The Union Church of Christ is listed in John T. Brown’s Churches of Christ as organized in 1836.
Although there are no extant records of Union to prove its date of organization the records of nearby Cherokee Creek Baptist Church, dated March 5, 1853, indicate that early members of Union Church came from the Baptist ranks.
Isaac Hartsell’s mill was the scene of early church meetings. S.H. Millard held an early meeting there; the date of this is likely 1845-46, during his trips in company with David M. Buck. [Mrs. L.W. McCowan]
Washington County Deed Book number 45, page 438 records that Joseph Hunter and Jefferson Perkins sold to Absolem Scott, Jacob Hyder, and Isaac Hartsell, Trustees for the Church of Christ, 3/4 acre of land for $6. This deed was witnessed by Madison Booth and DNF Peoples. The purchase was made on August 6, 1856, and recorded in Jonesborough, Tennessee, on May 1, 3:00 p.m., 1876.
Log Church and Schoolhouse
The first log church was built in 1856 and stood to east of where the old brick church stands today.[Roxie Burnett] Jefferson Perkins gave the poplar logs for this log church, which was used for both church and schoolhouse. [Mrs. L.W. McCowan] The people came with broad axes and donated much of the labor for constructing the good sized rectangular building.
The schoolhouse was named Union as scribed on Virgie D. Story Keplinger’s diploma dated February 23, 1905, and as told to her grandson, Mickey Keplinger. This school is believed to be the same log school that was located across the road from the old brick church, referred to as Union Grove by the United States Office of Education.
The old brick church was started in 1876 with handmade brick made by Isaac Hartsell, Jacob Hartsell, John Denton, Lorenza Bennett, Jack Scott, Joseph Green, L.A. (Lawson Alexander) Hicks, William J. Price, Thomas Harvey, Dock Green, and other church members. Mrs. Lizzie (Beckett) Story, Miss Mary Scott, and two other women contributed money for the windows.
It is believed that the building of this brick structure took several years as each brick was hand molded, and the walls are 16 inches thick. When the Farmer’s Alliance met at Union in 1881, the belfry had not been added to the church building as indicated in the photograph of the group made that day. [John Hicks]
In 1959 the school house building across the road was moved to a site on the Bill Bennett Road for a private residence, thus making room for a church parsonage which had become necessary if Union Church was to have a full-time minister. Donated labor and materials kept the building cost as low as possible. A modest brick structure with two bedrooms, bath, living room and kitchen-dining area, and a full size concrete basement was built. The basement was later used for meetings, fellowship gatherings and extra classrooms. The first occupants were part-time minister and student at Milligan College, James V. Fisher and his young wife, Nancy.
The New Church
The need for a larger and more modern worship facility began to surface in 1959, and property adjoining the church building was purchased from the Della Cole family in 1962. The foundation had been laid and the walls started when on Saturday night, February 17, 1963, a fire damaged the rear and basement of the old brick church. Although shocked and bewildered, the congregation was determined to continue worshipping somewhere as a group. Permission was granted to them to meet in the Cherokee Elementary School by the school authorities for as long as was needed.
The first service in the building was on Sunday, July 28, 1963. The cast iron bell from the old church belfry was removed and installed in the new building and was tolled regularly on Sundays to summon the community to worship services.
In time the old church building was restored and remodeled and is being used today for the Union Youth for Christ activities.
The church cemetery is maintained with modern equipment, and upkeep is provided by families of deceased loved ones buried there.
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
1835 Union Church was listed in the John T. Brown’s Churches of Christ.
1836 Union Cemetery was established
1852 Cherokee Creek Baptist expelled 11 members for uniting with the Campbellites at Union.
1856 Union Church of Christ Trustees, Absolem Scott, Jacob Hyder, and Isaac Hartsell, purchased 3/4 acre of land from Joseph Hunter and Jefferson Perkins for $6. First log church was built at Union.
1869 Union hosted the East Tennessee and S.W. Virginia Co-operation, now known as East Tennessee Convention of Christian Churches.
1876 Property purchased in 1856 was recorded in Jonesborough.
1878 Annual meeting was held at Union Church on Cherokee Creek August 30.
1881 Farmer’s Alliance meeting was held at Union.
1888 Union Church hosted the East Tennessee and S.W. Virginia Co-operation: N.E. Hyder was Chariman and C.H. Price was Secretary.
1893 Elijah Burress and wife sold a tract of land to School Directors of the 8th District; next to the west side of the old brick church and also crossing the road and including the land where the parsonage is located today.
1897 Edna Denton taught school at the old Union School.
1900 D.J. Fine and Jacob Hartsell were members of the County Court of Washington County representing the 8th District. Jesse Dulaney, David Leach, and Frank Andes were the School Directors for the 8th District. W.M. Denton was the teacher at Union School in 1900 at a salary of $33 per year.
1904 Union Church again hosted the Annual Convention.
1913 Union Church Trustees, T.C. Harvey, J.H. Jones, and S.E. Feathers, purchased property from the School Directors of Washington County for $25; property being the same as conveyed by Elijah Burress and wife in 1893, known as the Union School Lot. Union Church Trustees purchased 3/8 acre of land behind the old brick church, southeast corner of graveyard from Smith and wife, Liza Jane Wilson, for a sum of $30.
1930 Union was host for a large Tent Meeting.
1935 Union Church of Christ celebrated its Centennial on July 15.
1937 Five hundred people visited Union Church and Cemetery on Memorial Day.
1950 Board of School Directors sold the New Era School, and the land reverted back to Union Trustees.
1959 Union Church of Christ parsonage was built.
1962 O.T. Burris, Smith Sparks, and John Hicks, trustees for Union Church of Christ, purchased property where the church building stands today from Della Cole, Harry Cole, Aileen Cole, Emmett Cole, and wife, Alene. September, 1962. Ground breaking for the new church building began.
1963 Fire broke out at the old brick church on February 16 with the Jonesborough Fire Department responding. July 28, 1963, the first service was held in the new building. Women’s mission work organized.
1966 Church library fund started.
1967 Library dedicated on June 25, 1967.
1968 Congregation adopted the motto, “CLEAN THE SLATE IN ’68”, and a mortgage free note burning service was held on December 29, 1968.
1969 Communication system between the church office and the parsonage was installed.
1980 Youth Group began retreats.
1984 New carpet was installed; pews were upholstered; Fellowship Hall paneled; new roof was installed on church.
1985 A new baptistry scene was painted by member, Barbara Timbs.
Union’s 150th Celebration in October 1985.
Pioneers of the Church
Among the early members of Union Church were:
John and Daisy Boring
William Denton and family/span>
Samuel E. Feathers.
Isaac Hartsell and family
Jefferson Perkins’ wife and daughters, Eliza and Hannah
Thomas Scott and family
Uncle Billie Walters
Early elders were J.I. Scott, J.M. Beckett, and Isaac Hartsell, all of whom preached.
Partial List of Early Members, 1913-1926
|G.S. Allen||Davis Dunn||Jewell McPeak|
|Ed Allen||Mary Dunn||Laura McPeak|
|Embrey Allen||Herbert Dulaney||Hannah Murry|
|Fronia Allen||Artie Feathers||John Murry|
|Roxie Allen||Fronia Feathers||John Saylor|
|William E. Allen||Samuel E. Feathers||A.L. Scott|
|Jason Andes||Sarah Feathers||Ada Scott|
|John A. Andes||Alvin Greene||Alley R. Scott|
|W.F. Andes||Callie Greene||Anna L. Scott|
|Walter Andes||G.W. Greene||Edward E. Scott|
|A.C. Benfield||Ina May Greene||Franklin Scott|
|Amanda J. Benfield||Mollie Greene||Horace Scott|
|D.C. Benfield||Noma Greene||Jack Scott|
|Lafayette Benfield||Sarah Greene||Louisa A. Scott|
|Laura Benfield||George I. Hamit||M.E. Scott|
|William Benfield||A.L. Hartsell||Maria Scott|
|Anna L. Bennett||Isaac Hartsell||Melba Scott|
|Joseph Bennett||Stella Hartsell||Parris V. Scott|
|Lonansa Bennett||Bogia Harvey||Rhoda Scott|
|Virgie Bennett||Corintha Harvey||William Scott|
|William B. Bennett||Eddie Harvey||William C. Scott|
|Bertha Boring||Emma Harvey||Carl Story|
|Daisy Boring||Ida S. Harvey||Charley Story|
|Harry W. Boring||Thomas Harvey||Earl Story|
|Effie Buck||Nancy Hicks||Ellen Story|
|Ettie Buck||Ollie Hicks||Ina Story|
|George Buck||Alva Holly||Neal Story|
|Marietta Buck||Clifton Holly||Ray Story|
|Minnie Buck||Jas. R. Holly||Rebecca Story|
|Nathaniel Buck||Fannie Holly||Rosa Story|
|Minnie Jones Cargille||Bessie Jones||Virgie Story|
|Elbert Cole||Caroline Jones||Wm. A. Story|
|Fayette Cole||Dora Jones||Mrs. Jacob Tipton|
|Noah Cole||Dr. J.H. Jones||Fronia Young|
|Rachel Cole||Sam E. Keplinger||Mina Lane Walters|
|Laura Davis||Isaac Laws|
|Axie Denton||Matilda Laws|
|David B. Denton||Rhoda A. Laws|
|Edna Denton||Willie Laws|
Mrs. Coy Bennett
Magie Hill, Sr.
William H. Jones
Mrs. Wallace Boring
Mrs. W.I. Geisler
Robert Huffine, Jr.
Mrs. J.J. Jones
Mrs. Jack Scott
Mrs. A.R. Scott
Oddie Denton Campbell
Willie (Bill) Denton
Isaac Farren & wife
? Ghouge & wife
Frank Luttrell & wife
Cordie Scott Hartmen
S.W. Shields, Jr.
|Ray Allen||Ethel Huffine|
|W.F. Anders||Marion Huffine|
|Andy Buck||John Harvey|
|Evert Cole||Bennie Jinkins|
|Harry Cole||Violet Pore|
|Velma Cole||Mary Scott|
|Clide Dunn||Vena Scott|
|Fannie Dunn||Verlin Scott|
|Mrs.Gergie Evans||Ada Bess Shields|
|Sam Evans||Burnette Shields|
|Oveda Feathers||Milton Vance|
|Ella Hartsell||Mary Vance|
|Lena Greene||Aline Walters|
John Whaley & wife
SELECTED MEMBER BIOGRAPHIES
James M. Beckett was born in 1830 in Floyd County, VA. In 1861 he and his parents, William and Lucy LeSeuerer Beckett, moved to a farm in the Sinking Creek Valley, south of Johnson City, They moved to the Dry Creek Settlement near Embreeville where he operated a sawmill and cabinet shop. Dates of these moves are unknown.
As far as can be established, they were members of the old log church at Union Church of Christ. Mr. Beckett was one of the first elders of this church. He was a minister, school teacher, music teacher, saw mill operator, cabinet and furniture maker. All of his sons were carpenters and/or woodworkers. His daughters were homemakers.
James M. Beckett and Frances Holloway Beckett had eight children: Eli, Charles William, Henry, Rowena, Elizabeth, Lucy, James, and John.
Rev. Beckett was a pioneer and one of the charter members of the First Church in Johnson City in 1871. He helped to establish and minister First Christian Church in Johnson City and Bethel Church of Christ in Jonesborough, TN.
He died in 1911 and is buried in Union Church of Christ Cemetery. –by Carolyn Beckett White
He served as a Magistrate in the latter part of the 1800’s. On November 13, 1869, he married Jane Hartsell, daughter of Isaac Hartsell. They had eleven children: Daisy, Bertha, Nelle, Sue, Wallace, Cora, Maggie, Ralph, Harry, Kate, and Anna. –by David Boreing
SAMUEL ELCANEY FEATHERS
Samuel Elcaney Feathers was born February 23, 1812. He was one of 16 children of John L. Feathers and Sarah Barbara Shorrett Feathers. John was born in 1783 in Virginia and migrated to Sullivan Co. TN.
Samuel married Dorcas Watson, and they made their home about five miles northeast of Johnson City, near Highway 11-E on the west bank of the Watauga River. They had five children: Isaac, Irene Elizabeth, Samuel, John, and Wesley.
Samuel Elcaney Feathers is listed among the earliest members of the Union congregation. His wife died on April 1, 1897, and he passed away on July 14, 1898. Both are buried in the Union Church of Christ Cemetery.
ISAAC WASHINGTON HARTSELL
Isaac Washington Hartsell was born July 4, 1821, on Cherokee Creek, the son of Jacob and Nancy Million Hartsell. Jacob served in the War of 1812. The Hartsell family came from Germany and spelled their name Hartzell until they were in America
Isaac farmed, ran a mill, and preached during his entire life. It was told that he would have his hearers laughing one moment and crying the next. He was one of the trustees who purchased the property in 1856, where the old brick church stands today. He and his son, Jacob, helped build the old brick church with handmade bricks.
The first service of Union Church was held in the old Hartsell’s mill on Cherokee Road. Isaac was one of the first elders of the Union Church. He died on February 10, 1876, and was buried in the Hartsell’s square at Union Cemetery.
His daughter, Mrs. Dora Hartsell Jones, widow of Dr. James Hardin Jones, joined Union Church in 1874 during the ministry of a Rev. Star. Dr. Jones joined in 1868 under Bro. Shelor and was baptized by A.M. Ferguson.
6 August 1856, Washington Co. TN Deed Book 45, p. 438
Joseph Hunter and Jefferson Perkins sell to Absalom Scott, Jacob Hyder and Isaac Hartsell–trustees for the Church of Christ and their successors in office for the consideration of six dollars, a certain lot of land lying in Washington County, state of Tennessee on the waters of Cherokee Creek containing three-fourth acre, more or less, and bounded as follows (to wit);
Beginning at a black walnut, corner to said Hunter and Perkins, south thirty-four West five poles and six links to a poplar, South forty-seven Ease eighteen poles to a planted rock, South forty-one West eighteen poles to a planted rock, South fifty-nine West two poles and eighteen links to the Beginning.
To have and to hold unto the above named trustees and their successors in office forever. We the said Hunter and Perkins to hereby convenant with the said trustees that we are lawfully seized and possessed of said land, have a good right to convey it and that the same is unincumbered. We the said Hunter and Perkins bind ourselves, our heirs and representatives to warrant and forever defend the title to the above land unto the said trustees and their successors in office against the lawful claims of all persons whatever–Given under our hand and seals this 6th day of August 1856.
Witnesses: Madison Booth, D.W.F. Peoples
The Union deed was taken about 20 years later to be recorded on 1 May 1876. By then the brick church had been started. Three persons in the transactions had died: Jefferson Perkins, Isaac Hartsell and Absalom Scott. Trustee Jacob Hyder had moved to Mitchell County, NC. Witness and surveyor Madison Booth had moved to Texas. Only one witness remained, David W.F. Peoples who had moved from Cherokee to Jonesboro. He appeared with Union elders before J.F. Gresham, County Court Clerk who told them to obtain additional proof. The following was entered below the deed. Book 45, p. 438:
State of Tennessee, Washington County. Personally appearing before me J.F. Gresham, Clerk of County Court of said county: D.W.F. Peoples, one of the subscribing witnesses to the within deed with whom I am personally acquainted and who after being first duly sworn deposed and said that Joseph Hunter and Jefferson Perkins the bargainors acknowledged that they executed the same on the date it bears for the purpose therein expressed.
Dr. E. Armstong and Nathan Shipley, citizens of said county came before me and after being duly sworn deposed and said that they were well acquainted with the handwriting of Madison Booth, the subscribing witness to said deed and that his signature thereto attached is his genuine signature.
Witness my hand at office this 1st of May 1876. J.F. Gresham, Clerk. Originally entered in Book C, p 76, re-copied by C.R. Jones, County Register to Vol. 45, page 438.