Lebanon "in the Fork"
Presbyterian Church

Founded 1791 by Rev. Samuel Carrick

~~ Knox County's first organized church ~~

Part 3 of 3 - by Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, 1875

[ Read Part 1 ]          [ Read Part 2 ]

     But before I pursue further Mr. Anderson's administration of this pastorate, I return to the original bench of Elders and members not yet mentioned.  Capt. Thomas Gillespie was one of the early Elders of Lebanon, one of the original bench, I think; he came from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and his wife was a Vance, I believe, from the same county, or perhaps from Guilford County, N. C.  Capt. Gillespie had participated in the Revolutionary war, and after his arrival on this frontier was a captain in service in Indian campaigns.   I have seen and read the order of him and Col. Jas. White calling for assistance and a company to resist the threatened attack of Doublehead and a thousand Cherokee and Creek warriors, upon the feeble garrison at Knoxville, September 11, 1792.  His command embraced the militia settled between the two rivers, and thus the men were all absent from the burial of Mrs. Carrick, as has been already mentioned, that sad duty being performed by women only.

     Capt. Robert Craighead was one of the first members of Lebanon congregation.  He was a son of Rev. Alexander Craighead, who for many years was the only Presbyterian clergyman on the Yadkin and Catawba rivers, in North Carolina, and in that Mesopotamia of the South planted from 1756 to 1776 not only the original but seven churches of Mecklenburg.

     The son, Robert, was a soldier in Gen. Griffith Rutherford's campaign to the Overhill Cherokee villages in 1776.  Later in the Revolutionary struggle, he was a captain under Gen. Sumpter; after peace was made in 1783, he came with other immigrants from Mecklenburg to this frontier, and settled on his farm in the present Knox County, on the Holston river, within four miles of Lebanon, which place is still known as Craighead farm.  His two sons, William and Thomas, married the daughters of Capt. Gillespie; Capt. Robert Craighead followed Mr. Carrick to Knoxville.  His residence was on State street, opposite to that of Gov. Blount, and is still known as the Craighead place.  There he died at an old age in 1820.

     Moses Brooks was not an Elder at the first organization of Lebanon, but, I think, became one soon after White, McNutt and Adair attached themselves to the Knoxville church; he too was of Revolutionary stock and participated in the last years of that war; I believe he was at King's Mountain, and certainly Guilford Courthouse.  He was a very well informed man, well indoctrinated and thorough Presbyterian -- strenuous in the defense of his creed and the observances and orders of the church.  For many years before his death, a physical infirmity, of chronic character, incapacitated him from an active participation in the duties of his office, but such was his love for the house of God and the services of His sanctuary that he was through the filial piety of his sons often brought down the river in a canoe and borne from it in his easy chair to the church.  His residence was a mile above Carrick's farm on the north bank of the Holston, and is still in the occupancy of his son, Gen. Joseph A. Brooks, who afterwards succeeded his father in the Eldership of Lebanon church.

     Besides the preceding list of officers and members of Lebanon, there were others embraced, at first in the boundaries of Lebanon, who were occasionally hearers and not probably really connected with it; some of these were Alexander McMillan, Esq., Squires Sample and Walker -- the first another soldier who fought at Quebec, and later at King's Mountain.  The others were in the Indian campaigns, but all were good Presbyterians; among the worshipers were also seen several of the new town, Knoxville, soon to become the capital of the Territorial and State Government; but in the first decade of this church, indeed the entire pastorate of Mr. Carrick, the membership embraced a galaxy of citizens that has never or rarely been surpassed in weight of character, patriotic activity, material achievements, political services, public and private virtue, inobtrusive piety and Christian zeal and devotional fervor.  I knew every one of these pioneers whom I have mentioned in these pages, whose memory I reverse and to which I know posterity will bow down and do homage.  Theirs was an extraordinary epoch in our history, and honest, intelligent men to achieve its success and to immortalize it and themselves.

     In 1808 the edifice in which the congregation had heretofore worshiped began to show marks of decay, and it was determined to erect a neat building of stone; it occupied nearly the same site of the old log church, but was less commodious, yet more tasteful in all its arrangements; unfortunately its foundation proved to be insecure, and standing until 1848 it gave place to the present structure.  The old stone church had been erected by the munificence and consecrated by the prayers of the fathers of Lebanon church, and its demolition caused sigh of regret on the part of their descendants that an edifice in which the pioneermen in tears had listened to the words of the earliest clergymen, Doak, Blackburn, Henderson, Anderson, Nelson, McCampbell, Coggin and Baker, had ceased to be the memorial of glorious past revivals, past privileges, past Christian fellowship.  It was a day of grief which is still remembered with sorrow.  

     The fathers, where are they? About 1813, Rev. Mr. Anderson gave up the pastorate for a field at Maryville, more congenial to his taste and better adapted to his ambition and his great capacities than Lebanon and Washington churches offered.  In the latter, the bantling of his earlier years, Union Seminary had sent out educated sons to the South and West, but at Maryville he hoped to found a school of the prophets whose voice should reach the world.  There we shall leave him to return again to Lebanon.  

     This church had a long sad night; it became vacant -- a desolate waste, Lebanon, in strict conformity to the polity and order of the Presbyterian church, had always an ordained minister regularly installed as pastor and ready to discharge in full all pastoral functions -- not to preach the word and administer the sacrament only -- but to visit the people of the congregation and to catechize them -- visit the sick and bury the dead.  But now their Sabbaths were silent and without preaching services; they had not lost perhaps their first love, were as sheep without a shepherd and had no one to go in and out before them; moreover the memory of their fathers of the church, from either growth or emigration were no longer a source of strength to them.  Their seats in the sanctuary were not filled by their first occupants.  

     The expedient was adopted of still assembling themselves together every Lord's day and holding social worship.  These meetings gradually became smaller until the officers only and their families attended.  It was on one of these occasions that the layman's prayer, so graphically described by a correspondent of the Christian Observer in 1868, was uttered before an audience of 13.  Another expedient was resorted to of procuring an occasional supply; Rev. Abel Pearson, John McCampbell and other young men in the ministry did this labor of love; Rev. R. H. King, and after him Rev. T. H. Nelson, occasionally preached on a week day, and sometimes in a private house, baptizing the children.  They were succeeded by Rev. Elijah Eagleton, who divided his time between Washington and Lebanon for one year as stated supply.  He was succeeded by Rev. Harvey Doak for one or two years.  Under his ministrations constant additions were made to the membership, and new Elders were elected.  Previous to this time Mr. Bean became an Elder from the quarter of the church once occupied by Capt. Cozby and A. Rhea, Esq., James McNutt, Esq., succeeded his father, George McNutt, Esq., Robert Armstrong and Wm. Craighead were elected about the same time.  

     The membership derived a considerable addition by immigration of Reynolds Ramsey, his wife Naomi, and his widowed daughter Naomi King, who came from Gettysburg, Pa.  The two first died at Swan Pond when their home was in the house of their son; Mrs. King died near Ebenezer church and was buried in its graveyard near her brother Samuel Ramsey.  Her parents lie buried in the graveyard at Ebenezer.  

     Other immigrants about the same time were buried in the same place: John Alexander, Esq., who has already been mentioned as the pioneer settler on Little Limestone, an Elder in Rev. Samuel Doak's church, in Washington County, and also as having furnished a home to his nephew, F. A. Ramsey, in 1783.  In his old age and nearly destitute and entirely blind, the nephew sent for him, furnished him a house, and means of subsistence for years, and thus made grateful returns and recognition of the kindness received from his uncle, thirty years before.  He had a Christian burial in Lebanon, near the remains of his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. Alexander -- he was one of the excellent of the earth.  

     About the same time came Benjamin McNutt, his wife, a daughter of the preceding John Alexander; he settled on the north bank of the French Broad river, eight miles from the church.  He became an Elder and acting magistrate of his district, and was a member of the Quorum Court of Knox County.  He had previously represented Greene County in the Tennessee Legislature, and had in 1793 accompanied Sevier in his Etowah campaign against the Cherokees.  Squire McNutt was originally from Rockbridge County, Va., and a fair representative of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of that celebrated locality.  

     His library was well furnished with the elementary work of the Calvinistic school.  He was an adept in the polemics and very earnest in the defense of his creed, whether civil or religious, or political; as a private Christian and as an officer of the church, none exceeded him in a faithful discharge of duty.  Living eight miles from the church, even in inclement weather the old Elder was always attentive, devout and punctual and lived beyond his fourscore years; became blind and otherwise infirm, but to the last enjoyed great rest in the company of intelligent and religious friends and such as would read aloud to him the Bible and his favorite authors.  He died about 1857.  He was the uncle of Gov. McNutt of Mississippi.  He was buried in the McNutt family cemetery.

     About 1812 came also James Rodgers; his wife was, too, a daughter of Jno. Alexander before mentioned.  Before his removal to Lebanon he had belonged to Providence church, not far from Leesburg, in Washington County, Tennessee, once under the charge of Rev. Jno. M. Doak, and spoke of him always with enthusiastic admiration and esteem as one of his Elders.  He located above the stone house.  He was an excellent neighbor and citizen and a warm-hearted Presbyterian, attentive to the education, moral and intellectual care of his children; his sons were Col. Thomas Rodgers, Dr. Wm. Rodgers, John Rodgers and Chancellor Samuel Rodgers, all afterward of Knoxville, where they lived and died.  

     Nearly at the same time Mr. Samuel Davis removed from Washington county and settled in Lebanon on the farm since owned by Robert Armstrong.  His wife was a Ross; she survived Mr. Davis many years and raised a good family; one of her daughters, Ann, became the wife of Rev. Stephen Foster, A. M., professor in the East Tennessee University, whose daughter married the lamented Samuel A. Ray, a missionary who died in Persia; Mrs. Ray and family returned to the United States.

     By immigration to Lebanon of several additional members it began to wear more stately proportions among Presbyterian preachers.  Rev. John McCampbell became a stated supply, actually coming twenty-six miles from his home in Dandridge, every third Sabbath, and in all seasons, no one could have been more faithful than he to his appointments.

     Stated supplies were continued; some of them were Mr. Montgomery, Noble Alexander, Mr. Penland and Mr. Gallatin of Pennsylvania; during the ministry of some of these, Joseph Brooks, John McCampbell, and McKnitt Alexander Ramsey became ruling Elders; at a still later period F. A. R. McNutt succeeded his father as Elder.

     It may be proper here to add that the last pastor of Lebanon up to our Civil war, was the Rev. Richard O.  Currie, M.  D., formerly of Nashville, Tenn.  During his short pastorate, Civil war began, into which Dr. Currie went as chaplain and surgeon in the Confederate service, and died in Salisbury, N. C., and was there buried March, 1865.

     These reminiscences of Lebanon would be incomplete without some brief reference to her school.  The first school taught within her boundaries was held in a hamlet or shanty, standing a little below the spring, near the present stone house.  It had been a peltrymen's or hunters' lodge for years before.  The teacher's name was Thomson, father of Loyal B. Thomson, author of Thomson's Arithmetic for common schools.  This teacher was an Englishman.  Tradition fixes the date of this school, 1791, not long after the organization of Lebanon church -- a little more pretentious house, without a floor or window other than the cracks between the logs out of which it was built.  

     The teacher was a strict disciplinarian and had not yet forgotten the English schoolmaster's mode of punishing refractory or unmannerly scholars, viz.: the dunce-block and the fool's cap.  Master Thomson extemporized the former out of a stump of a sapling, cut off two or three feet high, and left in the middle of the school house where it had grown, its surface left rough, and those who ever sat on it once were never anxious to occupy it again.  The fool's cap was also improvised for similar purpose out of an old copybook wrapped in such a way as to make the offender who wore it, as ridiculous as possible.  

     The next schoolhouse in order of time stood opposite the head of Gillespie's Island, near a large spring.  It became something of a high school; the classics were taught, besides the common school rudiments, and at a still later date, about 1835, an association was formed to build a school for the instruction of the rising generation -- a suitable Academy.  The Trustees were Maj. Aaron Armstrong, chairman; J. G. M. Ramsey, Secretary; James Jack, John Nail, Isaac Patton, and some others.  It was called Mecklenburg Academy, consisting of two good sized rooms comfortably furnished.  The land for site and water privileges was donated by the writer, and fuel provided for.

     Rev. N. A. Penland was the president; he came from Buncombe county, N. C., and became the pastor of Lebanon in 1836, and soon after the establishment of Mecklenburg Academy was elected by the Trustees its principal.  This school flourished.  Rev. Mr. Penland soon after married the sister of President Houston, of the Lone Star State Republic of Texas.  It was determined to erect a manse for the pastor and his successors in office.  Mrs. E. J. Scott, a former member of Lebanon, but at the time belonging to the First Presbyterian church in Knoxville, generously gave the site for the parsonage, on her adjoining farm -- a plain manse was erected and for many years afterwards this Academy continued to be the school of the neighborhood.

July 11, 1876.  Reading over these reminiscences today, I find some names and families that have been omitted in the above enumerated.  Joseph Love, who lived at Riverside, where the property of Mrs. Dickson and the children of the late Samuel Howard Dickson, M. D., was located, was Sheriff of Knox County and a strict attendant and supporter of Lebanon.  About 1830 he removed to Rhea County, where he died.  Jacob Patton, his wife, his daughters, Phoebe, Isabella, and Polly, and his sons, James Patton, Wm. Patton, A. R. Patton, and Samuel R. Patton, all removed about 1820 to Hiwassee District, where many of them settled and died; James C. Patton removed to Missouri, where adhering in 1861 to the Southern Confederacy, he became the object of persecution and died in his eightieth year.  Jesse Patton, brother of Jacob, and his wife Isabella, and their children Robert, William and Issac, were all members of Lebanon.  The old people lie buried there, but their children all removed to Monroe county, where they continued respected members of the Presbyterian Church.  The families of Morton and Hawthorn were closely connected in Pennsylvania with Pattons, Coopers, Blairs, and Alexanders, and many of them died and were buried in Lebanon; they were the excellent of the earth.  There were also the Callisons, McConnells, Pattersons, Bhauses, Robertsons, and Bucks, Merrimens, Nails, Perrys, and Fishers, of whom little is recollected, though their names were on the burned church record.

     It were indelicate and it would appear invidious to make the enumeration more specific, but commencing with virtuous Hugh Lawson White, in 1787, and ending with the enterprising and adventurous hunters, the intervening links will show no disparagement to the good character, name and usefulness of those who have lived in and around old Lebanon.

     These reminiscences cannot be prosecuted further, they furnished the material out of which your church records may be partially supplied.

Very Respectfully,
J. G. M. Ramsey,
Former Clerk of Lebanon Session.

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