Once again I was searching through my family trees and I noticed that there were quite a few photos of the homes that my ancestors had lived in. Some of them were built way back in the early 1600s. They varied in size, style, and construction material. They are all as equally unique as each of my ancestors! I decided not to limit it to dwelling places, but to also include the occasional “house” of worship.
Strother’s Meeting House, the “cradle of the Methodist Church in the West”, was erected near Cottontown in Sumner County about 1800. The church held the distinction in 1802 of housing the first Middle Tennessee Methodist Conference. At that meeting Bishop Francis Asbury was in charge, and one of the most valuable relics in the church today is the chair in which the bishop presided. Also, there today is one of the rude log benches hewn by a Sumner county pioneer for the Methodist chapel.
The single candle that was the only illumination for the church is on display as well as a circuit rider’s trunk, rusty and worn, bears on it the explanation that “Bishop McKendree used this on his journeys through the undivided bounds of American Methodism. There are many other relics–pictures, Bibles, books and gavels–all telling the story of the early days of a denomination that now has millions on its membership rolls.
It must have been a very impressive meeting there, according to the accounts that have been handed down by several who attended. The membership reported for that year the Cumberland Circuit was 588 white and 39 Negro members. William McKendree, was the presiding elder and John Page and Thomas Wilkerson were the preachers on the circuit.
As Methodism grew in Sumner County the tiny one-room chapel was not large enough so another building was erected and it was dedicated in 1857 as Bethel Church. Prior to this, however, Strother’s Meeting House had been moved from its first location one mile away to Red River Pike.
When the Methodists began using their new church, the old meeting house, then located on the Hassell farm, was used for many years as a corn crib. The church remained as a crib under an eave of the barn on the farm, but one reason for the excellent condition of the logs was the fact that it was thus protected from the weather.
This small log cabin has often been referred to as the “Traveling Church” because it has been dismantled and moved numerous times. The church was finally moved to an honored place on the Scarritt Bennett Campus located in Nashville in 1931.