Although no one is sure of the exact date of this church’s beginning, the deed for the original plot was signed in 1899. But all estimates place the beginning several years earlier. Apparently the people were not very prompt in recording transactions and, in their efforts to be unworldly, had no secretary or church clerk.
The church probably had its beginning in 1891 or 1892. A copy of the “Mt. Juliet Messenger” dated August 15, 1944, contains articles by Sister R. V. Cawthon and Brother J. N. Carver listing the date as 1891.
Annie Grigg said the building of the Mt. Juliet Church came about in this way. Her father, J. W. Grigg, and Mrs. Annie Gleaves were riding horseback from church one Sunday when Brother Grigg said, “Why don’t we build a church here in Mt. Juliet?” Sister Anne, wife of Jesse Gleaves, said, “We will give the little thicket down by the creek if you will raise the money.” So the little thicket became the location not only for that first church, but for at least two other houses of worship, for that little half acre plot is almost directly in front of our present building where our new auditorium is under construction.
In all probability, it will continue to serve as a location for a Church of Christ for years to come. The language of the Gleaves deed written by Brother J. W. Grigg says, “J. H. Gleaves and wife, to the Church at Mt. Juliet, For and in consideration of the deep abiding interest we feel in the cause of Christ and the great love we bear the Church of Christ at Mt. Juliet, we, Jesse H. Gleaves and wife, Annie Gleaves, do transfer and convey to said Church of Christ at Mt. Juliet, Tennessee forever the boundaries follow one-half acre more or less. The above remains in full force and effect only so long as said property ceases to be used it shall revert to Jesse H. Gleaves, his wife and heirs.” Brother Jonah Carver said the deed was not recorded until 1899 when the Gleaves sold out and moved to Texas.
It is not known who built this first house of worship. It was a one-room structure about 25 by 45 feet, weather-boarded, painted white, with double doors in the front and a single door in the rear. There were four tall narrow windows on each side and there was a flue for a stove in the middle of the building. It was built on stone pillars, as few buildings had solid foundations in that day.
According to the records kept by Sister Dovie Cawthon, the following were charter members: Mr. J. W. Grigg, Mr. and Mrs. Will Grigg, Mrs. John Finney (Leora Grigg), Mrs. Jesse Gleaves, Mr. and Mrs. H. H. McFarland, Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Hatfield, Mr. Sam Hatfield, Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Goodall, Mrs. Harrison Ozment, Mrs. Henderson Clemmons, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Scobey, Mr. and Mrs. John Burke, Mr. Eugene Burke, Mr. Jerome Burke, Mr. Kirk Burke, Mrs. Tom Tilghman, Mrs. Dayton Martin, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Moore, Mr. and Mrs. Dabney Cawthon and Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Cook. Another list has Captain and Mrs. R. C. Hardison and Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Mayberry. H. P. Cawthon and wife were attending Corinth and probably didn’t come for the first service. Brother Cawthon, one of the most powerful and able song leaders the brotherhood has produced became the song leader for the new group. Bother Jonah Carver, who strangely is not on the list as a charter member lists some others who may have been close to charter members: Mr. and Mrs. Bob Logue, Dr. J. H. Oldham, himself, Virgil Cawthon, and Mr. and Mrs. I. K. Hibbett.
Evidently no elders were appointed at first. A 1910 deed lists G. V. Goodall, T. F. Hamilton and Jim Grigg as elders. In 1925, a record lists G. V. Goodall, T. F. Hamilton and R. V. Cawthon as elders and I. K. Hibbett and Orris Philpot as deacons. Bro. R. V. Cawthon and Sis. Annie Grigg lived to see the new building erected in 1969 and today a few descendants of the old charter members still attend. These include Dorothy Zumbro (T. F. Hamilton), Vesta Locke and Nancy Hackney (H. P. Cawthon), Sissy Pickler and the McCullochs (Bob Logue).
Even monthly preaching was unknown in those days, so the first preacher was probably Brother John E. Ridley, a well known preacher of the time, who held the first meeting in the fall of 1892.
The church still owned only the original half acre of land with barely one hunderd feet of frontage. Between it and the creek was a saw mill powered by steam engine. On March 22, 1908, sparks from the stack of the engine, helped by a strong South wind, ignited the wood shingles and the church building burned. Annie Grigg recalled seeing the smoke and rushing down to try to save the contents especially the silver communion plates and goblets. She saved the goblets, but almost lost her life in the act. The plates ended as a glob of melted silver. The building was insured for $3,000, which the insurance company collected in a lawsuit against the owner of the saw mill.
The group worshipped in the old school building until the new church was finished that same year. Being quite fire conscious, they endeavored to make it as fire proof as possible. Concrete blocks and metal shingles, quite a novelty at the time, were used. This building was also a one-room structure very similar in size and other features to the original building. The blocks were plastered on the inside and the elliptical shaped, stained glass upper windows were the talk of the day. The sloping floor was also the latest in church construction.
Brother Derryberry, ancester of our Elmer Derryberry, held the first meeting in the new building. No record is available as to who was the first to obey the gospel in this meeting. All baptismal services both summer and winter were held at the old “Baptizing Hole” on the Tilghman property. The course of the creek was changed when the new road was built in 1966. The always frigid pool was about four feet in depth and was located just below the John Deal building. This spot was used until after World War II, when the pools at the Old Hickory and Green Hill Churches were used.
In 1910, the balance of the land to the South and West of the original lot was purchased, extending the property lines. The Elders listed at that time were G. V. Goodall, T. F. Hamilton, and Jim Grigg. In 1915 the property was deeded again with the restrictions mentioned above, to G. V. Goodall, I. K. Hibbett and R. V. Cawthon as trustees.
The first Sunday School rooms were built in 1927. The elders serving during this period included J. S. Hatfield and H. C. Denson in addition to those mentioned above. The mission program of the church at that time produced spectacular results in the distant future. The church supported Brother Cawthon in his mission meetings. He had his own tent and chairs and the church gave him the little finances he needed. Congregations were established in Old Hickory, Berryville, and six in Nashville.
Ray Jerkins became the first regular preacher for the congregation in 1946. He was followed by W. C. Geer, John Hurt, R. R. Taylor, Damon Daniel, Bob Hendron, Ronnie Greenman, and during the summer and fall of 1966, J. Garvin Smith, Thomas Eldridge, Fred Mosely, and Lloyd Gale, Jr., who began his work here in early 1967, and Bill Speight from 1972 to 1980. C. J. Potter became an elder along with John McCulloch in 1949 and 1950 respectively. In 1966, after the deaths of Brothers Potter and H
atfield, Robert McCulloch, Kenneth Hackney and Paul Hunter were also appointed.
In 1958, another building program was finished. A nursery, baptistry, restrooms, and another class room were added. The first person to actually be baptized in the church building was Ronnie Hackney. Growth was slow, but steady and by the early sixities the leaders of the congregation saw that with the anticipated growth of the town the old church could not serve the members. A building fund was started with the idea of building an auditorium for worship services beside the present building and using the present facilities for an education building. The relocation of the new highway changed that plan, however in November 1966, a committee of three men decided the future of the Mt. Juliet Church for years to come. There was pressure being applied to move to another location, and these men were insructed to investigate all possibilties and report back as to where the new church should be built. They were unanimously in favor of locating in back of the present building and demolishing it when the new facility was completed. This recommendation lost the church minister, but thoroughly united the congregation.
The last gospel meeting was held in the old building in May, 1967, by Brother Robert R. Taylor. Work was started on the new building in September, 1967, by Anco Structures. The last Sunday service held in the old building was Sunday, April 28, 1968, with Lloyd Gale preaching. A short service was held Wednesday, May 1, and the moving process started. On Thursday afternoon, May 9, a bulldozer, a monstrous machine undreamed of by Brother Hamilton and his fellow members, was hitched to those concrete block walls and down they came after being a landmark for some sixty years.
The first service was held in the new building on May 5, 1968, with Robert R. Taylor again preaching, with some 425 in attendance; although the membership was something less than 200 at that time. The first person to be baptized in the beautiful new edifice was Larry Engles.
Another note on the progress of the gospel in Mt. Juliet might be made in the comparison of the cost of the three buildings. Brother Cawthon said that the first building was insured for $3,000, so that must have been close to cost. He also said that with the insurance collected they still owed $3,000, on the second structure, making the total cost $6,000.
The Sunday School rooms added in 1927 cost about $2,500, and the addition in 1958 cost $12,000 making the total capital account in the last building about $20,500. The new building was built at a cost of approximately $95,000, with the addition of many hours of time by the members and was appraised by the insurance company at $165,000.
In 1979, the elders decided to build a new annex that would connect with our older building. This annex would have three floors and would be used primarily for classroom space. It was built at a cost of approximately $155,000. Elders serving at that time were Paul Hunter, Ronnie Sneed and Albert England.
In 1980, it was decided that the church was ready for a full time minister. Bill Speight who had been the regular minister for seven years, had a full time job and was not interested in going into full-time preaching. Ivey Powell was selected. Powell soon left and Bill Watkins, son of James Watkins who had held many meetings here, was selected. In 1982, Curtis Hall succeeded Watkins. On January 1, 1988, Steve Hale moved here from Scottsville, Kentucky to become the pulpit minister..
In 1991, the third floor of the education building was finished. This added an additional seven classrooms to the education building.
In the fall of 1992, a Christian based “mother’s day out” program was begun. The Tuesday/Thursday school is from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and has structured pre-school lessons, as well as a generous amount of active, fun time.
On October 1, 1993, Joey Davis came from Adams, Tennessee, to become our Associate Minister. After five years, Joey left Mt. Juliet to pursue other interests. Steve Hale left Mt. Juliet in January 1999, to preach at a congregation in Doniphan, Missouri.
On August 22, 1999, David Shannon moved to Mt. Juliet from Gadsden, Alabama, to become the full time pulpit minister. He and his wife, Tracie, have 3 children.
Present elders (1999) are Albert England, David Fleming, DeWayne Griffin, Pat Hackney, Tony Huddleston, and Tommy Whittle. The Mt. Juliet congregation has twenty-two deacons serving on nine different service committees.