Church index

A History of the Christian Church at Post Oak Springs, Tennessee
Written by Elsie S. Burkett, Aug 1962

Eight years ago, in the neighboring state of Kentucky, members of the Christian Church celebrated the Sesqui-Centenniel of the Cane Ridge Church. There on "on June 28, 1804, Barton Warren Stone and his colleagues made the first united plea on American soil for the union of the followers of Christ." In like manner members are meeting at Post Oak Springs this September 16th, 1962, to honor those who so dedicated themselves beginning 150 years ago on Tennessee soil.

Several devoted people have worked diligently on the history of the Post Oak Church, among whom was the late John T. STAPLES. Mr. STAPLES was accepted as an authority on these facts for not only his close contact with land transfer records, but also for his associations with older members, preachers, and his ability to remember what he saw, read, and heard. It is from his notes and memoirs that the present writer has obtained most of her information. Among such records Mr. STAPLES learned that Major John SMITH of Bradley County bought land and moved to Post Oak Springs near the big cave in 1811. Having been active in a Christian Church there, he at once started the work of the present Church about 1812, aided by ACRED, William LONG from Claiborne County, and Isaac RICE from Hawkins County. Isaac RICE was at that time preaching in a Christian Church in the Hopewell Community. The Roane County records show that Hugh DUNLAP and John KENELY sold land to John C. HALEY marked by a point near "RICE'S meeting house," June 7, 1814. The "old folks" related that the Christian Church movement was considered strange and even dangerous by some skeptics who finally burned the building. That the Church was burned is borne out by the Roane County records, Reg. BEP 139, and that Hugh DUNLAP sold land to John C. HALEY marked by "3 Post Oaks near Isaac RICE'S burnt meeting house, February 3, 1817."

The Post Oak Springs Church has continued to exist although others, established even earlier, disbanded. Many of the earlier settlers of the Community came from Upper East Tennessee from along the Daniel Boone Trail. This fact is significant from a historical viewpoint because this migration is responsible for spreading the basic beliefs of the movement. The People who heard Barton W. STONE preach often returned from Kentucky over the Daniel Boone Trail going to Virginia and North Carolina. They lodged in homes along the way where many people heard them spread the news of "the Apostles Doctrine contending earnestly for the simple teaching of the gospel." These early settlers and others who continued showed evidence of STONE'S influence even more than that of Alexander CAMPBELL who held a similar belief at the same time.

"About 1830 Isaac MULKEY came here preaching the plain gospel continuing for some years around 1840." He was considered one of the leading preachers of his day. At this time a log building was used which was located near the big spring on the present Wm. ENSMINGER farm. "The Church took its name from a grove of post oaks near a spring which ran by the site of the church, and it grew & prospered, adding new members from settlers emigrating from North Carolina and Virginia and also from former members of the Bradley County Congregation." In 1842, the second building, a frame structure was built on the property of William SMITH near the bridge below the present building. This building was also used as the Post Oak School and is pictured with the Congregation of 1907. The present building, the third, was finished in 1876.

"The church built in 1842 had as trustees, W.J. OWINGS, J.H. ACUFF, and Julius HAMBY. From the beginning until the close of the Civil War, the Church had been small in numbers. But after the close of the War, the membership increased to a considerable number."

"The preaching was carried on by W.J. OWINGS, J.H. ACUFF, and Gilbert RANDOLPH until about 1867 when W.J. OWINGS left, going into his Community work"--a rather socialistic type of common sharing which did not last very long as his ideas tended to minimize the value of the individual." J.H ACUFF continued the Church Work until his death.

In the early 1870's, Major John SMITH'S grandsons began preaching: James I., Anthony, Franklin Pierce, and Robert E. Franklin P., the father of Mrs. John STAPLES and the grandfather of the present's minister's wife, remained in Post Oak & was active until his death in 1932. The first trustees of the present building were Wm. SMITH, J.C. HINDS, and S.J. ACUFF. J.H. DENTON came about 1874 to preach. B.F. CLAY from Kentucky held a Revival in 1882.

Among the women who did much to promote the growth of the Church. Aunt Delia SMITH and Aunt Margaret OWINGS were the most interested and beloved. They were both well educated, having been students at the former Hamilton College, Lexington, Kentucky. Others were Mrs. F.P. SMITH, a teacher for several years and Mrs. E.C. WILSON, also an excellent teacher who returned to Post Oak to live when her husband retired from teachings at Lynchburg College. Mrs. John STAPLES was the first woman Sunday School Superintendent, and was also a teacher and hard worker.

The church records prior to 1892 have been lost. It is believed that they might have burned in 1912 with the old plantation home of Wm. SMITH who was prominent in the work. Mr. STAPLES had the remaining ones and for over fifty years kept up to date the records until his death in 1960. When interviewed by a reporter from The Nashville Tennessean Magazine for a feature story, October 26, 1947, he referred to some amusing early entries as follows: "Under the list of marriages in 1892 is the record of a union beside which is penned this notation: "Run away at night." STAPLES was happy to report that the couple was still living together. "Under separations there is a Lizzie BROWN, 'Gone to the Mormons'." Throughout the history of the Church, there have been times when differences could not be successfully resolved. Often such notations have been made in the records that a member 'deserted' on a certain date.

Some interesting folklore has for years been exchanged among the descendants of the early families. Many of these families were split between the North & South during the Civil War. It is told that brothers, neighbors, and cousins engaged in battle against each other during the week, came together to worship on Sunday, only to return to battle again. Stern preachers exhorted for hours into the night while the young folks curbed giggles at cow bugs crawling in and out of massive flowers clustered on the hats during the gay nineties. Children often met for play at having church fully informed as to when to stand or sit, what to sing, and the exact wording of the prayers heard each Sunday. Times have changed and the good old shoutin' days are over. The Church maintains a dignity in worship that seems to distinguish it as a country church, although a bobwhite, a mocking bird, or a cricket often breaks into the solitude.

The present pastor [1962] is Tom A. BURKETT, who has been here since 1952. He is the son-in-law of the late John T. STAPLES and is employed at the Y-12 Plant, Union Carbide Nuclear Company, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.