THE CHURCH ON THE HILL (taken from history 1897-199 by Jane Johnson Hamm).
Laura Ann Robinett and her sister (Sara Jane Robinett) came to Florence in 1898 to live in the Sweet Water Community of East Florence. They roomed with a Mrs. Mitchell and worked in the Cherry Cotton Mill. The closest place of worship for the two young ladies was Poplar Street Christian Church at the time; later changed to Poplar Street Church of Christ.
They walked in all kinds of bad weather to church for a period of time until they “begged” the elders to help them get a congregation closer to their jobs. C.E. Holt and J.T. Harris are responsible for a new congregation in East Florence.
The church met in the Robinett home on Minnehaha Street for some time, later they worshipped in a building belonging to the Florence Pump and Lumber Company on Aetna Street. It is assumed they met there until a building could be built “on the hill” December 1899.
This is the most accurate information we have found and Irma Matthews Plott remembers what she was told as a child. She is over ninety years old and living in Rogersville Alabama.
The information below is as accurate, as one who remembers being there and what their ancestors said.
The church building was located on the corner of Ironside and Woodard Streets in East Florence.
The small white frame building was approximately 30’ X 40’ and faced north Huntsville Road.
There were two large doors at the main entrance and about twenty on steps leading to the doorway.
Several windows were on each side of the building, east and west and were raised during the summer months. There were no screens on the windows.
A bell tower room, small in size, was located on the east side and used as an entrance from the alley. A large bell was on top and rang at 9:00am and 9:15am every Sunday morning and evening and there were a few taps when the classes were over.
There was a potbellied stove used during the winter months for several years. Some said the building was always cold and they huddled around it.
Gas lights were used, as the only means of light, until 1927 or 1928.
During the 1930’s a baptistery was installed and also a floor furnace. The building was added onto and included class rooms on the north and south sides. Folding doors were used to close the rooms for class and opened to make more seating room for services.
1899 FLORENCE TIMES ITEMS: (taken from history 1897-1997 revised 1999 by Jane Johnson Hamm).
December 26, 1899…”Our churches are progressing nicely. We have a new Christian Church just completed.
1900: January 19, 1900 “Services every Sunday at the Christian Church in East Florence. Bible Class at 10:00am, Preaching by Elder A.P. Holtsford..
1900: June 29, 1900 “Elder C,E, Holt of Iron City, TN. will preach in the East Florence Christian Church on the first Sunday in July, morning and evening services, also on Saturday evening preceding.”
1900: September 21, 1900 “Elder C. E. Holt is conducting a protracted meeting in the East Florence Christian Church. Services every Sunday evening at 7:30. Everybody is invited.”
NOTES FROM G.C. BREWER’S BOOK:
1900: The little group that met in his home learned of a young man by the name of J.J. Castleberry that was holding a meeting in Lauderdale Co. The brethren got permission to use a large lumber shed for a meeting. They got seats hauled in and covered the ground with sawdust. They whitewashed various posts and prepared the shed for the meeting. Brother Will Freeman led the singing. Brother Castleberry proved to be a stirring, fervent young man and much interest was shown in the community. 209 people were baptized (including G.C, Brewer). The Denominations fought his meeting and threatened to run him out of town and challenged him to debates..July 1900.
1901 FLORENCE TIMES ITEMS:
January 25, 1901 “Elder John Underwood preached at the Christian Church in East Florence, both Saturday and Sunday nights. Elder Grissom preached Sunday 11:00am. Probably will call Brother Underwood to preach for them next year.”
1901: February 15, 1901 “Prof. Quillen was here on Sunday to have a singing class. He sang Sunday and Sunday night at the Christian Church.
1907: Preaching at the Christian Church in East Florence at 3:00pm, C.E. Holt, Minister.”
1913: July 4, 1913 “Evangelist Isaac C. Hoskins assisted by Evangelist J. T. Harris is peaching at East Florence every night this week. Take 8 O’clock street car and arrive on time.”
1914: April 17, 1914 “Preaching at Christian Church in East Florence by Isaac C. Hoskins.
1920: December 10, 1920 “Meeting at Weeden Place School house at 7:00pm. Rev. L.T. Farrar will preach on the subject, “The Church”.
1928: August “Goodpasture of Poplar Street will hold East Florence Meeting in large tent used for evangelistic services on Lee Highway near East Florence Church of Christ. H. A. Sims is in charge of song service. Sunday 11:00 am, week days 8:00, public is invited.”
THE FIRST 50 YEARS ON THE HILL (taken from history 1897-199 by Jane Johnson Hamm).
With the passing of people and years, these records handed down by word of mouth and the Florence Library are my sources for accuracy. Jane Johnson Hamm.
1897 C.E. Holt
1900 A.P. Holtsford
1900 J.J. Castleberry meeting with 209 baptisms
1900’s Joe Holt/G.C. Brewer
1910 Charles Holt
1918 Smith Chambers meeting with over 100 baptisms
1920’s Charles Morris
1930’s Lewis T. Farrah
1935 Bro. Barrett
1936 Farris Smith 1st full time located preacher
1940’s Earl Prater
1941 Barney Keith
1946 Eston Macon
1947 Ralph Snell
Robert E. Lanier
William Morgan Matthews
D.M. Potts (Adolphues)
James McAllister Romine
James Franklin Eastep
James Lewis Sims
Charles Edgar Polk
Chester Cox, Sect./treasurer
Ed. M. Stafford
James F. Estep
THE SECOND 50 YEARS (taken from history 1897-199 by Jane Johnson Hamm).
1950 thru 1997
James A. McDaniel
Fred Bevis/Gene Gooch
NEW BUILDING AT 1800 HUNTSVILLE ROAD FLORENCE ALABAMA
1950-1955 Terrell Pruett
1955-1956 Barry Anderson
1956-1962 Charles A. Holt
1962-1970 Barney Keith…2nd time
1970-1974 Robert Harkrider
1974-1979 Raymond Harris
1979-1984 Johnny Richardson
1984-1990 Dwane Derrick
1986 Eric George part time
1990-1997 Gary Patton.
OTHER PREACHERS AT VARIOUS TIMES:
EAST FLORENCE SUPPORTS TWO NEW CONGREGATIONS
Underwood Heights Church of Christ:
In 1969 some of the Christians saw a need for a conservative congregation in the Petersville area. They met in an old store building on Cloverdale Road with about thirty-six people.
The congregation at Underwood Heights Church of Christ moved into the new building June 1971 on Hayes Street.
The first full time minister was Donald Townsley
Helton Drive Church of Christ:
In 1976 there was an overflow of people at East Florence and the need of another congregation. Several families began meeting at McDaniel Storm Window plant on Patton Street until a new building was completed at 2250 Helton Drive.
The first full time minister was Steve Patton.