History of Dry Fork Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Historic Dry Fork Church finds its roots in the great revival that swept the frontier about the years of 1799 – 1801. A large revival was planned near Gallatin TN in 1800, but because of dry weather and a water shortage, it was moved to Blythe’s Big Spring about three miles from the present site of Dry Fork Church.
The response was overwhelming with people traveling for as long as three days on wagon and horseback to camp out for the three day revival. Thousands attended and hundreds were converted at this joint effort of the Methodists, Baptist and the Presbyterians which included dozens preachers.
During the revivals, a camp meeting ground was established on the present site, upon which a log structure was built by 1821, in which the Reverend Richard Beard preached. Reverend Beard later served as Moderator of the General Assembly, head of the Theology Department at Cumberland University, and was a leader in the revision of the Confession of Faith of 1884.
In 1831 there were 175 members and it became a Cumberland Presbyterian Church and was one of the largest churches in Sumner County Tennessee at the time. Bethpage was a thriving town that equaled other Sumner County towns.
The first pastor was Reverend Francis Johnston. The log structure burned down about the time of the War Between the States and was replaced by another untill the present building was constructed in 1896.
The Dry Fork cemetery contains the graves of many of the early settlers in this area, early church members, as well as two Revolutionary War soldiers.
When Dry Fork Cumberland Presbyterian Church rebuilt the last time, they gave us a treasure of a church. The new building is a Gothic style one room church similar to the ones you can find in Cades Cove in the Great Smokey Mountains. Because of the way it is built, the sound carries so well inside the sanctuary that no electronic help is needed to be heard.
Heart of pine sloped floors, ceilings and wainscott of cheastnut, and tall gothic windows give it just the right ambience for worship.
It will hold about 175 inside comfortably seated on the hand made church pews. We have pictures of people pouring out onto the lawn about the early 1900’s, what a crowd. At that time you can see the new front of the building had not been added. The services were so well attended, the windows had to be open so that the crowd outside could see and hear the services.
Over the years the crowds grew smaller but, it still held on with a faithful few. The building was improved over the following years, electric lights replaced the oil lamps, restrooms replaced the outhouse and a heating and cooling system that replaced the potbelly stove and open windows, but yet its still like stepping back in time.
Growth has come back to Dry Fork, we average anywhere from 20 to 40 on a Sunday and on special occaisions we fill it right up. No matter, there is always room for you at Dry Fork.
Someday we hope to be placed on the Register of Historic Places, places like this need to be protected and cherished, it’s a true surviver.
Dry Fork Church still holds it charm and vibrant feel, even now. For more information, check out the Sumner County Historical web site and our picture gallery. Please join us anytime, come and enjoy worshiping with us at Historic Dry Fork Church.
This history of Dry Fork Church was written by the late Harlan Savely a lifetime member, thanks Harlan, we miss you.