A History of Liberty Christian Church
Dr. J. Brooks Major & William T. Turner
The establishment of the Christian Church in Kentucky can be traced to two separate religious movements. The first, led by Barton W. Stone, consisted primarily of former Presbyterians who labored to establish the Christian unity, unrestricted by creeds and denominationalism loyalties. These people, calling themselves simply “Christians,” established churches throughout Kentucky in the years from 1804 to 1832. They came in contact with another movement of a similar nature led by Alexander Campbell. This group, known as Reformers or Disciples of Christ, also rejected denominationalism and endeavored to establish congregations based on a New Testament pattern. The similarity of purpose led the two groups to unite at Lexington in 1832. Alexander Campbell preached at the La Fayette Christian Church on November 14, 1858. The pulpit Bible we presently use is from that church and it was given to Liberty by the E. B. Maveety Sr. family in January, 1969. The old silver communion service is also from the LaFayette Church.
The organization of Liberty Christian Church originated with two separate groups. First, in 1823, a congregation of Unitarians, followers of Barton W. Stone, then meeting at Means School House near the present Lilly farm on Newstead Road, appointed trustees William Johns, Barba Collins, Joseph C. Duncan, Thomas Arbuckle, and Stephen S. Lander to buy land for a new church. On July 25, 1824, they purchased two acres and part of a spring from John Clark, on Little River “containing the Unitarian Brick Meeting House.” It was located below Brunk’s ford, near Striped Bridge, on the site for many years later occupied by the Spring Hill Baptist Church, an African-American congregation.
The Unitarians called their church “Christian Privilege,” and they merged with a group of followers of Alexander Campbell in 1840 to thus form Liberty Christian Church. The new congregation remained at that Striped Bridge location for two years and was known as the Little River Church. Trustees were Thomas Scott, Davenport Jones, and Alfred L. Hargis. Davenport Jones, Trustee for the Brick Meeting House at Striped Bridge, sold the lot to Charles Major in 1848. In turn it was sold by Major’s heirs in 1860 to James Carter, whose heirs deeded it to the trustees of the Spring Hill Baptist Church in 1871.
In all probability the physical condition of the building, the shift in the general location of the congregation’s population, and the fact that the main roads from Hopkinsville to the north and Dover and Palmyra, Tennessee to the south were shifting to the east, contributed to the trustees’ interest in moving the church location.
On June 7, 1842, “Trustees for the Christian Church at Liberty meeting house, Richard Durrett, Davenport Jones, Thomas Scott, H. P. Owsley and Carter L. Bradshaw,” bought one and three fourths acres, containing a log structure, located one-mile south of the covered bridge on the Palmyra (now LaFayette) Road where Gene Adkins now lives. Liberty Meeting House, erected in 1814, was “a large and convenient house, free for any congregation of Christians (Shakers excepted) to worship in on Saturday and the Sabbath and on any other day of the week when school is in vacation.” Through the following thirteen years at that location and under the capable leadership of evangelists Jesse B. Ferguson, John R. Howard, Charles M. Day, Robert Dulin, Enos Campbell, and Caleb Sewell, the church membership rose to about 75.
Liberty, after First Christian Church in Hopkinsville is the oldest Christian Church in the county. It was active in the Green River Co-operative, 1849 1859, an association of area churches. As a part of the educational and missionary activities of this area, Liberty participated in the founding of South Kentucky College in Hopkinsville in 1849, and in the sending of a freed Todd County slave, and a Hopkinsville barber, Alexander Cross, as a missionary to the liberated slaves in Liberia in 1854.
Liberty trustees Richard Durrett, Davenport Jones, H. P. Owsley, Carter L. Bradshaw, and George W. Cayce bought the present church site (7160 LaFayette Road), of one and one half acres from Miles G. and Emily Radford for $112.50, on March 31, 1856. This land was first surveyed for Judge Rezin Davidge, lawyer and land speculator, in 1807. In 1817, he traded the 400-acre survey to County Clerk John Clark, who sold it in 1825 to Dr. Gurdon Saltonstall. It was sold to Miles G. “Rock” Radford in 1848.
The road to Liberty Church has experienced great change since it was opened. On August 8, 1808, Christian County Court ordered a road be laid out from the courthouse to the Tennessee line toward Palmyra on the Cumberland River. That dirt road served as the route of travel, generally in good weather, until a meeting was held at Liberty in February, 1879, to consider the construction of a turnpike road from Hopkinsville to Beverly. The road was piked to Hargis’ Bridge over Little River shortly thereafter and was rocked past the church by the turn of the 20th Century. Swallow Springs levee was built about 1910 and raised several times through 1937. Palmyra Road was rebuilt to Herndon in 1931, thus the new name LaFayette Road came into use. The road was blacktopped in 1941.
The community of Beverly, of which Liberty Church has always been a part, was created when the Beverly Post Office was established March 1, 1854. After the post office was discontinued January 31, 1902, the church became a part of the rural free delivery service.
In 1856, a LaFayette carpenter, William Pratt, constructed a frame rectangular church in the Greek Revival order. It consisted of one large room, two front doors leading to corresponding side aisles with pews partitioned through the middle, a raised platform for the pulpit on the east end, and with heat provided by two large coal fired stoves. Scored weatherboarding added a classical influence on the exterior front wall. The interior was plastered and wallpapered. This building was repaired in 1871, 1911, 1934, 1939 and 1944. A great improvement in the building was the addition of an acetylene gas lighting system, a gift of Dr. J. E. Stone in 1902, replacing coal oil lamps. An oak foot pump organ was installed in 1906, a gift of Mrs. Roy (Pearl Cayce) Kenner. In 1914 an upright piano was purchased. Electric lights were installed July 21, 1938, and two gas heaters replaced the coal stoves in the fall of 1947.
In 1949, the congregation built a new parsonage on the south side of the lot. Members dug the basement, laid the foundation blocks, and finished the interior. The carpentry work was contracted to G. M. Spradlin with the total cost approximately $8,000; it was occupied in February of 1950, by Liberty’s minister, Brooks Major and his wife Martha. The note was paid off in January, 1951. In the summer of 1981, John T. Robertson contracted to install aluminum siding on the parsonage and on the pediment of the church for $4,366. In August 1993, the house was remodeled, including the installation of central heat and air, at a cost of S15,000.
The ninety-six-year-old church was in a deteriorated condition by 1952. Termites had weakened the structure, which was so open that, despite the valiant efforts of the gas heaters, the inside temperature often dropped to near freezing on wintry Sunday mornings. A committee composed of Sam A. Stroube. Robert H. Major Sr., and Johnny Frank Carroll was appointed to determine the cost and means for building a new church. On April 6, 1952. the congregation voted to construct a new building. In July of that year. the old church was moved a few feet to the north to clear space for the new structure. The old building was sold to Boyd Hutchison, November 21. 1952. who razed the old landmark and used the material to build a new house on Highway 117 between 345 and 41-A.
The contract for the new church, designed by Joel R. Embry of Ambrose Lumber Co. Hopkinsville, was awarded to C. T. -ZekeMorris, with construction starting in August. Services were held it the parsonage basement for four months until the first morning worship in the new church was conducted on Febmary 8. 1953. Annual Fall Festivals were conducted to retire the $20,000 construction debt until the mortgage was burned on October 30. 1960. The 34 x 60foot brick structure contains the sanctuary, baptistery. and office on the upper level. A full basement includes a large assembly room, storage rooms, and kitchen. The church was air-conditioned, and a new furnace was installed at a cost of $4,200 in 1970; the kitchen was installed in August, 1972; and the 39.5foot Memorial Steeple was erected December 13, 1974, at a cost of S4,000. The steeple remains as a beautiful testimony of faith, pointing us toward God and as memorial to the following:
Mr. & Mrs. L. R. Cayce
Mr. & Mrs. M. M. Cayce
Mr. & Mrs. P. I. Cayce
Thomas Metcalfe Cayce
Edwards S. Combs
George W. Combs
Mr. & Mrs. A. W. Crenshaw
Mr. & Mrs. E. H. Cunningham
Shirley J. Cunningham
Former Members, CWF
Mr. & Mrs. Capp Dawson
Joel B. Elliott
Mrs. Edwin Garner
Mr. & Mrs. James Gilliam
Beverly Greenwood, Sr.
Dixie Sullivan Keesling
Ernest G. Lewis
Mr. & Mrs. Albert Mabry
Mr. & Mrs. E. B. Major
Mr. & Mrs. Ed Pace
Mr. & Mrs. Richmond Pace
Mrs. J. 0. Steger
Mrs. John L. Sullivan
Mr. & Mrs. C. E. Wade
Other additions to the 1952-53 structure include a new Baldwin piano in 1966; colonial pews and carpet in 1971, costing $3,000; a Baldwin electric organ in 1976 at a cost of $2,600; the communion table cross, given in memory of Sam and Eleanor Stroube, in 1978; the choir railing in 1981, given in memory of Loula Steger Cayce; the basement piano, bequeathed by Mary Cayce in 1982; and an Allen organ on February 2, 1987, at a cost of $7,600.
The organ is dedicated to the memory of the following:
Isaac M. Cayce
Mr. & Mrs. Al W. Crenshaw
Joel B. Elliott
Alfred “Clint” Francis
Sam P. Jones
Mr. & Mrs. E. B. Major
Robert H. Major
Sr. Oliver Pace
In the spring of 1988, the sanctuary was extensively remodeled. The contract was awarded to Carl Spurlin for $13,235. It included new light fixtures, doors (including outside front), chair rail, painting, pulpit furniture refinished, paneling, carpet, and elimination of the door and piano alcove behind the choir area. The installation of the organ rail and the wainscoting behind the pulpit completed the work in April.
Other changes and additions to the church include the following: communion table and chairs, given in memory of Myrtle Maveety Brunson in 1957; the setting of the date stones on July 23, 1970; new porch lights and covers for the communion table and pulpit in 1978; the nursery intercom in 1982; Christian and American flags given in honor of the Greenwood family and in memory of Sam P. Jones, a World War I Veteran, in 1985; the foyer bulletin board in 1987; offering plates, in memory of Minnie Cayce, in 1988; basement renovation in 1989; a new Communion Service given in memory of James Roy Cayce in 1990; the new baptistery drapes in 1991; and communion table candlesticks, given in memory of Mrs. E. B. Maveety, Sr. and Edward Cayce, in 1995.
The twelve foundation stones from the 1856 church were distributed in June, 1991, among these families: Campbell, Craig, Davie, Greenwood, Garner, Jones, Major, Pace, Simning, Schrecker, Smithson, and Turner. County water hook-up was made June 15, 1990, and a telephone was installed on July 9, 1996.
The congregation voted to build a Sunday School Annex in September 1967. William W. Fleming of Herndon was awarded the contract for the five classrooms and two restrooms. This addition, which included a new front stairway was completed and occupied on February 4, 1968, at a costing of $21,010. The two outdoor conveniences were then removed.
Throughout the history of the Liberty congregation, church activities have been exemplified in many ways.
The first Sunday School was organized in 1852. Superintendents since early in this century have included:
Howard Major 1914-1919
Grafton Cayce 1919-1923
Herbert Cayce 1923-1950
Mrs. R.H. Major 1950
Bob Stroube 1951-1955
Henry C. Francis 1955-1957
William T. Turner 1957-1987
Robert C. Smithson 1987-1991
John Schrecker 1991 –
John C. Campbell 2015 –
In 1891, several church families who lived in the Church Hill and Newstead neighborhoods (Adams, Boyd, Cayce, Foard, Jones, Johnson, and Lindsey) withdrew to establish Rich Christian Church. Relations between the two congregations were always cordial. They generally shared the same minister and from 1944 to 1955 the women co-operated in the Liberty Rich Missionary Society. Rich Church closed in 1964 and the frame structure was torn down in 1978.
Dr. Archibald McLean, President of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society, was speaker at an all-day meeting at Liberty, May 20, 1911. South Kentucky College, at Hopkinsville, was renamed McLean College in his honor in 1908.
Another activity occurred in August, 1927, when the annual two-week revival was conducted in a tent set up on the south side of the church lot. The benches and piano were brought out of the church, sawdust was scattered on the ground, and farm lanterns were hung throughout the tent.
During the late 1920’s early 1930’s, Liberty participated in a County Convention of Christian Churches. After a reorganization in 1950, the very active Fifth-Sunday Fellowship continued for several years. The Liberty Women’s Circle was organized on October 10, 1935, and continues to the present as the Liberty Christian Women’s Fellowship. Vacation Bible Schools have been conducted since 1952, at various times operated jointly with Locust Grove Baptist Church and with Herndon United Methodist Church. Since October 1. 1950, congregational meetings have been held monthly to conduct the church business.
Congregational Chairmen have included:
Sam A. Stroube 1950-1956
Henry C. Francis 1956-1958
Melvin H. Hancock 1958-1960
Omer Pace 1960-1962
Howard Major 1962-1964
William T. Turner 1964-1966
B.M. Greenwood Jr. 1966-1971
William M. Henry 1971-1972
Elton W. Campbell 1972-1974
Edwin Garner 1974-1977
Henry C. Francis 1977-1979
B.M. Greenwood Jr. 1979-1981
John W. Cayce 1981-1985
Frank Mason 1985-1987
Alfred R. Davie 1987-1989
John Lester Jones 1989-1991
Alfred R. Davie 1991-1994
William T. Turner 1994-1996
John C. Campbell 1996 – 1998
LaVena Turner 2013 – 2017
John Schrecker 2017 –
In the present century Liberty has strongly supported the Christian Church Homes of Kentucky. Our church has led all congregations in the denomination in per capita outreach giving in the past and present decade.
Liberty experienced its greatest era of numerical growth in the 1890’s when membership reached 150. It varied between 132 and 145 in the era 1900 to 1936. Membership in the fall of 1996 was 98.
This church has produced many fine spiritual leaders, of whom three deserve special recognition. Edgar Cayce. 1877-1945, united at Liberty. October 13. 1888 and became one of the most widely known and respected clairvoyants in history. J. Edward Cayce, 1911-1995, professed faith August 4. 1922. He served as minister of Christian Churches in New Castle. Williamsburg, Madisonville, and Shelbyville; was Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky, in 1963; and as Board Chairman of the Christian Church Homes. J. Brooks Major, a minister for forty-five years, united at Liberty, July 30. 1938. he served his home church for thirty-four years and also minister at Rich. Roaring Springs, Millbrooke, and Elkton
The faithfulness and stability of the congregation enables Liberty to survive and remain strong in a time when many small rural churches are closing.