The Community of Bethlehem

By Nell Morisette
Camden, Tenn.

Church of Old Bethlehem
This photo is believed to be of what once was the one-room log church of Old Bethlehem.

Hello everyone. Another week gone and time for some more history of Benton County.

About two years ago I wrote Mr. Vernon Davis of Florence Alabama, for information on the community of Bethlehem. He did supply me with some, and referred me to Mrs. Ione Lashlee who gave me quite a lot of information. Mr. Davis passed away a week ago. This will be his memory passed on to me, and thanks also to Mrs. Lashlee while she still lives.

During the early years when Benton County was being formed a family of Lashlee brothers settled on Beaver Dam Creek. The brothers were William Pinkley, Burrell, Peyton, and James.

Pinkey has six sons, all active in the community. There was no church in the community at this time. A one-room log structure was built on property belonging to Pinkey, this being Old Bethlehem Methodist Church. No record has been found as to when this church was organized. Some think it might have been around 1840.

History and research shows that Old Bethlehem was active in 1871. James (Jeems) Roberson and wife Will Lashlee Roberson were married on date and were attending church there. The story was told that one of the services, Mrs. Will jumped up shouting, "My Good God Almighty," and started removing her dress. A lizard fell from a rafter onto her neck and then slipped down her dress.

As in most areas, church and school were held in the same building. A small adjacent burial place developed over the years. One of the last to be buried was Colonel W.F. Lashlee in 1885. There were approximately 11 graves. Some of the most prominent citizens of this community were the Lashlees, Robersons, and McAlyea.

As one reads the following, keep in mind the road you now travel to Eva is a different road than when the new church was built. Parts of the old road were under water due to the creation of Kentucky Lake.

One of Pinkey's sons, J.M. Lashlee, deeded to the trustees a tract of land on Eva Road on September 5, 1887. A small white church was built. This building was erected with square nails. The first person to be buried in the new cemetery was the small daughter of J.M. and Emma Lashlee in 1892. The last person buried in this cemetery was Atha Totty Lashlee. Tenn. Pvt. Co. B. 6th Inf. Repl. Reg. W.W.I.G.M. This cemetery was approx. 42 graves.

Presely Lashlee was born in 1852 and was the church caretaker. The tale has been handed down over the years that one day he made the statement that when he died the church would probably fall down; meaning he didn't know who would take care of it. Presley died January 31, 1926. The church was crowded with people to show their respect to a good citizen of the Bethlehem community. The building did slip off the foundation and the funeral was finished outside the church.

After the old church moved to the new site, a school was built on Umstead Branch. This property was owned by Thomas F. and Lenora Umstead. The school was called the Umstead School. Its location was between the churches. As the population increased, this school and five others consolidated and Pembroke School was built.

One of the Lashlees operated a crossing from this side of the river to Johnsonville, called Lashlee's Crossing. Today fisherman still go to Lashlee's Crossing to put their boats in the water.

Thought for the week:

We commit two wrongs when we fail to right a wrong.


If you have suggestions and/ or additions for these pages, please feel free to write County Host

Brian Nichols

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