Historically Speaking December 17, 2014 Donna M. Street
Trenton Presbyterian Church
If you remember the square before the old jail was torn down and replaced by the current facility, then you may remember this. The jail was located between Court and Church Street. There was a row of white buildings that at one time housed such old haunts as The Dade County Times, Sally’s Beauty, and The Busy Bee. Red’s Cleaners was on the back side of the street and I can’t remember what else was on that side. In another incarnation the Busy Bee building space was the first home of the Dade County Sentinel. Next door (or south) of the Busy Bee location there was an empty lot. The empty lot was always a puzzle to my mind. I don’t remember when I found out that it once was an old church. There is only one picture that I have ever seen and it is included with this article. It was included with a caption in the 100th Anniversary Edition of the Dade County Times in 1938.
The following article about the Trenton Cumberland Presbyterian Church is reprinted from The History of Dade County, Georgia Volume II which is still for sale at both banks and the library. Sue Forester was the researcher and author of this article. Sue mentions that the troops of Sherman used the church as headquarters and some sleeping quarters in 1864, but I don’t think that she realized that they also used it in 1863 on their way to Chickamauga or that future president James A. Garfield probably used it as an office for about a week in Sept. 1863.
TRENTON CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Trenton Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located in Trenton, Georgia, was organized around 1858 or 1859 by the Rev. Allison Templeton. Although this church was located in Georgia, it was received under the care of Ocoee Presbytery. Since Dade County Georgia was located on the west side of Lookout Mountain, the Trenton church was isolated from the other churches of Georgia Presbytery. It was more convenient for the Trenton congregation to be affiliated with the church of Ocoee Presbytery. The charter trustee and elders in the Trenton Church were Emmanuel Mann, James K. Fryar, William W. Adkins and Hugh L. W. Allison.
Elijah Majors donated, on March 2, 1860, the property for constructing an edifice. The new church house was erected on the town square. The church house was originally constructed as a community church, and used primarily by the Methodists. The Methodists were among the first religious denominations in Dade County.
During the War for Southern Independence, the Trenton Church provided shelter and sleeping quarters for some of General William T. Sherman’s Union soldiers as he began Atlanta Campaign in May 1864. Following the War for Southern Independence, the church house continued to serve various religious groups. Later the church house was used for many years, as a school and as the courthouse.
Very little is known about the history of the Trenton Church before 1890. The Rev. 0. L. Sullivan reported in the November 3, 1898 issue of the Cumberland Presbyterian that, “The church building at this place was wrecked by a storm in 1891. In January 1898, it was repaired. During this interval of seven years, there was no preaching; but vitality still remained and last January the few remaining members revised their roll, organized a Sunday school, and made arrangements for monthly preaching. The Sunday school has prospered, an organ has been purchased, and the people are still improving the building. For all this much is due our faithful consecrated elder Joseph H. Corput and his devoted wife. On the first Sunday in September last, they secured the services of the Rev. W. J. Walker of Gurley, Alabama, and commenced a protracted meeting which continued for two weeks resulting in twenty-four conversions, and seven additions to the church… At the close a Christian Endeavor Society was organized with a large membership.”
- H. Corput, one of the lay leaders in the Trenton Church, was also a staunch Cumberland Presbyterian loyalist. In 1906, as the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was about to convene in Decatur, Illinois and vote to merge with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., J. H. Corput wrote to the Cumberland Banner that he hoped the Cumberland Presbyterian Church would not unite with the Northern Presbyterian. Corput stated, “I am now 78 years old, and have lived in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church 47 years. I will hold until the last.” The Trenton church refused to merge with the Northern Presbyterians. Another leader in the Trenton Church was elder Willie Cole. Cole served as session clerk from 1889 to 1899, and also encouraged the congregation to remain loyal to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
While the Rev. Sullivan reported in 1898 that religious services had not been held at Trenton Church from 1891 to 1898, a review of the Chattanooga Presbytery Minutes for the same time period suggests that the congregation was supplied a part-time pastoral basis by the following ministers: James S. Richmond (1892); R. J. Moore (1893); and Dr. B G. Mitchel (1894-95). The pulpit was vacant from 1895 to 1898.
In 1900, the Rev. S. P. Pryor, and the Rev. M. K. Hollister were supply pastors of the Trenton Church. Pryor reported in the Cumberland Presbyterian that the Rev. L. B. Morgan of South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, had just closed a ten day revival that resulted in eighteen conversions, and five accessions. The Rev. Morgan was described as a preacher who had “endeared himself to the people by his manly and fearless preaching.” Pryor also notes that the Trenton Church would be without a pastor after September 1.
In 1901, the pulpit was vacant, and the congregation relied on the services of Baptist and Methodist preachers. One of these pastors was the Rev. F. A. Bell. By 1903, Cumberland Presbyterian preaching had resumed on the third Sunday of each month. Sunday school was offered each Sabbath of the month.
From 1902 to November 1, 1907, a Missionary Baptist congregation rented the church house for religious services. The Rev. A. J. Mann and the Rev. Z. M. McGhee often preached to this group and to other Baptist and Methodist groups in Dade County.
Sometime between 1931 and 1938, the Trenton Church became disorganized, and was placed on the inactive roll. The Rev. Walter L. Swartz was the last pastor of the church. In 1938, Chattanooga Presbytery appointed a commission to sell the church property in Trenton. Before the commission began investigating various options for disposing of the church property, Chattanooga Presbytery was persuaded by several of the remaining members of the Trenton Church to postpone selling the property. The Trenton Church members believed they could revive the congregation. They requested that Chattanooga Presbytery loan them $350.00 at four percent interest to repair the church house.
Chattanooga Presbytery agreed to this request. Repairs were made on the church house, and for a period of time efforts were vigorously prosecuted to revive the congregation. These efforts, however, failed. By the spring of 1941, the Trenton Church was again in a disorganized condition. The following year, Chattanooga Presbytery noted that Ooltewah and Trenton were their only inactive churches. Presbytery voted to take care of the Trenton Church house “since it is our property.”
Two years later, in 1944, the abandoned church house was in a state of disrepair. The loan of money to the Trenton congregation in 1938 had not been repaid. Chattanooga Presbytery assumed control of the church property, after the sole surviving trustee of Trenton church, E. A. Ellis, surrendered the property to presbytery on September 27, 1945 Chattanooga Presbytery later sold the property to D. T. Brown. Mrs. Maxie C. Tatum bought the property from Brown for her son John F. Tatum. After Tatum came into possession of the property, he tore the church house down, and turned the site into a car lot. The site of the church in 1977 was a vacant lot on the town square of Trenton.
Pastors who served the Trenton Church included: Allison Templeton (1858-61); D. Grafton (1867-68); William H. Bell (1868); J. G. Jacoway (1872); R. J. Moore (1890); James S. Richmond (1892); R. J. Moore (1893); Dr. B. G. Mitchell (1894-95); W. J. Walker (1898); S. P. Pryor (1900); M. K. Hollister (1901); Floyd Poe (1902); Paul M. Murray (1903); J S. Porter (1903); Hannibal Seagle, elder in the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee, lay speaker (1907); W. E. Tillett (1922); and Walter L. Swartz (1931).
The Rev. J. G. Jacoway, who served the church in 1872, was a member of the Trenton Church. Born in 1818, John Garrett Jacoway presented himself to Ocoee Presbytery as a candidate for the ministry. According to the August 19, 1871 Ocoee Presbytery Minutes, Jacoway was immediately licensed to preach the Gospel because of “his experience and years.”
- H. Corput was shortened and was originally VandenCorput; but can be found on many Dade County records shortened to Corput.
Note: Feb. 2018 Since this article was published in the Dade County Sentinel in 2014 there has been much learned about the VandenCorput family. One of more of the Corput brothers served the Union Army at the battle of Chickamauga and returned to this area after the end of the war in 1865. Members of this family are buried at the Payne Cemetery within the Lake Hills Cemetery and at other places in the county. After the name was changed to Corput (for ease of business and understanding of Southerners, I am sure) several married into the Tatum and Case families. Mrs. Maxie Case Tatum was also the mother of William “Bill” Tatum and wife of Sheriff Grover C. Tatum, who served as sheriff during prohibition and is one of the longest serving Sheriff’s of Dade. The lives of the older members of this clan are interesting and will continue to be studied by local historians as well as family members. dms