19th Century Beginnings

bwstoneAlthough the church known today as Glendale Road Church of Christ traces its formal organization back to 1909, it is known that preachers carrying the message of the New Testament were active in Calloway county from its very formation in 1822, and records indicate that there were small groups of Christians meeting in various locations throughout the Jackson Purchase during the first decade following the opening of the Land Office at Wadesboro. None of these early groups owned buildings, most were very loosely organized and all were served by itinerant preachers sent to evangelize the area by the two major restorationist movements of the time. The very earliest evangelists to venture into Calloway County were associated with the movement led by Barton W. Stone [1788-1844] principally in Kentucky and Tennessee.

While we do not have written records from any of these earliest churches or itinerant preachers, it is known that a church existed at the county seat of Wadesboro. In his Christian Messenger , dated March of 1830, Stone printed a letter written from Calloway County by Elder John McCartney in which he reports “The gospel of Jesus Christ has of late prevailed in these regions. About 40 have united in society within three months.” During the decades of the 1830s and 1840s, McCartney and others regularly sent progress reports from Calloway County to Stone’s Christian Messenger at Georgetown, Ky., as well as to Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger in Brooke County, Va.

Records indicate that during the 1830s a small group of disciples met in an old school building near what would later become the Murray City Cemetery and yet another group is recorded as having met for awhile in the village known variously as Williston, Pooltown or Pleasant Hill in the vicinity of the modern-day streets of South 4th and Sycamore. Sadly, neither of these churches left permanent records.

According to research done in 1985 by the late Dr. William Ray Mofield, the first restorationist congregation in the Jackson Purchase that can be documented to have been fully organized and to have owned its own building was known as Old Liberty. Established in June of 1832, the building was located northeast of Wadesboro not far from the location of the present-day Benton Church of Christ.

Unfortunately, the identities of most of the earliest itinerant preachers have been lost to history but most historians are in agreement that the first restorationist preachers to permanently settle in the county and whose lives can be well documented were Reuben Starks [1789-1861] and his son, William Marshall Starks [1809-1892]. Patriarchs of the vast Starks family that settled along what is now the county line, they and their relatives were founders and long-time leaders of the Old Liberty church. Starks descendants remain prominent members of Churches of Christ, including Glendale Road, all over Calloway and Marshall counties to this day.

Following the division of the county in 1842 and the establishment of Murray as the new county seat, the first two public buildings to be erected in Murray were a courthouse and the Christian Church, both completed in 1844. Harrison Peyton Utterback [1800-1853] and a Paris, Tenn., dentist by the name of Dr. John R. McCall [c1804-1866] were instrumental in getting the original 24 x 36 ft. building constructed on a lot on the southwest corner of the modern intersection of South 6th and Maple.

In 1868, the church moved to North 5th Street and built a substantial two story brick building which doubled as a meeting place on the ground floor and an Odd Fellows Hall on the upper floor. The 1868 structure, which stood where the 1st Christian Church currently sits, was the last one built by the Murray church prior to division and was used until 1904.

The 1901 Church

According to information recorded many years later by Maurice C. Bucy and Cecil Thurmond, there was an attempt in 1900 or 1901 to re-establish the church in Murray following the tragic division that had occurred in the closing years of the 19th century. This group, which met in homes, the Courthouse, the Opera House and other rented locations, was composed of a nucleus of seven individuals who were James Riley Hill, Nathan T. Hale, Samuel F. Holcomb, Lucius D. Curd, Abraham D. Thompson, Maurice C. Bucy and Mrs. W. P. Morrison. Due to Brother Hill’s death in 1904 and several other circumstances, this group disbanded with members going to various county congregations for the next five years. Some would eventually return to Water Street.

Water Street – 1909-1950

waterstreetchurchIn August of 1909, various county churches, especially Union Grove, Hazel and Green Plain, invited the well-known evangelist James A. Harding of Bowling Green to conduct a tent meeting on Murray’s courthouse lawn. This effort resulted in thirteen members banding together to re-establish a group which would eventually be known as the Water Street Church of Christ.

In early 1912, Murray attorney, Abraham David Thompson [1859-1924] deeded a small lot at the corner of Linn and Water Streets to the newly organized church in exchange for their paying off the $500 he still owed on the property. On November 10, 1912, with a membership of 59, the church met for the first Sunday in the still unfinished building known as the Linn and Water Streets Church of Christ. Shortly thereafter, the church employed William Fletcher Etheridge as its first full-time minister.jaharding

In 1927, this building was substantially reworked with the addition of side classrooms as well as a basement. A much-needed baptistry was installed and the exterior was stuccoed. The auditorium interior was reconfigured with the pulpit being moved and a new entrance being built on the south or Maple Street side. The Water Street auditorium measured 35 x 49 ft. and could accommodate a maximum of 300 by having people standing around the walls, sitting in the large windows and in the side classrooms.

Although seriously inadequate, the building served the church until the move to Poplar Street in 1950. The church met for the final Sunday at Water Street on May 7, 1950. The local American Legion post later bought the structure and used it as a meeting hall until the spring of 2006 when it was sold to the 1st United Methodist Church to be demolished for a parking lot.

Preachers who served the church during the Water Street era were William F. Etheridge, T.B. Thompson, L.L. Brigance, Coleman Overby, Boone Douthitt, Alonzo Williams, Charles F. Hardin, E. H. Smith, Charles P. Poole, Roy R. Brooks, Harvey W. Riggs, Thomas V. Pate, C. L. Francis, John Fondren Fulford, Harold Watson, Charles C. Lancaster and John Brinn.

Seventh & Poplar Street – 1950-1989

old_church_seventh-poplar“New Church of Christ Opens Here Tomorrow” was the headline in the Saturday, May 13, 1950, Ledger and Times . Few churches ever made a more dramatic transformation than did the Water Street church when it met for the first time in the new 800-seat auditorium at the corner of South 7th and Poplar on Sunday, May 14, 1950. Plans for the original 11,400 sq. ft. auditorium building had been drawn by Urban Starks with assistance from Ardath Canon and others. The finance committee consisted of Cecil Thurmond, James Thurmond and Vernon Anderson and the construction project supervisor was Toy Phillips. The total cost of the move, including property acquisition and building construction, was well under $100,000. Due to the rapid growth of the church, the College Church of Christ was organized in September of 1953.

In November of 1962, a 90 x 36 ft. educational annex, consisting of approximately 9600 sq. ft. on three levels, was added to the original 1950 structure. During the 39 years the church met at this location, nine separate parcels of ground were purchased, all lying within the block bounded by Poplar, Elm, South 6th and South 7th streets.

The church met at this location for the final Sunday on January 15, 1989. The property was sold in July of 1990 and the original auditorium building was destroyed by a fire of undetermined origin on the evening of December 5, 2000.

Pulpit preachers who served the church during the Seventh and Poplar years were: John Brinn, William D. Medearis, Donald W. Kester, Paul Matthews, Jay Lockhart, Bill Threet, Roy Beasley and John Dale.

Glendale Road – 1989 –

glendale_buildingSensing the hopelessly overcrowded conditions at the Seventh and Poplar location and in a bold move designed to provide growth space for the 21st century, in 1984, the church purchased a choice 20-acre site at the intersection of Glendale Road and 641 South from Dr. and Mrs. Hugh Houston. The project architect was the firm of Gingles and Harms of Nashville and the Cleaver Construction Company of Murray was chosen as the general contractor with formal groundbreaking ceremonies held on July 26, 1987.

The 66,000 sq. ft. structure was formally opened on January 22, 1989 with dedication services held on March 12th of that year. Comfortable seating capacity of the auditorium is more than 1,500 and the building provides more than three times the total square footage of the Poplar Street building.

The total cost of the move, including property acquisition and building construction, was well over three million dollars. In 1997, fifteen additional acres were purchased and in 2008 a large service building was constructed on the southeastern end of the property. The Glendale Church is currently served by nine elders and 44 deacons, including 19 newly appointed men.

In its century of service, the Water Street/Seventh and Poplar Street/Glendale Road church has been served by 24 pulpit preachers while 35 different men have served as elder and 125 have served at some point as deacon. No figures are available as to the number of people who have been members or who have been associated in some short-term or long-term way with this church but the total figure would be in the thousands. Total offering receipts would be in the millions.

GlendaleCentennial_Cover

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In its century of service, the Water Street/Seventh and Poplar Street/Glendale Road church has been served by 24 pulpit preachers while 35 different men have served as elder and 125 have served at some point as deacon. No figures are available as to the number of people who have been members or who have been associated in some short-term or long-term way with this church but the total figure would be in the thousands. Total offering receipts would be in the millions.

“To God be the glory…great things He hath done.”
(Fanny J. Crosby, 1875)