The Vagabond recently received many requests about Central Church of Christ for its history since it merged with the East Gadsden congregation. Wanda Womack, who has been the church secretary there for years helped out the Vagabond with the following article:
The date of the beginning of the Church of Christ congregations in the Gadsden area is believed to be sometimes after the Civil War. The first meeting place known of was around the late 1800’s in the Odd Fellows Hall, which was an old building located on Sixth Street between Locust and Broad streets. Later, the church met upstairs over the Hagedorn Building. After that it met on the upper floor of the First National Bank on 5th and Broad streets.
During these early days, the church was without a full-time minister.
The families of the Westcott’s, Harden’s, Allen’s, Browning’s, Robertson’s and a few others formed the membership, and some of the men did the preaching. At times the number grew small due to various members moving from the Gadsden area. For one year the church ceased meeting due to several of the men being out of town.
Around 1906, the church began meeting in an old building on the corner of Sixth and Walnut streets. Not long after the church begin meeting at this location, a Mrs. Browning donated a lot on Walnut Street near Eighth Street. H.F. Westcott procured lumber from the Southern Manufacturing Company that was used to construct a new church building. The new building was finished around 1909 and was called the Walnut Street Church of Christ.
Aruna Clark was the first full-time preacher. In 1914 the membership was divided over whether to use instrumental music during worship. The division left the church with only about 10 faithful families. Through the years, the membership slowly grew as other people moved into the area and others were added through conversion.
J.H. Harden then took the leadership in teaching and preaching at Walnut Street. In 1923 the families of J.L. Wagner and Carl Smith moved to Gadsden. They became active in the work and were a great asset.
Carl Smith was selected to serve as the local preacher and remained for 11 years after the illness and death of Brother Harden.
In 1935 the church’s first directory was published. Brother Smith was still the minister and they listed a membership of 149. At this time, the church began to talk of a new building. The lot was selected and funds were collected for a new building on the corner of Ninth Street and Third Avenue.
With many new members moving into town, Brother Vines and others decided it was time to hire a full-time minister. They secured Emerson J. Estes in August 1939. He served until February of 1942.
In 1942 the new work began in East Gadsden with families who lived in that area. Robert Farrish followed Brother Estes as minister of the downtown church in 1943.
Brother J.B. Rasbury, the father of Loudine Black, followed Brother Farrish in 1946 and remained until 1952.
It was January of 1949 that the Central Church of Christ building was completed and the first service was held. After leaving Gadsden, Brother Rasbury went to Chattanooga. After he passed away, his wife, Lucille, came back to Gadsden to live.
Louise Vines reported that the Central Church of Christ was the first “church building” in Gadsden to have air-conditioning. Sister Vines was probably the oldest living former member of the Central Church of Christ.
Following Brother Rasbury, Brother Levoy Bevins served 1953-1954.
He was followed by Brother Bill J. Lemons. In 1955 while Brother Lemons was at Central, another directory was published showing a membership of 256. Brother Robert Darnell came to work with Central after Brother Bill J. Lemons.
In 1960, Brother William Kughn was at Central for three years.
In 1963 James Segars worked for 12 years. James and Glenda now live in Tupelo, Miss. where James serves as an elder for the Gloster Street Church of Christ.
James teaches eight Bible courses a semester for the local college and conducts a 30-minute television program called “Day Spring” six days a week and holds meetings and lectures in his spare time.
Brother Glenn (S.G.) Gray came in 1975. He and Helen have done lots of mission work since leaving in 1982. At this time they are in Montana working with a small congregation.
Dewayne Spivey preached at Central the longest, 18 years. Dewayne has been at Riverchase Church of Christ in Birmingham since leaving. the area He and Cathy raised their four boys here in Gadsden. This was home to them. Cathy passed away a few years later after a brief illness.
Norman Flynn came to the United States and worked with us for several years on two different occasions. He is now retired from preaching, but is serving as an elder for the Rainbow Church of Christ.
David Powell came to us in 2001 and stayed for seven years. David is now at Grant Church of Christ in Grant.
Ronald Byrant became the last preacher at Central. Ronald grew up in Jacksonville, and after preaching for various congregations for 43 years, he is now preaching at the Gadsden Church of Christ. He is married to his lovely wife, Susan.
On March 3, 2013, the history of Central Church of Christ came to an end. The building closed its doors, and as of now, is being sold. The congregation has merged with the East Gadsden Church of Christ, thus begunmaking history as a new congregation as the Gadsden Church of Christ at 1023 Piedmont Cut-Off Road.
Stay tuned next week for: famous Restoration Church of Christ men from Gadsden.