The writer of the history of the Church of Christ in the section of Middle Tennessee is Harvey Draper, A great-great grandson of Jessie Kuykendall, who with his family laid the foundation for the first Congregation of The Church of Christ at Old Smyrna, which is about three and one half miles North Of Cookeville, Tennessee, on Roaring River Road. This narration will appear in “The Dispatch” paper in sections. This narration is the result of a promise given to Old Bro. Jasper Kuykendall almost forty Years ago to write a short History of the Church and leave it with some congregation whom I thought would keep it, and to “The Dispatch” and all its owners and staff I am very grateful, Harvey Draper. P.S. The manuscript of the narration will be given to the Elders of The Church at Smyrna for future Reference. H.A.D.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
By Harvey Draper
The Church of Christ is a Great and Noble band of followers of Christ who abound in this Country, Who use the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice. The leader of which was Jessie Kuykendall, The great-great –grandfather of the writer of these articles. Who was born and reared in the section of the country where Jessie Kuykendall lived and labored, preached, and taught. Jessie Kuykendall Was a Baptist Preacher of Dutch descent. The forefathers of who came to the New World from Holland to escape religious persecution. The word Kuykendall in Dutch meant “Church of the Valley” Or “Church in the Vale.” The Kuykendalls were devout Baptists, but the teachings of the Baptists in This country were so different from what they understood the Bible to teach, that Jessie set out to find a place somewhere on the American frontier where he could establish a Baptist Congregation whose rule of faith and practice was the Bible only. The writer of this article does not know the exact Date of Jessie Kuykendall’s arrival in this Section, but according to the traditional records that I got, Was that he first settled in what is now the 15th District of Putnam County. But Colonel Joe Blackburn, A Revolutionary War hero was granted a large territory of land which is north of what is now Cookeville, which was at that time Sumner County.
This grant began at the crossing of the Old Fisk Road and the Old Walton Road near where Jasper Terry now lives and near where The Dispatch office now is. This grant extended North along the Fisk Road about eight or ten miles to a point near where the line between Overton and Putnam Counties Now is. Thence southward to a point in the Old Walton Road not far from where the Baxter crossroads now is. Thence Eastward with the Old Walton road to the beginning a distance of about twelve miles. This grant lay just south of a similar grant given to a Colonel Gore who served in the Continental Army with Colonel Blackburn.
These grants contained many thousands acres. Colonel Blackburn not being an educated man found Himself owning a large wilderness of many thousand acres of land with no neighbors except an Occasional Black Bear or a cotton-tailed deer or a bobcat that killed lambs and chickens. So he decided to sell the entire grant and move to some place where his family could have neighbors. He did not want to sell it in small tracts because he felt that he could not get it surveyed and the deeds Made correctly. So Jessie Kuykendall heard about Colonel Blackburn wanting to sell his grant and went to see him. Colonel Blackburn told Kuykendall his troubles and he priced the entire grant to Kuykendall for fifteen hundred dollars and Kuykendall bought it.
Then the door of opportunity was open to Jessie to establish the Baptist Church who would worship God after the pattern laid down by Peter and the rest of the Apostles on the first Pentecost Day after The Resurrection of Christ.
Emigrants were coming into this section almost daily and most of them had enough money to buy a pretty good size farm at the price Kuykendall was selling his land. He had bought the land cheap, so he sold it cheap. He wanted neighbors and friends especially members for his Congregation. Jessie Kuykendall, being a man of unusual intellect and wanted to settle and make homes for themselves and their families without the fear of being disturbed by lawless neighbors.
According to the traditional story told the writer of this narrative by his great Aunt Prudence Kuykendall, Jessie Kuykendall left part of his family in school at Princeton, New Jersey, so after he bought the Blackburn grant he went and brought the rest of his family to Tennessee. This was is 1816. Jessie’s family consisted of his wife, four sons, Peter, Matthew, Young, and Noah, and two daughters, Elisibeth and Mary. These sons were all taught gainful occupations. They were all taught the Bible and vocal music. They sold Bibles to those who did not have any and could pay for them and gave them to families who were not able to pay for them.
The songbooks they used were small black books about four by six inches and were about one and one half inches thick. They looked very much like small Bibles. They did not have notes and bars like we have to guide the song leader, and many times there would be no book in the audience except the one the song leader used. So he would read the song to the Congregation and then would then in singing the song, apply the tune to the song he thought appropriate. So it took quite a talented person to lead a song that other people could follow, Many things of the same type are given by this narrator to show the reader of the remoteness of this section of the state one hundred and fifty years ago.
There was no law of any king here then, except the law of God that Jessie Kuykendall taught and practiced. And it was up to the settlers to follow in order to have a good settlement. He questioned all settlers who came to him to buy land, as to their reason for leaving their old homes and coming to this wilderness to live. This was done in order to avoid getting some lawless person or persons who would disturb their settlement. And he was very successful in so doing. He welcomed everyone regardless of their religious faith just so they were law abiding. However, he impressed all who came that he was a Baptist Minister and was interested in a Congregation of Baptist who wanted to worship God according to the New Testament and they would not accept creeds or doctrines which were not taught by Christ and His Apostles.
The first few years of the Settlement of the Smyrna Community were spent in building homes, schools and the Church that they had been so much interested in. They became more and more concerned about their ability to get their neighbors to join with them in their establishment of a Baptist Church, using the Bible as their all sufficient guide. They readily agreed that the Bible would be their guide, but they balked at the name Baptist, saying that the name Baptist was no more Scriptural than any other man given name. So the Kuykendalls began to examine their own position. They read in the Bible, that God had always required the name that his people wore was in some way t honor him. They found the God changed Abram’s name to Abraham so that he would bless him in wearing that name, Genesis 17th chapter. They found that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, because the name Israel would strengthen him and Honor God because the name was God given, and honored God and God only, Gen. 32-38. They also found that God would give them His people, a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name, Isaiah 62;2. God also destroyed his own people who wore other names than the name God gave them, Deuteronomy 9:14. His walls a place and a name better than sons and daughters, an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Isaiah 56:5.
“After our Forefathers,” the “Kuykendalls Worthies” examined the Old Scripture as to how God in all ages required his people to wear his name or the names he gave them, through the Christ selected Apostles, namely the Apostle Paul and Barnabas at Antioch. Acts 11:26. And the Apostle Peter, 1Peter 4:16. These scriptures indicated that Christ and Christ alone was honored by the God given name.
After Christ was crucified was raised from the dead He met with His apostles almost daily for about 40 days during which time He told them that He was going back to Heaven, there to sit on the right hand of God. His father that had all authority both in heaven and on earth had been given unto him, and that he would send the Holy Spirit from heaven to take His place on earth to teach you ‘the Apostles” all thing whatsoever I have commanded you. That all believers were to be Baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost,” Matthew 28:19,that this “Teacher the Holy Ghost” would remind them of all the things that He “The Christ” has done while He was with them, raised the dead, healed the lepers, opened the eyes of blind, caused the lame to walk, turned the water to wine, all of which He did in the name of or by the Authority of God His Father. So after several years of diligent study and prayerful consideration, our Forefathers concluded that they were wearing an unscriptural name and that they had not been Baptized for the right purpose, as the Lord required of all believers are “To be baptized for the remission of their sins.” They had been baptized into the Baptist Church because they had been saved, which they realized was not the scripture. So after much serious study and consideration they baptized each other into Christ for the remission of their sins as was required by the Holy Spirit, and was preached by the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost which opened the door of the church to all people regardless of creed or color, Acts 2:38-39. This the Kuykendalls did just a while before the Big Baptist Convention which was to meet with the Kuykendalls, the main leaders. And they invited all their neighbors and friends regardless of their religious faiths. And they sent invitations to every community that they could hear of for many miles around. Among those invited was Moses Fisk of Hilham who had begun to settle at Hilham and started a school there. This convention was to be held during the second week of May 1826. This is the information given the writer by those who knew. By the time this convention was held Peter Kuykendall, the evangelist, prepared a sermon that explained in detail the difference between what the New Testament taught and what the Baptist Creeds taught, so when opening day for the convention cane Peter Kuykendall being the host speaker rose to welcome all visitors and delegates from other communities. And, he began explaining their interest in a new vigorous effort to get the Baptist Church to return to the New Testament and the New Testament alone for their rule of faith, and practice. He related how his forefathers had left Holland because they were not allowed to teach and preach the Gospel as it is written. And how the new world was in a state of confusion and that they decided to come to this country where they could teach and preach the Gospel as it is written without any physical interference from any one group or people, where the law did now allow anyone to interfere.
After his welcoming part of the address was finished he launched into a general discussion of the errors of the Baptist Church. His first subject that came in for a general examination was the subject of predestination and foreordination of man. He showed that the Bible taught man was, and is a free moral agent and has full control of his or her eternal destiny. And God does not predestinate one person to heaven and another to hell as the Baptist taught at that time. He also showed by the Bible that infants were not conceived and born in sin as was taught by his Baptist brethren, that God holds no one responsible to Him except those who are old and mentally able to know what is right from wrong. That God is just in all His dealings with man and that God is no respecter of persons except those who first disrespect Him. He also showed the crowed that people had to save themselves by obeying the commands of the Holy Ghost, (who spake to the multitude through the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38-40.) Kuykendall showed his audience that God would not save anyone who wears any other name than Christ’s, Acts 4:12. That the name Christian was given by the Holy Ghost as Antioch, Acts 11:26.
Peter Kuykendall showed in his speech that Baptism was a burial in water, that the Israelites were Baptized in the Cloud and in the sea, not because they had gotten rid of their sins and enemies in Egypt, but they were baptized into Moses in the Cloud and in the se, in order that their sins and enemies be drowned and left in the Red Sea. That Baptism was a burial in water, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12, St. John 1:26, Matthew 3:11, Acts 10: 47, and many other Scriptures.
He also showed that baptism in water had a cleansing power, Ephesians 5:26. That baptism in water washes away sins, Acts 22:16 and many, many other scriptures were discussed to prove his point. Then he turned to his friends who believed sprinkling was a sufficient mode of baptism. And proved that sprinkling was never engaged in during the days of Christ and His apostles to wash away sins. So after Peter Kuykendall had finished his speech which consumed most all of the first day of the convention, he asked all his hearers to examine their own position as they had done and join him in establishing a church after the New Testament pattern. So the meeting adjourned for the day which was on a Friday to meet back the next day to hear more from this remarkable man, and they met again on Sunday, the first day of the week and partook of the Lord’s Supper and heard Peter Kuykendall answer many questions put to him. And many of the visitors were baptized into Christ during the next week, and made many lasting friends who became their coworkers. But some left in a huff, saying that religion of their parents was good enough for them. So closed the Smyrna Baptist Convention, never to meet again. But the Church of Christians began to grow, which finally grew into an organization in 1828.
One place the Kuykendalls visited and taught school was at what now known as Fox Springs. And there another of the Kuykendalls found a mate and married. She married a Buford, who have always supported the Church of Christ. Another place where they found strong support was a what is now Lilly Dale near where the renowned Sewell family lived. The Sewell’s readily joined the Back-to-the-Bible movement and became co-workers and famous leaders and preachers.
Lucy Kuykendall married Elisha Sewell, whose work in the Kingdom of God was equaled only by a very few men. E.G. Sewell was one of the first editors of the Gospel Advocate. Be it remembered by the readers of this narration that the Sewell’s were of the same age group as the grandsons of Jessie Kuykendall. It may be well at this time to mention the names of the Sewell’s who became famous preaches of the Gospel contending that the Bible only is Gold’s only instructor to man who is searching for the was from earth to Heaven.
The Sewell’s who became famous were: Jessie, E.G., or Elisha, William and Caleb. The names of Kuykendalls who became famous were: Garland, William, Peter, James, Newton, Josiah, and Jasper. Be it also remembered that many of the schools taught during this period were taught by this younger generation.
The first Peter was an uncle of the generation of Kuykendalls mentioned above. He had a strong conviction that “young men who wished to preach the unsearchable riches of God, should have a better education than the rank and file of the people could get.” So he and his brother, Young, who was the main song leader of the group, set out on a campaign to establish a school of this type some place in this section of the state.
So they visited Sequatchie Valley because that section was better settled than this and more wealth. They met with a lot of encouragement both in the effort to get people to go to the Bible and the Bible alone for their rule of faith and practice. They established a school in Sequatchie Valley. The writer is convinced it was what became the Sequatchie College at or near Dunlap, Tennessee.
But the support was not enough to do what they were trying to do. So they crossed the mountain into what is not Warren County and started a school at what is now Irvin College. They were encouraged by many with whom they came in contact. The name of “Christian” only as these people wished to be called was unusual but Biblical. And attracted many people who were not too closely tied to the religion of their fathers. Regardless of the Bible teachings.
Then those two Kuykendalls went into what is now White County and preached at a place which became “Onward.” They started a school there which became quite prominent. By this time the labors of the Kuykendalls began to show signs of bearing fruit.
The message of the Kuykendalls up and down Sequatchie Valley and across into what in now White, Warren and Franklin Counties, also Coffee County, began to bear results. A movement was then made to get all interested people together some place to formulate plans to erect a school as had been suggested by the Kuykendalls.
The people began to take interest in the proposition because they lived in this vase section of the country that had no schools of any importance. The state had no school system therefore; the people began to realize that if their children were to get an education they would have to do something about it. They began to realize that the plan of the Kuykendalls was the best plan to follow. So after some discussion at home the Kuykendalls sent invitations to all who were truly interested in the proposition to meet them at a place on top of Cumberland Mountain at a place which later became Spencer.
The writer of this narrative does not know the year or time of year this meeting was held. But it was not far from 1840. The meeting was held and Peter Kuykendall gave opening comments by saying that what he was doing was absolutely unselfish. That he had no children to educate and what he had done was unselfish and what he would do in the future would be unselfish. That he had dedicated his life to the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Christ and the reward of receiving the Crown of Life that would not rust or tarnish eternal in the Heavens. Plans were formulated based on freewill offerings and the meeting adjourned to meet at another date, which was duly held.
The plans had been made to form a stock company, which plans were the idea of Peter Kuykendall and discussed by him with all who became interested. The stock was not to be sold by high pressure or promises of great profits, but on the basis of an investment in the future of young folk of this section of the state.
A John Gillentine was selected as president of the board of directors because he was a successful businessman and lived near where Spencer now is.
A man by the name of Burrett seems to have given the land. And thus the Burrett College was started, where young men and women from all parts of Middle Tennessee, Southern Kentucky and Northern Alabama came to secure the kind of education Peter Kuykendall envisioned all the years he had lived, taught and preached in Middle Tennessee.
Noah Kuykendall, a brother of Peter, had by this time reared a large family of boys and two girls, the names of the boys have been mentioned above in this article.
During the years that Peter and young Kuykendall were busy with their effort to establish a Junior College in this part of Middle Tennessee, the church at Smyrna was busy in their effort to teach as many young people as possible. The doors of the log church and school building were open most all the year to pupils who desired all the education they could get, for which they paid very little.
Jessie Kuykendall died in 1833, encouraging his children and grandchildren to spend their lives in the cause of Christ. The Kuykendall family still owned a large acreage of the Blackburn grant, part of which lay around what is now Bloomington Springs, on which had been found a mineral springs having some medicinal qualities. So Matthew Kuykendall with his son-in-law, Ridley Draper, decided this would be a good place for a school, a church and possibly the county seat of the new county that was much talked about at this time. So Ridley Draper, who just married Rebecca Kuykendall, built a house and moved to the place they had just named Blooming Springs.
The name was given the place because of the many wild flowers that grew around the place. The first house built after the Draper home was a one-room log home in which they held church meetings and taught school. The writer does not know the exact years of these events but they were near the early 1850’s. The Drapers lived part of their time at the Bloomington Springs and the balance on their farm nearer Smyrna. The school at Bloomington began to grow in popularity so that they had to build a larger school building. So they built a square log house with four rooms downstairs with a hall through and a stairway leading to one large assembly room upstairs.
Garland Kuykendall, one of the first graduates of Burrett College was employed to head the school, which position he held up to the time the school was closed because of the Civil War. He also preached at many places in the lower end of Putnam County and much of Jackson County. He was a very forceful preacher as was his uncle, Peter. He held a meeting at Old Antioch on Flynn’s Creek where he converted many people, one of who became one of the most influential preachers of his day.
He went everywhere preaching Christ and insisting that the Bible was God’s only book that people could read and learn of God’s plan to lead man from earth to heaven. He preached that there was only one church, one body, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father, one Christ and that the name of Christ must be worn by all true Christians who wished to honor God and Christ.
By 1835 the Church of Christ had grown to such extent that it seemed the whole country wanted the Bible taught and preached as it was written. Major Fisk who had come to Hilham and who was present at the 1826 Convention, which was mentioned earlier, had begun to take active stock in the back-to-the-Bible movement. And with others whom he converted, established a congregation there, which has all through the years been a strong supporter of the Gospel of Christ.
A Dr. Jordan, who was a well educated man but who also was a dissatisfied Baptist, moved from Virginia to what, at the time was Overton County, and he almost immediately became converted by the Sewell Brethren. The Baptist taught no one should be allowed to read the Bible but an ordained Baptist preacher, and that the ordinary member of the church should listen to the preacher. Dr. Jordan knew these ideas were wrong and he set about to help the Sewells to prove that was not God’s plan for people to go by.
About 1835, a young man Isaac Reneaugh, who had educated himself sufficiently to teach school in that section, applied to Dr. Jordan for a place in his office to study medicine. And about that time began to be interested in religion. Dr. Jordan taught him medicine as well as the Bible and not long after that he was baptized into Christ and began to preach.
Isaac Reneaugh soon became one of the most prominent preachers of the Gospel in all southern Kentucky. The Congregation at Hilham was active at this time. The congregation at Old Flat Creek in Overton County was the results of that effort. The Flemings and the Swifts became church leaders before the Civil War.
During the first 25 years of the Church of Christ in this section of Tennessee the religious world was in a very chaotic condition. Most preachers and leaders recognized there was only one God, one Christ, one Spirit of God, one church in which Christ himself is the Spiritual head (Ephesians 1:20-23, Romans 12:5) and many others. But they became bitter opponents of the way the Bible taught about getting into this one spiritual body-the Church, (Acts 2:37-39, also Romans 6:3-4) and many, many other scriptures.
About this time, another spiritual star began to rise from the northeast. Their names were Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander, who were highly educated men and who owned a newspaper establishment and had inherited a large estate, which they used for the purpose of teaching and preaching the Bible as it was written.
They did most of their work in the northern part of Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. But the fame of Alexander Campbell had grown to such fabulous proportions by 1850 that he was invited to Franklin, Ky. And Morrison Cummins, a very popular and useful man who was a water mill builder. Who was a very religious man, whose neighbors regarded him so highly that they confided in him to setter all disputes of neighborhood quarrels. This man had gained respect of his neighbors, the Kuykendalls, and he almost had accepted the Kuykendall contention that the Bible was God’s only revelation from God to man.
Morrison Cummins also had an old maid sister school teacher who was teaching in Nashville. When she heard the Alexander Campbell was coming to Franklin, Ky. She wrote her Brother Morrison to get his saddle horse and bring her saddle horse and they would go to hear Alexander Campbell preach. But instead of that, he hitched a team of horses to his wagon and put enough provisions in the wagon to last several weeks and set out to Franklin, KY. To hear the great preacher. While they were there, all were baptized into Christ and came home to join their Kuykendall friends in their back-to-the Bible movement. Morrison said that he was just too stubborn to acknowledge his faults, but he became a very faithful co-worker.
Another thing we must do before we get into the Civil War years is to bring Peter and young Kuykendall back up for discussion. They had spent almost all of the then years prior to 1850 in preparing the several counties around Spencer for their erection of the Burrett College. They had preached the Gospel to these people and shown them the need for a school of that type. They had formulated the plan of financing and had done almost all the work it took to state the school.
John Gillentine being a man of quite a lot of experience in public affairs was given the chore of issuing the stock and collecting the money for the stock while Peter and young Kuykendall came home for a specified time. At which time they were to select a permanent manager. So the old old story of the mice and cat demonstrated itself. While the Kuykendalls were away, Gillentine solicited the votes of all stock holders to vote for him as president of the board. This displeased the Kuykendalls very much, so there was quite a little confusion. Gillentine was not capable of running a school like that and he knew it , and so did Peter Kuykendall. However, Gillentine would not give way, so the dissention grew so sharp that it began to look like the whole thing would fall apart.
So the Kuykendalls left, asking everyone to stick together for the undertaking. So the curtain falls on Peter and young Kuykendall. In a very short time they joined a train of immigrants in 1850. One stopped in Texas, and the other went to California.
For the next 30 years after the establishment of the Church of Christ, just after the Baptist Convention in 1826, which resulted in the establishment of the Church of Christ, the church grew almost by leaps and bounds because of the teaching that the Bible was man’s only book or source of information which told man about where he came from and where he was going after this life is over.
Bt this time many young men who had gone to school to one of the little six-pupil schools in his childhood had become members of the church and had started to teach his neighbors and preach as well. Putnam County had been formed and Cookeville had been selected as the seat of the county government. People began to take some stock in their government. But by 1860 war clouds began gather over Middle Tennessee as well as over all of the United States. And with the election of Abraham Lincoln as president carne the end of slavery and all other state rights. So the state was turned into a state of bedlam. Most of the people favored leaving the Union and establishing a new Southern nation.
So by the middle of the year 1861, Tennessee had seceded, but the secession Garland Kuykedall who had great influence in the Church of Christ in Middle Tennessee made many speeches against splitting the United States by seceding.
But his neighbors and friends became very much divided. Most of them went against him and the division became so sharp that his life was threatened. So he fled to Lexington. Ky., and sought refuge in General George Thomas’ Army, which was stationed there, as a chaplain. So he was turned over to General James A. Garfield who was a commander of a division of General Thomas’ army.
And as they were of the same religious faith they became fast friends. He remained with Garfield as long as the war lasted. But he was never on the Army roll, but was known as the soldier friend and spiritual advisor without any authority, except the Bible which Garfield accepted gladly. This is the understanding of the writer of these articles, which are, of course, legendary.
And while Garland Kuykendall was in the Army with General Garfield, he wrote a lot of manuscripts which he compiled of copies and sold them through agents. This writer secured a copy when he was a young man, which copy has been lost, and all efforts to secure another copy have resulted in failure so far.
But the Church which the Kuykendalls loved so much was torn apart by the War. It was a case of neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend. And the whole country was ransacked by small bands of soldiers from both sides. So much so that the people were reduced almost to starvation. The condition got so bad that the old men and women had to cultivate their little crops and gardens by plowing their only milk vow. Many of the best homes in the country were burned down and their owners reduced to poverty.
The log church house which was built about 1820 and stood in a clearing about one-half mile north of where Howard Draper now lives, was burned just after the close of the war, and the membership was warned not to try to rebuild it. The penalty for the effort to rebuild the church building would be death of the worker.
So they went about a mile to the west and started a building and got only a shed-like room started which they used a few time, but they were warned not to go any further with their church building. The penalty was the same as before. This building was started near the forks of the road just west of the Bartlett homestead. So the church members net from home to home until 1870, at which time land was secured from Noah Kuykendall to build a church and school building where the present Smyrna Church building now stands.
The Church of Christ at Smyrna, a mile north of Cookeville, had its beginning as early as 1815, when Jessie Kuykendall, along with his family, came to Cookeville from Pennsylvania expressly “for the purpose of establishing a church patterned after the New Testament.”
Kuykendall’s sons, Jessie, Peter, Young, Matthew, and Noah, also became ministers and were instrumental in Smyrna’s existence.
The Smyrna church was the only Church of Christ in Cookeville until around 1877 when the Broad St congregation was established. Prior to this anyone of the Church of Christ faith attended Smyrna, people from town and country alike. However, when Broad St, was established the Smyrna congregation diminished as the town people started attending in town.
The church at Smyrna has had three different locations. The exact dates of each are not known. The first was on the Old Shelter Road. Here the earliest services were held, and it is interesting to note that these were in a brush arbor. This was a kind of make-shift structure made of a frame and a roof piled with brush and leaves. It was a big help in keeping the congregation dry and warm. The “pews” were planks of wood placed over wooden blocks.
The second location of the Church of Christ at Smyrna was the fork of the Dodson Branch and Lynn Roads. By 1871, the church was established at its present location and the lot was registered at the courthouse. Another interesting point is that the present lot was once the site of Smyrna school.
The earliest services of the church seemed to be presided over entirely by the Kuykendall family. This family, under the leadership of their father, Jessie, had given themselves wholeheartedly to the formation and organization of the church. In 1828, the church was completely established, however: by and by the Kuykendall family began to diminish and Smyrna’s congregation dwindled considerably. However, even during the Civil War the congregation never failed to meet.
There were many respected leaders to follow the Kuykendalls, among these being Jesse Sewell, F.D. Srygley, E.G. Sewell, and the Hutcheson and the Terry families. C.L. Powell is the present minister. He came to Cookeville in 1950, and while still a student at Tennessee Tech held a few services at Smyrna. Carson Burroughs at the time was the first regular minister in the history of Smyrna. Under Burroughs’ ministry the congregation continued its upward growth, but the building itself was in poor condition. It was rebuilt between 1950 and 1951, and the congregation’s rate of growth was still mounting.
From 1955 to 1957, Powell started his first regular work at Smyrna. At this time he was a public school teacher in Smith County and was driving from Carthage to Cookeville. In 1958, Powell went to Smyrna as its full time minister and remained until 1964. From 1964 to 1967 Mack Wheeler and Glenn Ramsey were the ministers and Powell returned last year (1967) after a stay at Smithville.
On January 16, 1960, Smyrna’s church buildings were destroyed by fire and the congregation met at Bangham School until the first Sunday in July. At that time the present building as it new stands was completed. The congregation now has 182 members. (February 1968.
UPDATE ADDED TO BRO. DRAPER’s HISTORY:
Since the early 1950’s the following men have served the Smyrna congregation as elders: Hodges Stockton, Frank Newberry, Walter Martin, Lester Loftis , Lewis Martin, Waymon Mason, Shirley Gaw , Bill Ogletree, Bill Loftis and Arthur Thrasher .The present elders are: Alan Cantrell, James Bush, Ensor Stockton, and Carl Jones.
These presently serving as deacons are: James Loftis, Dean Mayberry, and Eddie Smith, and Steve Fuqua had served the congregation for many years as treasurer.
After C.L. Powell’s last regular work with the church here, the following preachers have served the Smyrna congregation (the number of years are approximations): RICHARD Sain (2 years), Arnold Kelly (5 years), Carson Burroughs (5 years), and Wally Kirby (5 years). Sammy Webb has worked with the church since 1988 as associate minister and Dan Jones has been with the congregation as preacher since March 1993.
The church presently has a total membership of approximately 140 as of May 2003.
HISTORY UPDATE; DECEMBER 7, 2010
Dan Jones left Smyrna in July, 2005 making his time at Smyrna a little over 12 years. James E. Rogers came to work with the congregation in September, 2005 and is the current preacher.
The current average attendance of the congregation is 100.