Typed by Linda Carpenter
Thanks to the Hartsville Vidette Newspaper
for permission to reprint this article
This church is on of the oldest in Trousdale County, or in this entire area. The oldest and only record of Willow Grove is a church register beginning in 1851, which makes the church 104 years old this year. William was the pastor in 1851.
Rev. J. T. Higgins serves Willow Grove, together with the other churches of the Hartsville Circuit.
The old church records reveals that during the time of War Between the States, 1861 to 1867, the pastors served the church as best they could. The record states that Bro. J.G. Ray, grandfather of the late Mrs. Jim Moore of Hartsville and Portland, did faithful work during this trying period.
The first church was built on the present site of Willow Grove, on land donated by the Rickman family, of which the late Mark Rickman and John Rickman and their families descendants.
The present church building is the third to be erected on the original site. The first was a log cabin built in 1792 with a dirt floor. The second building burned, according to information from descendants of early members. They present building was erected by Reuben Harris, father the late Warner Harris, and grandfather of Mitchell Harris. He was assisted by Dave Wilks, father of Mrs. Alice Rogers. Mr. Wilks was 18 years old at the time he helped with the building. The present building is still sound and in good repair. Material and workmanship made for durability and permanence in the early days.
The early church registers show the Henrys, Rickmans, Stovalls, Brownings, Davises, Laws, Fitts, Vances, and Harrisses were among pioneer members of this early church. Slaves belonging to the several families were also members of Willow Grove. "Aunt Rose" Stovall, a negro slave member of the church was known for shouting; "Uncle Jesse" Henry and Villard Davis, also slaves were often called on to sing at church services, especially at camp meetings.
The record shows 45 pastors have served the church during the past 104 years, each serving from one to four years, and only two pastors have died while serving the church. Bro. N.A. Anthony, who served the church from 1890 to July 1893, died during his pastorate at Willow Grove, and Bro. J.G. Harper had served the church 4 years and was superannuated at the time of his death. He had preached at Willow Grove just a few Sundays before his death.
Mrs. Ben Rodgers joined Willow Grove Church 73 years ago, and was baptized by Bro. Joseph Webster in the creek near Chipman. The building today is in good state of preservation, and, as with all rural churches, a few loyal members under the leadership of a hard-working, God-fearing pastor, are trying hard to meet the challenge set for them by their forefathers and those who have gone to their reward.
(The Vidette is indebted to Mrs. Alice Rodgers and Mrs. Mai Henry for information that made possible this account of Willow Grove Methodist Church. ED)