Oldest Presbyterian Church in Cherokee County, Alabama was started on August 11th
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(Transcribed from The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 03, No. 02, Summer Issue 1941)
CARMEL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CHEROKEE COUNTY
By Mrs. Margaret Stewart, Spring Garden, Ala.
(This article was one among a number written by different authors in a contest for the best history of the oldest church in the various Counties of the State, inspired by the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs. The author of this article wishes to give acknowledgment to the history of this church written by Miss Alice Craig, of Piedmont, on the occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Carmel Church.)
Carmel Presbyterian Church
Carmel Presbyterian Church has the distinction of being the oldest church in Cherokee County as well as the oldest church in Spring Garden. This church was founded by a body of pioneers who had migrated to northwest Alabama from Georgia, the Carolinas, and even far-away Ireland. The organization was perfected at the home of Andrew Burns, who lived about one mile northwest of the present church location, by a commission appointed by the North Alabama Presbytery. Carmel celebrated its one-hundredth anniversary on August 11, 1935.
A few of the early fathers were former members of an old church in Morgan County, Georgia, called Carmel. Tradition has it that these brought a charter from their old church and a number of names on the monuments in the cemetery bear out this tradition.
Charter members of this newly organized church were:
- Thomas Stewart and wife, Margaret, grandparents of Miss Lizzie Ezzelle, and great-grandparents of Mrs. Eula Savage and Mr. Tom Stewart
- John Amberson, father-in-law of Mrs. Emma Amberson
- James Amberson
- Joseph Amberson
- Matthew Amberson and wife Francis Amberson
- Andrew Burns and wife, Margaret, grandparents of Jack Burns, Spring Garden, Alabama
- John Aikens and wife Rebecca
- Archibald Stewart and wife, Rachel Oliver Stewart
- Oliver Stewart
- Gilbert Christian Craig and wife, Eliza Swan
- David Hood and wife, Jane Swan
Carmel Presbyterian Church (
Building stood at the foot of a hill
Soon after the organization of Carmel, its members decided to erect a building in which to worship. This was done without unnecessary delay and the completed structure was a low, flat structure built of small, round logs. It stood at the foot of the hill on which stands the home of Mr. Jack Burns.
Here the Presbyterians of northern Benton (now Calhoun) County met, with the members who lived in Cherokee, to worship God. Among them were the Aikens, Ambersons, Burnses, Craigs, Hoods, Naughers, Moores, Services, and Savages.
When these people had cleared more land and had built better homes, they determined to have a better Lord’s house, one more in keeping with their circumstances. The first building was torn away and a finer one was built. It was of hewn logs, logs that had been immense in size. Each member of the congregation was assessed two well finished logs, and on a certain day the men came together. As if by magic the new building sprang up. It was a beautiful structure to see. This is the church known and beloved for eight years by the children and grandchildren of those who built it. In this building some of the greatest ministers in pioneer Presbyterianism preached. Old settlers used to tell of the great meetings held on the grounds during the summer. An arbor was built and large crowds attended the services.
During the War Between the States the Yankee soldiers pitched their tents on the grounds of the church.
The building stood eighty years, on the crest of the hill but facing south. It was called Old Carmel. Hand-planed boards twelve inches wide were used inside. Standing straight and plain they were an unassuming symbol of the character of the men who erected them. Being the oldest church in the county, it was the center of the religious life for many years. To this place in camp meeting time would come early settlers with their families and tents if they were not fortunate enough to own cabins near. During the season would come men famous in Presbyterianism to preach not only salvation but the doctrines of the church. Long were these services and hard to understand by the young people. Hundreds of people of all denominations worshiped here.
From the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf there are men who have worshiped at old Carmel Church, and those who have loved ones buried in the cemetery on the church grounds.
On July 28, 1824, workmen had just finished a new roof for the structure when a fire, which had started at an undetermined source, swept through the building and destroyed it completely. The house standing at the present time was immediately built. The present pastor is the Reverend A. W. Summers of Jacksonville, Alabama.
The first four Alabama Footprints books – Volumes 1-IV have been combined into one book
- ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration
- ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Settlement
- ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers
- ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Statehood