Watkins Park

Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee

Watkins Park Cumbeland Presbyterian Church 1882-1941
West Side Cumberland Presbyterian Church 1941-Present

On the first Sabbath of this month a new Cumberland Presbyterian church of nineteen members was organized in West Nashville, by Dr. T. C. Blake. The new enterprise is in a growing part of the city, and we hope to see it become a strong and useful church.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 14, 1882, page 4]



In the last issue of the CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN I notice that Rev. T. C. Blake, D.D., organized a new congregation consisting of nineteen members, in West Nashville. I was very sorry to read this, for I fear that it will not advance our general interests in Nashville, or prove a permanency. The greatest mistakes which we as a denomination have made in the past, have been to fritter away our energies and means upon experimental object, instead of profiting by the experiences-the successes and failures-of other denominations. This has been true of our mission and publication work, of which I may have something to say in the future. But to the point. Is it wise or prudent to organize a small church of nineteen members in Nashville, where we already have two churches, either of which is accessible to the residents of the city?

Our experience as a denomination is against it, for a multiplicity of churches tend to weaken rather than strengthen our cause. This is true of Nashville, Pittsburg, and Memphis, the only points where we have ever tried the experiment. Instead of rallying the strength, means, and influence of a large membership around one centre, enabling them to support an efficient and able minister, and to creditably maintain a position among the sisterhood of churches in sustaining local charities and all Christian progress and usefulness, their strength is so divided that they are shorn of all opportunity to accomplish good. Their comparative insignificance, and perpetual struggle to sustain their individual existence, compels them to employ inexperienced ministers, with no assured position in their own denomination, or recognized influence among others and the general public.

Cities are the centres of power. Men of wealth, energy, and ability throng to them, and thus they become the heart and brain of States and nations. Other and wiser denominations have long since found this out, and in the early formation of cities have established permanent organizations around which they threw their denominational strength, and these churches are to-day the mighty influences through which they are accomplishing so much for mankind.

We unfortunately have not done this. I can count on my fingers our churches in these influential centres. And yet we wonder why it is that we fall so far behind others in general Christian work, and why so many of our best young men seek employment in other denominations. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Every year many of our most influential business and professional men are leaving our country and small town congregations, and seeking larger spheres of usefulness and success in our cities. These men and their families are generally our best workers and most liberal contributors. When they settle down in their new homes they look in vain for a Cumberland Presbyterian church, and after vainly waiting a few years. They identify themselves with some other Christian body. This is the history of the loss of thousands of our best people during the last twenty years. But for our criminal neglect, incapacity, or indifference, we would have had strong churches to-day in many of our leading cities, and their pulpits and pews filled by men who are lost forever to our Church. We cannot go on much longer at this poor dying rate. If we do not rise up to the full measure of our duty and opportunity, God will raise up others more worthy than ourselves. Then, when we have these churches established in cities, and earnest, efficient, and self-sacrificing ministers have made them self-supporting and a power for good, then the Presbyteries ought not to permit others to build upon their foundations, or to entrench upon their bounds until there is an urgent necessity for a separation-a separation that will at once assure efficiency, increased usefulness, and mutual helpfulness.

I hope this article may not be misunderstood. I would be sorry to see a mistake made in Nashville, for it is our strongest church, and we refer to its efficiency with pride. It stands to-day a monument of the zeal, consecration, piety, and courage of Dr. A. J. Baird. I would like for his successor to take charge of our undivided city, and carry on this well begun work to glorious results. The world is very wide, the cry comes up from a score of cities, for help and recognition by our Church. Why not go there and build? Why, Sanballat like, tear down those walls? If another congregation is needed in West Nashville, why not make it a mission to the First church? There are fifty men and women in that church, aided by their pastor, fully competent and abundantly able to do that work. I repeat again that the Church at large feel an abiding interest in the future success and prosperity of our cause in Nashville, and are watching its future with jealous care.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, January 4, 1883, page 2]



HAD I kept in mind the French proverb, "There is nothing so sure to happen, as the unexpected," I would not have been so astonished at the very severe personal criticism which brother H. A. Jones, of Memphis, makes upon me, in last week's issue, because I recently organized a Cumberland Presbyterian Church in West Nashville.

The facts in the case will, I trust, induce even brother Jones, though so greatly incensed at my conduct, to conclude that there are "mitigating circumstances" connected with the very grave offense which I have committed. The facts are as follows:

First. The city of Nashville is growing rapidly. There is not a city in the whole South, perhaps, that is making such strides. Like most other cities, too, its greatest growth is westward.

Second. Quite a number of large manufactories have, in the last year or two, sprung up on what is now almost the western border of the city. These immense establishments have given employment to a large number of people-to men, women, and children. These employees live in the immediate vicinity of these factories, and east of this locality there are no churches for more than one-half mile. The topography of the country, too, is such that it is practically cut off from the older and more densely inhabited part of the city.

Third. We have a few members whose homes are in West Nashville. Some six months ago, seeing the great necessity for such an institution, these members organized a Sabbath-school in that locality. There were a great many children there who were practically denied such advantages. The school proved to be a success. These Christian men and women, though few in number, felt that God had opened a door of usefulness to them. They thought that the families living there should not only have the advantages of a Sabbath-school, but likewise of the preached Word. They therefore determined to organize themselves into a church. When they got ready to do so they came to me and asked me to officiate.

Fourth. This organization was composed of nineteen members, only ten of whom belonged to the First Cumberland Presbyterian church; the others were composed of six members of the Edgefield Cumberland Presbyterian church, who had recently located in West Nashville, and three others who lived in that locality, but who had not joined any church since they came to the city.

Now, with these facts on my side, I am willing to be judged by the large tribunal before which "mine accuser" has arraigned me; yea, and before any other tribunal divine or human, for in this matter I have a "conscience void of offense toward God and toward men."

It may not be so, but it does seem to me that those who live here and know all the circumstances ought to be as good judges of the propriety of such a step as brother Jones, who lives more than two hundred miles away. Is it wrong to make provision for the spiritual welfare of that portion of the city? Is it wrong to have more than two Cumberland Presbyterian churches in a city the size of Nashville? If so, then all the other denominations of this city have committed a great blunder. The Methodists have ten or a dozen; the Presbyterians, six or eight; the Baptists, four or five; and the Episcopalians, five or six. Why, then, censure me so severely for organizing, by invitation, a third Cumberland Presbyterian church? Is it an offense sufficient to justify brother Jones in calling me a "Sanballat?" For the sake of brotherly kindness, and for the sake of that charity which "endureth all things," I will not believe that he sufficiently weighed the import of the scathing language which he applied to my action. Surely I have "torn down no walls." Will the withdrawal of ten members from a church of six hundred members "tear down the walls" of that central church?

Brother Jones' solicitude in behalf of the successor of the retiring pastor of the First Cumberland Presbyterian church-wanting him to have "an undivided city"-is wholly gratuitous. The church was organized in West Nashville before the successor was called. He visited the city before accepting the call-knew, too, that the new church had been organized. He accepted, too, with that fact before him.

But I again ask wherein have I done wrong? There was not a dissenting voice to the organization. On the contrary, the brethren were encouraged to take the step they did with assurance not only of sympathy, but of material aid from some of the most wealthy and influential members of the First church. Ought not the Cumberland Presbyterians of this city to be as competent to judge of the propriety or impropriety of such a step, as a man who lives in a distant city?

In conclusion upon this very unpleasant subject, it may afford brother Jones some comfort to remind him of a fact which he, in his great zeal for the welfare of the First church in this city, has evidently overlooked: That church is entirely competent to take care of itself, and he is in no sense responsible for a line of policy adopted by the Cumberland Presbyterians of this city. He has a broad and interesting field of his own to cultivate, and for it only will he be held responsible by either God or man.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, January 11, 1883, page 1]


We did not receive the same impression from the article of brother Jones, last week, that Dr. Blake did, and yet upon more careful examination, the last paragraph easily admits of the construction he puts upon it.

The matter of the organization of that church is fully understood here, and we believe has the approval of all Cumberland Presbyterians in this city. So far as we are informed, it is the feeling that the work has been delayed too long, that it should have been done years ago. Other denominations have been building up churches with the growth of the city, without detriment to the older churches, or in any manner assuming the attitude of Sanballat. The world outside is just as wide to them as to us. This is their policy in all cities, and as a result they have numerous strong churches where we have but one.

We think it is the purpose to have a church in South Nashville, also; not in opposition to the First church or as a rival, but with its consent and approval, as is the case with the one in West Nashville, and the one in Edgefield. We need four or more good churches in this city, and we believe we can have them.

In the organization in West Nashville we suppose brother Jones would have done, had he been here, just what Dr. Blake did. The matter was understood and arranged for by those who entered into it, and when they were ready to organize they invited Dr. Blake to preside and conduct the exercises. He did just what any other minister in this city would have done if requested, and there was, most certainly, nothing improper in doing so.

The policy to be pursued in our work in cities may be a legitimate subject for public discussion, but it appears to us that each city must determine its own policy and course.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, January 11, 1883, page 4, editorial, Rev. J. R. Brown]

Watkins Park church, Nashville, Tenn., was received under the care of Presbytery.
[Source: Minutes of Nashville Presbytery, April 20, 1883 cited in The Cumberland Presbyterian, June 28, 1883, page 5.]

In December, 1882, there was an organization effected which commenced to held meetings in a hall at the corner of Clay and Line Streets. A committee appointed by the First Church in 1884 assisted this organization to purchase a lot 50x170 feet in size on Line Street near Watkins Park, and to erect a church-building thereon at a cost of $2,400. By June, 1885, it was completed, and Rev. J. P. Flaniken, of Jackson, was called at a salary of $1,000 per year. The congregation is now self-supporting and in a flourishing condition.
[Source: Wooldridge, J., editor. History of Nashville, Tenn. Nashville, Tenn.: Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1890, page 475]

Nashville, Oct. 7.-Rev. J. L. Alexander, the faithful and consecrated pastor of the Watkins Park Church, finds that his congregation can not support him longer, and to his own and his congregation's regret he will be compelled to give up the work, probably at the end of the present month. Some church, or group of churches in Lebanon Presbytery, or elsewhere, would do well to note this coming change and secure the services of this good pastor and preacher. Regarding the work which he thus sorrowfully leaves, Mr. Alexander writes as follows, and what he says should not only appeal to Nashville Cumberland Presbyterians, but should be suggestive to our churches in other cities, where, as here, the support of the suburban churches is necessary to the enlarged life and usefulness of the up-town congregation: "Watkins Park is, and ought to be regarded, a mission church. It is not now, and perhaps will not be soon, a self-sustaining church. On this account, however, this church should not be given up. Too much good work has been done here and too much has resulted therefrom for such a thought to be suffered a place in the minds of the membership, or of the presbytery, that should have due oversight of all churches under its care. The probability that it will long remain a non-supporting church arises from the migratory population of the community. This church is located in a manufacturing district of the city. But are not such people to have the gospel preached to them? They all have precious souls to be saved. Jesus died for them, as well as for those in better and more favorable circumstances. Some of them have children, with bright and gifted minds. If such are brought into the Sunday school and under the saving power of the gospel they would doubtless become shining lights in the church. Centrally-located churches stand much in their own light when they refuse to help suburban churches. The suburban church, is rightly cared for, becomes a bountiful feeder to the up-town congregation. The Watkins Park Church must be abandoned unless some one comes to the rescue. The church needs both financial aid and Sunday School workers. Why should all crowd the up-town churches, where there is already a surplus of workers? The pastor at Watkins has tried to do his duty. In the time since he entered into this relationship, two years and six months ago, there have been 150 professions of religion and seventy-five accessions. Owing, however, to depression in business, many have had to seek employment elsewhere, hence our membership to-day is not so large as when he first took hold of this work. However, is the work done a vain work? A soul converted is a soul saved. Such an one will develop sooner or later into a worker. Such an one will be kept, and 'his path like the dawning light will shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.'"
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, October 10, 1895, page 197]

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-The Watkins Park Church, under the pastoral care of Rev. J. E. Hail, is in most gratifying conditions. The audiences are larger than in any other church of any denomination in that part of the city. The collection for foreign missions last Sunday was reported four times as large as ever before. Two members were received and one infant baptized. Two elders were recently installed. The prayer meetings average 50, while the Endeavor Society is embarrassed because it has outgrown its assembly room. Nearly 500 persons attended the recent rally day service in this church. Rev. E. E. Ingram is to assist the pastor in a meeting, beginning Nov. 8.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, November 5, 1896, page 509]

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