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BY MIKE AVITT
I took this week’s picture in April of 2007. It’s likely this is the oldest, active church building in Ringgold County. Let’s see what the old newspapers say.
Unfortunately, once you get into the 1880s with the digitized newspapers, you only have two papers to draw from – The Ringgold Record and the Ringgold Republican. And, again, I’m completely dependent on the county correspondents. I’ll use the report of the Kellerton Christian Church dedication as an example of what I encounter.
In the September 17, 1885 edition of The Ringgold Record, there appears a long paragraph describing a church dedication in Kellerton. Never once does the author indicate the denomination of the church. Rev. J. C. White was officiating so I knew it was the Christian Church, but when I complain about a lack of detail, this is what I mean.
In September and November of 1885, I found blurbs stating the Kellerton Methodist Church was under construction. More than a year later, the Ringgold Republican says the church is being fully furnished and will be dedicated soon. That was December 1886.
The Kellerton Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated May 15, 1887 with Rev. G. W. Wilson officiating the event, according to the Ringgold Record. This is important to me because I want to know which Ringgold County church is the oldest, active church.
The Middle Fork M. E. Church was built in 1886 and was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day the same year. So, while Middle Fork was dedicated before the Kellerton M. E. Church, it does appear the Kellerton church was built in 1885. I don’t know when services began at Kellerton. I’ll keep looking for info.
There are two other churches built in Ringgold County in the 1880s that are still in service: Wishard Chapel (1887) and Fry Chapel (1887). Fry Chapel was moved to Kellerton in 1952 and put into use by the Assembly of God Church and it is still in use.
The United Presbyterian Church in Tingley was built in 1888 and is still standing, although there have been no services in more than ten years. The Shannon City Community Church, in Union County, was dedicated on October 20, 1889. It is still in service.
Early churches often found it necessary to build a parsonage in order to keep a pastor in the pulpit. After raising enough money to build a church, money for a parsonage was usually harder to collect. Hymnals, sidewalks, outhouses, and other expenses keep congregations on their toes. But, they did it.