This Old House # 6 ~ Strother Meeting House

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.

Sunday’s Salute #44 ~ John “Long John” Strother ~ Civil War & Murder

John R. Strother my 4th cousin 6 times removed, was born May 18, 1834, near Sparta, Hancock County, Georgia, into a wealthy family. He was the son of Richard Strother (1768-1838) and Mary Black (1801-1874). When John was only four years old, his father died. His mother raised John and his four siblings on the family plantation in Hancock County. After the sale of the plantation in the 1850s, the family members moved to Baldwin County. With the outbreak of the Civil War, John mustered in the Confederate forces on June 12, 1861, serving as a private in Company F, 9th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.

He served under Captain George Hillyer and stayed in this regiment for the entirety of the war. This group of men participated in many battles including Price’s Farm, Virginia on June 27, 1861; Leesburg, Virginia on October 21, 1861; Rappahannock Bridge, Virginia on March 29, 1862; Yorktown, Virginia on April 19-25, 1862; and last but not least at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 2-6 1863.

After the war, John returned to Baldwin County and married Mary Price (1841-1871) on March 14, 1865. In January 1866 he was elected sheriff of Baldwin County. On March 24, 1866, following an unknown misunderstanding, John shot Mr. W. A. Robertson in the right thigh, who died a few days later. John resigned as sheriff and fled. On June 2, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles J. Jenkins issued a proclamation offering a $200 reward for John’s capture. While no details are available, John was later exonerated. He returned to Baldwin County, and in 1871 he married Sarah Kenan (1833-1872). However, on July 3, 1871, John shot and killed Lewis Holmes Kenan, a member of a prominent Baldwin County family and former state senator, on a main street in Milledgeville, Georgia. Again, John had to flee. Friends put him in a crate and loaded him on a train bound for Louisiana, where his first cousin, Berry Strother, could provide refuge.

John lived alone in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, near Kimmelton. He taught penmanship and dancing. Being a fugitive from the law, he carried a rifle everywhere he went. He had been raised as a southern gentleman, so felt superior to most people in the community. He was a ladies man, hated and feared by many. With Naluse Americe “Nettie” Johnson (1854-1889), he had a son, John William Strother, born February 5, 1887, at Hico, Lincoln Parish. He and Naluse never married.

In November 1888, John taunted his neighbor, Turner Bentley, saying Turner’s wife Mary was carrying his child. On a fall morning, 20 November 1888, John R “Long John” Strother left his home in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, on horseback. He had not gone far when three men, Turner Bentley, Anders Lloyd and Will King attacked him. John was shot from his horse, and, after he fell, was shot in the top of the head with buckshot. Neighbors said it was a most brutal murder. “Long John” was 54 years old. He is buried in Buckner Cemetery in Claiborne Parish.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.