and finally all but one or two came over in love to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Soon Rev. O. H. Gibson was called to this church as minister and the work of building a new church began in earnest. A site was selected and purchased. Plans for the new building were designed by Charles H. McCauley, a prominent Birmingham architect, (who "forgot" to bill the church for his services) and work on the building was commenced under the direction of Mr. Leonard Patterson and Mr. Coleman Michaels. An extensive campaign of fund raising was undertaken and members of both former congregations were active in raising money. As a matter of fact, the entire building effort was a cooperative venture in which all participated. The church was completed in 1954 and the entire building and furnishing were paid for except for $20,000.00 that was borrowed from a local bank at 4% interest. There were so many sacrificial gifts to the church in money, furnishings and equipment, time and materials that it would take a long time to enumerate them all.

The new church was formally dedicated on Sunday, March 14, 1954. Three services were held that day in order to provide room for the many people of Scottsboro of other denominations who rejoiced with us. Since then the church has continued its ministry in this community.

Some examples of the work of our church are:
Sunrise Easter Services were begun in the old church in 1948, and continued for 28 years until the practice was abandoned in 1976.
The Church Library was organized in 1960 and has grown steadily since.
The Educational Building was completed, furnished and occupied in 1965, and the mortgage debt for it has now been paid. This building was necessary to provide much needed space for the education of our young people.
The Clothing Room which provides a needed service for the poor, underprivileged, and deprived was opened in 1966 and continues to minister to the community.
The Mother's Day Out program was established in 1971, was then enlarged to include a Kindergarten, and continues to be a vital part of the ministry of this church.
The Pipe Organ designed and built by the late Norville Hall was dedicated at an Organ Recital and Dedication Service on November 21, 1974, and later it was enlarge din 1977 with the addition of an antiphonal organ.
Gifts of money, equipment, furnishings, glass, carpet, furniture, books, robes and countless other contributions continue to be made by the church membership, and to acknowledge them all would taken far too much time. But in it all, we can see that many loving hands have made their contribution to this church--their names are known to God--and their spirits live.

On this the 25th Anniversary of the dedication of this church, perhaps the words of Paul the Apostle, as found in Hebrews 12:1-2 are appropriate:

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God."

Dedication planned at Cumberland Presbyterian Church today


The Scottsboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church will celebrate the dedication of its new fellowship hall and educational building expansion at 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 21 [1990]. Dr. Roy Hall will lead the dedication service.

Also attending will be the Rev. Richard Magrill, director of the denominational Board of Finance of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Frank Moore, moderator of the Tennessee Valley Presbytery and Mayor Walt Hammer.

The 4,340 square-foot fellowship hall is a multi-purpose building designed to accommodate 200 people and includes new kitchen facilities. Multiple uses for the new facilities will include fellowship meals, recreational activities, performances, wedding receptions, community functions and other group events.

The educational facilities will provide 6,000 square feet of new classroom space available as a second-story addition to the existing educational building. The expansion provides space for 12 new classrooms which are needed to accommodate an increasing Sunday School enrollment.

The new facilities were designed by the architectural firm of McCauley and Associates of Birmingham and were constructed by Chorba Construction Company of Guntersville at a total cost of $550,000.

The new improvements are the latest development in a long history of service of the Scottsboro church to this area. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was founded on the frontier in middle Tennessee in 1810 when Cumberland Presbytery separated from the established Presbyterian Church.

The new denomination rapidly spread into the surrounding area, including North Alabama. The Scottsboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church traces its roots back to a church which was organized in the town on Bellefonte, which was settled in 1821 as the county seat of Jackson County.

After Scottsboro was selected as the county seat in 1869, Bellefonte soon declined and many of the Cumberland Presbyterians settled in Scottsboro, where they established a new church. Along with the other denominations represented in the new town, the Cumberland Presbyterians attended joint services conducted at the "Opera House" located at the corner of Caldwell and Laurel Streets.

In 1883, the congregation erected its own church on Willow Street on a site now occupied by Jack's Hamburgers. That building continued in use until 1954 when a new church was constructed at the present location on Kyle Street.

In 1965, the church facilities were expanded by the construction of the first story of the educational building to which the new second story expansion has been added.

Dr. Roy Hall, pastor since 1981, explained the significance of the project: "The new fellowship hall is the result of much prayer, planning, sacrificial giving and hard work by our members."

"We believe the Bible teaches there are three primary elements in the congregation's life. They are preaching and teaching the Gospel, service to Christ and community in a variety of ways and fellowship, or deepening of the shared life among members and friends."

"We are excited because the new building provides us with a more pleasant setting for the dimension of fellowship. We have also, since the beginning, considered the building as one more way to serve our community. We want to make the space available for community gatherings and activities."

"We are grateful for God's blessing in making the dream of a new fellowship hall come true. And, we invite our friends in the community to join us for the service of dedication."

[Source: The Daily Sentinel, October 21, 1990, section A, page 5]