OLD BEAR CREEK
CEMETERY, MAURY COUNTY 1807-1836, MARSHALL COUNTY Aft. 1836.
The Old Bear Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Church Building, last regularly used in the 1930s. It may surprise you but this facility is now in danger of being lost to decay. If you can help please do so.
This booklet & text included here below was written in the process of nominating this facility for National Historic Register by a preservation plan hosted by MTSU in 1985.
Pages 103 - 105 of the above
Located at the headwaters of Bear Creek, in an isolated valley near the Giles County border, the Bear Creek Cumber/and Presbyterian Church is one of the finest examples of Victorian vernacular architecture in the central highlands of southern Middle Tennessee. The old brick church, the third on the site, was erected In 1897 and dedicated the following year. The church features distinctive rectangular entry tower at the northwest corner, topped by an in-shingled steeple; pointed-arch doors and windows, and an outstanding interior with an interesting beadboard ceiling and other fine millwork. The church is located in a small grove of mature cedar and deciduous trees, at the north end of a large cornfield.
The rectangular church is
constructed of brownish-red brick, laid in stretcher bond. The building rests on
a stone foundation and is topped by a tin gabled roof. The four-bay front faces
west towards the Bear Creek Road. The belltower projects from the northwest
corner on this side. The rectangular brick tower is topped by an octagons/
steeple rising from a shallow pedimented base. The steeple is covered with
pressed-tin shingles and is capped by a heavy iron finial. Two sets of
double-leaf paneled doors are open onto the recessed porch at the tower base,
which is reached by a broad pointed arch with triple arch radiating voussoirs.
Another door is located at the southwest side of the same front. It, too, is
topped by a pointed brick arch. Two window sets are located between the doors;
these consist of paired lancet windows with three lights each, separated by a
"kite" window at the cop. A smaller window set of similar arrangement
is located on the gable front above. A brick central brick pilaster reinforces
the center of the front wall, and the wall is crossed by a decorative
string course of staggered sawtooth brick, and similar trim extends around the roof eaves below the molded wooden cornice.
The north and south sides
are five bays deep, divided by narrow brick wall pilasters. Pointed arch windows
identical to those on the front occupy the central three bays. The sawtooth
brick cornice extends around the eaves on both sides. The rear or east side of
the building a features a small half-hipped extension, containing the chancel
area, flanked by six-light lancet windows on
The interior of the church
is an open rectangular hall, with a small recessed chancel area at the east end.
The floors are of pine, laid out east-west. Beaded wainscot of mixed woods cover
the walls to a height of about three feet. The interior window frame, feature
chamfered rails and stiles, rectangular
architraves with fluted connecting members and ball-and-target corner blocks. The ceiling is particularly fine, featuring heavy fluted beams, beaded ceiling boards, and decorative pendants at the juncture of the beams. The church still contains the original oak pews and altar furniture.
The church is located at the
bottom of a slight decline, in the midst of a two acre lot shaded by mature
cedar trees on the south and old hardwoods in the yard. The ruins of a
deteriorated privy or other frame outbuilding are located just south of the
church building. Two old cemeteries are located adjacent to the church. The old
church and community cemetery is located across the road at the
top of a small hill. Burials here date back to at least the 1840s, possibly to 1825. Its use was discontinued in the early part of the twentieth century when a new graveyard was opened at the edge of a meadow next to the church. Both cemeteries are historically related to the church and are included in the nomination.
The Bear Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Church, two miles south of the village of Mooresville in western Marshall County, is nominated under National Register criteria B end C for its significance to the Mooresville community and western Marshall County in architecture and local history. The
congregation was established by the Rev. Samuel King, one of the founders of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in 1814. The church flourished in the area, being the only house of worship in the Bear Creek and Mooresville Communities for a number of years. The congregation dwindled in the early twentieth century, and regular services were altogether discontinued in the early 1930s. today the church is a "community" church, maintained by descendents of the original congregation. Architecturally, the third and present structure is one of the beet examples of Victorian vernacular
Ecclesiastical architecture in this part of the south central Tennessee region. The 1897 brick church features a corner bell-tower with tall tin-shingled steeple topped by a heavy iron finial, pointed-arch windows and doors, and distinctive cornice of staggered saw-tooth brick. The interior is particularly interesting, being a large open sanctuary with recessed chancel, bead-board wainscoting, pine floors, and decorative window architraves, and an outstanding ceiling of patterned beaded boards accented by chamfered connecting members and pendants. Two church cemeteries are located on the
adjacent grounds. The older cemetery has burials dating from 1825, including the graves of two Revolutionary War veterans who were among the earliest settlers in the area. A second smaller cemetery, located just north of the church building has served the congregation end community since the early part of the twentieth century. The church and two graveyards are the focus of the small and isolated valley community along Bear Creek.
The Bear Creek Church was
established in 1814 by the Rev. Samuel King, only four years after he and the
Revs. Samuel McAdoo and Finis Ewing formed the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Charter members were Jacob and Sarah Lowrance; James and Sallie Haynes; James
and Elizabeth Orr, Andrew, and Rebecca Smith; Elanor Lowrance, and Margaret
Campbell. Lowrance, Haynes, and
James Orr were ordained elders. The church was received under the care of the Elk Presbytery at its next meeting. Rev. King was the first pastor.
The date of the erection of
the first church structure cannot be discerned. It probably was a rough log
structure, as a tradition of the local Orr family.
It is said that a barn on the nearby James Porter Orr farm was constructed from logs from the first church building.
Camp meetings were held from the congregation's organization until 1860. In the seven years between 1826 and 1833 alone, there were 223 accessions recorded.
Samuel King served as pastor
until 1815. The Rev. J. B. Porter was the minister for the next two years.
Ministers between 1817 and 1833 included William Moore, James Stewart, James Moore, and Isaac Shook. Around 1822 William Orr was the ruling elder of the congregation.
Marshall County was created by an act of the state legislature in 1836. Until then the Bear Creek and Mooresville communities were a part of Maury County.
A brick church was
constructed about 1850, during the eighteen year pastorate of the Rev. Henry B.
Warren (1833-1851). Accounts state that the church had a straight overhead
ceiling supported by two large square columns in the center of the room. The
Rev. Warren was followed by the Rev. Nelson P. Modrel, who was minister for
three years, then by the Rev. M.D. Weir, who served until October 1855.
The Rev. James Kirkland was pastor from 1856 until 1858. J. R. Collingsworth was chosen in 1860, but served only one year. He was followed by the Rev. John McKelvey, who served through the Civil War until 1867. He was followed by the Rev. P.L. Adkinson, who served two years. Under his pastorate, on March 11, 1871, the church and hilltop cemetery were deeded to the church
trustees by James Orr, whose deed of transfer stated "for and in consideration of the regard I have for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, do hereby give, transfer, and convey to: Ashley Moore, William H. Pickens, William Calvert, James Orr, S.K. Orr, R.M. Orr, D.C. Orr, M.C. Malloy, R.H.
Moore, trustees of Bear Creek Congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, a parcel of 1 acre, being the same on which Bear Creek Church building now stands."
The Rev. W.E. McKinzie
ministered to the congregation until July 1873. The Rev. S.O. Woods led the
congregation for the next six months, and was followed by the Rev. J.M. Brown,
who served as pastor until 1901. During this period the ceiling of the 1850
church was taken out and replaced by an
arched ceiling. The modifications to the structure weakened the building severely, and it was feared that the walls could no longer support the structure. The congregation voted to raze the structure in the 1890s.
A committee, chaired by John
A. Coffee, saw to the construction of the present structure, a handsome
Victorian structure with bell-tower and steeple. The church was constructed from
materials obtained on the spot, the clay being dug nearby and bricks burned on
the premise. The church was dedicated about 1898.
Ministers who served in the early part of the twentieth century included the Revs. W. L. Wheeler, L.R. Hogan, John Stephens, T.E. Hudson, C.D. Calvert, W. M. Zaracor, A.C. Stribling, a Rev. Joyner, S.H. Eshman, C.M. Swingle, W.C. Bryant, J.M Talley, and Stribling again, who served from 1929 until sometime in 1932.
Stribling was the last regular pastor of the church. Preaching services, were still held here on a sporadic basis for some time before being discontinued altogether. The Rev. W.C. Loyd preached here several times during this period.
The two cemeteries on
adjoining properties are historically related to the church and community. The
old Bear Creek Cemetery on the hillside opposite remains a part of the old James
Orr property; it contains hundreds of graves dating to the 1840s or earlier,
many with handsome tombstones. The cemetery was neglected until recent years,
and many of the stones were reclaimed by the
undergrowth. The cemetery is located atop a high hill, shaded by mature cedar trees. An old pear tree marks the burial stone of Jacob Lowrance (1759-1855), a Revolutionary War veteran who came to the Bear Creek community from Georgia or South Carolina in the early 1800s. Another Revolutionary
veteran buried here is Samuel Moore (1763-1852), for whom the nearby village of Mooresville was named.
A second smaller cemetery on the road next to the church is the present community cemetery. Burials date from the early part of the twentieth century, the last internment having been in 1976.
The Bear Creek Cemetery Association was organized at the church on Sunday, August 19, 1984. The group has begun clearing the old cemetery on the hilltop. Annual Homecoming Day services are held at the church the third Saturday in May.
The church was the only
house of worship for many years not only for the isolated Bear Creek community,
but also for the village of Mooresville two miles to the north, and for families
living on the ridge along the Giles County border a mile to the south. The
church is the only one in the county
known to have been organized by one of the founders of a denomination. Specifically this was the Cumberland Presbyterian church. Architecturally, the church is the best example of Victorian church
architecture in this section of the county, gaining distinction from its tall bell tower with tin-shingled steeple, paneled and grained doors, lancet and pointed-arch windows, and its outstanding interior with fine beaded board ceiling. Although regular services have been discontinued for years, the
church remains the focus of the rural Bear Creek community.
Bibliography of the book.
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