Willoughby Lee Thompson
1819-1893

New Hope Church of Christ

         Located in the quiet little community of New Hope, six miles northwest of Middleton, is one of the oldest Church of Christ congregations in West Tennessee—the New Hope Church of Christ.

         While no documented proof exists, it is stated that the congregation was established in 1837 by associates of Alexander Campbell, according to Herman Norton in his book, “Tennessee Christians."

        In all likelihood that date is accurate, because by 1842 there was at New Hope an established congregation consisting of 83 members and three elders.

         Dalton Allford in "The History of New Hope Church” in 1952 said, "In 1841 a gospel preacher whose name is not recalled held a meeting in a little log school house situated in a dense forest six miles northwest of what is now Middleton, Tennessee, resulting in eight baptisms. He returned in 1842 for another meeting with more additions and the selection of elders and deacons."

         The early congregation of New Hope Church was composed of people who had immigrated from North Carolina and were, for the most part, Methodists and Baptists. Many of these people could not read or write, but they were very knowledgeable in scripture and verse.

         In a paper presented to the congregation by David George in 1979, he states, 'The people wore home-woven clothes, chewed homegrown tobacco and spit whatever way their spitting machine was turned. The elderly women smoked stone pipes and the younger ones kept 'their teeth clean with soot-powdered charcoal and black gum tooth brushes. All of the women wore long dresses to church services and sat with both feet on the floor at all times. As the women walked to church, they would carry their shoes or acquire the services of a gentleman, to carry them. When they arrived at the building, the men would turn their backs and gaze into space while the women put on their home-knit hose, string garters and best shoes.”

         From the little log school house the congregation moved to a new church building. They took with them some of the logs from the original building and used them again in the second church. Some time later, the congregation again moved to a new site. This time, it has been reported that they again took some of the logs from the second building, milled them and used them again in the third building, constructed in 1854. This is the building in which the New Hope congregation now meets. Alterations and repairs have been made to the building over the years. The original building was lighted by candles until 1868 when wall lamps were installed, followed by hanging lamps and then electricity.

         Among the first preachers at New Hope was Robert L. Thompson. In 1842 he served the congregation as an elder along with W.W. Thompson and W.H. Rose. Records show that Thompson initially served only as an elder, but apparently he began preaching because of the urgent need for a minister. Like many ministers at that time, Thompson was poor and had a wife and children to care for, as well as ministering to the needs of the congregation. But Thompson did his work well, for it is stated that he “witnessed 11 additions to the cause of truth since the fourth Lord’s Day in October.”

         In 1844 it was reported that Bro. T.W. Haskey (sic) (should be Caskey,SDH) held a meeting at New Hope enroute home from a meeting in Memphis. In 1846 Bro. Thomas Rose met Bro. J.R. McCall at Humboldt “and hauled him 50 or 60 miles in his ox wagon” to New Hope for a meeting. It was reported that Bro. McCall’s meeting at New Hope was very successful. He baptized a young Methodist minister, W.L. Thompson, who was also a great singer and voice teacher.

         Thompson remained at New Hope as a preacher and song teacher until his death in 1893. Allford says, “The New Hope Church has always been noted for its good singing, good preaching and hospitality, and that these good qualities may ever continue until we all meet in the glad forever.”

         In its early years, New Hope served as the site of numerous gospel meetings. J.H. Dunn, in his article published in 1840, “New From The Churches,” reports on a meeting he conducted at New Hop in 1839. He says, “the meeting lasted five days including the third Lord’s Day in October.” In addition to Dunn, preachers included Wynne and Sanders. “There were six additions to the church at this meeting and the prospects of growth were deemed very good,” said Dunn.

         At the meeting at which W.L. Thompson was converted in 1846, it was reported that the meeting began on the third Sunday in August and continued nine days. A.A. Rose in the “Gospel Advocate,” published in 1910, said, “There were 24 baptized and eight or ten restored. In the early days of the New Hope congregation, they enjoyed hearing T.W. Caskey preach through a long, old-fashioned camp meeting.” Rose goes on to say that John R. McCall, a distinguished preacher from New Orleans, preached in another meeting, and he adds “That all along New Hope has been blessed with a great number of good preachers.

         The number of preachers who have either trained at New Hope or actually served there are many. They numbered many among the well-known Church of Christ ministers, including A.G. Freed, one of the presidents of Freed-Hardeman College.

          The history of New Hope Church records that the fruits of labor of the early preachers were not in vain. Church leaders were strict, but church membership continued to increase over the years. A.A. Rose said that the conduct insisted upon by the leaders of New Hope Church was apparently rigidly enforced. “This is evidenced by the fact,” Rose said, “That within six years after the appointment of elders in 1896, at least five people had already been withdrawn from membership for disorderly conduct. However, the discipline was productive in that at least one of the five was restored.”

         Good gospel meetings, good singing and good fellowship are evident in the number of church members on roll at New Hope. In October 1896 there were in excess of 200 members on the church roll. Allford reported  that “this old congregation has had a number of professional men in its membership and is the mother church of a large number of congregations throughout West Tennessee and North Mississippi.” The 140-year old congregation is the oldest Church of Christ in Hardeman County. In 1952 Allford reported that the church roll showed 100 members. He added “at one time in years past we had more than 300, but other congregation have been established near us, and have drawn many from our number.” Today the New Hope membership roll numbers about 75.

         Today New Hope Church is being served by Bro. Norman Ewell. Many of the church’s present members are descendants of the original congregation. Adjoining the church property is the cemetery with neatly-lined markers, bearing the names of families such as Thompson, Rose and other early members of New Hope.

         Two of the oldest members are Mrs. Lillie Luttrell and Mr. Junious Brown, both of who are in their 90’s. Brown resides at Care Inn in Bolivar, and “Miss Lillie,” as she is fondly referred to, still lives within about a mile of the church.

         “Miss Lillie” was born in 1889 in Hardeman County. She doesn’t remember when she joined New Hop, but she adds that she was grown when she began going to church. “Bro. G.A. Dunn baptized me,” Miss Lillie fondly remembers. “I remember a lot about it. Before we had school, we went to classes in the church house,” remembered Miss Lillie. Miss Lillie remembers her mother talking about Bro. Thompson and Miss Lillie herself has, over the years, heard many of the preachers.

         In 1942 Lillie and her husband, T.P. moved to the house in which Miss Lillie still lives. “I walked to church services a lot,” says Miss Lillie. “I toted my babies many times. The Luttrells raised eight girls and two boys. Luttrell passed away about five years ago.

         Miss Lillie also speaks of the protracted meetings they had at New Hope. “We’d have dinner on the ground on the first Sunday, and the meeting lasted a wee—to the next Sunday,” she recalls.

         Records of the church have been well kept over the years. Ewell and current church members are planning to further complete the history of New Hope and hope to have it complete within the next year.

 -By Anne Ingle - Source: Newspaper article, no source, no date found.

  

New Hope Church of Christ Is Steeped In Tradition

          The Church of Christ at New Hope will be enjoying a homecoming Nov. 5.

          The history of the church at New Hope is both rich and rewarding to study.

          No exact date can be ascertained as to when the congregation of the Lord’s church began meeting at New Hope. There are reports that the church began meeting in the year 1834 or 1835. This is according to Gale Howell Mills. According to Mrs. Mills, eight people were baptized at this initial meeting. In all about 2,000 people were baptized at New Hope. There are several other congregations which have been established by those baptized at New Hope (Middleton, Roger Springs, New Bethany and Sandy Springs [disbanded]).

          There is an interesting article in the “Millennial Harbinger” edited by Alexander Campbell. On Jan. 29, 1840 Bro. J.H. Dunn wrote a letter to Bro. Campbell reporting on a series of protracted meetings which he (Dunn) had held in West Tennessee in the fall of 1839. These included meetings at White’s meeting house, Henderson County: Cypress in McNairy County; Madison County; Roane’s Creek in Carroll County; Clear Creek in McNairy County; and at New Hope in Hardeman County. The entry in the letter reads as follows:

          Sixth, at New Hope, Hardeman County, continued five days, including third Lord’s day in October, Teachers present, Wynne, Sanders, and myself. Six additions and prospects flattering.

          This certifies that the church was meeting in 1839 and is 150 years old this month. The fact that the church has weathered the storms of life and has continued to meet and do the Lord’s work in this area for this number of years is a tribute to the early work and continual teaching that has been conducted here, church researchers  say.

          There are two other entries that shed light on the early history at New Hope. The first comes from “The Bible Advocate” dated November 1842:

Adamsville, Tennessee

          A debate at Liberty in McNairy County at New Hope in Hardeman County, Ten. Including the fourth Lord’s day in September, we had ten additions, seven up to Wednesday morning when I left and three others after I left.

Yours in Christ,
s/J.H. Dunn

          The second comes from “The Bible Advocate” dated November 1843:

Beloved Bro. Dunn

          I am happy in informing you that the gospel is still onward in this county, I have witnessed eleven additions to the cause of truth since the fourth Lord’s day in last month, two of the above additions were from the Baptists, one by way of confession and two by confession and immersion. We have good reason to thank God and take courage; he has done great things for us and we are glad. May the Lord help us all so to act that our master may not be ashamed and reject us at his return.

Yours in Christian love
s/Robert L. Thompson

          The church was originally established on what was then known as the North Carolina Road. The “road” stretched from Campbell’s Station, a few miles West of Knoxville, across the Cumberlands to the middle of Tennessee settlement. Judge McNairy and Andrew Jackson were among the first travelers. At first it was merely a bridle patch and later made into a wagon road. Since it was first opened to the North Carolina Militia it was called the North Carolina Road. It was occasionally referred to as Avery’s Trace after Peter Avery, who guided the expedition. The early members of the congregation were primarily immigrants from North Carolina. The first building was erected somewhere between 1854 and 1860 and was lighted with candles until 1888 when wall lamps were installed.

          Elders were first appointed in the church at New Hope in October 1842. The names of these were: W.W. Thompson, R.L. Thompson and W.H. Rose. This is according to a report published in the November, 1842 issue of “The Bible Advocate.”

          In 1846 Bro. J.R. McCall was met at Humboldt by Bro. Road and hauled 50 or 60 miles in an ox wagon to preach a meeting in New Hope. He baptized a young man named W.L. Thompson who was a great singer and fine singing teacher. Thompson taught singing throughout the area until his death in 1893.

          There is a great and godly list of gospel preachers who have proclaimed the King’s message in the rich history of New Hope. Among these are: J.H. Dunn, (?) Wynne, James Gilliland, J.M. Turner, W.L. Thompson, John Thompson, F.O. Howell, R.P. Meeks, J.R. McCall, (?) Sanders, T.W. Haskey (sic) (should be Caskey SDH), Huhie Ray, J.T. Strickland, A.A. Murphy, C.M. Thompson, B.W. Sparkman, John R. Howard, Allen Kendrick, Shepherd Spears, W.K. Rose Sr., G.L. Thompson, A.A. Rose, Christopher Gist and J.D. Tant.

          The church enjoys a rich history and continues to this day in the old paths contained in the Holy Scriptures.

          At present there are about 50 members meeting at New Hope under the present eldership. “While the world continues to change, the church of Christ meeting at New Hope continues to step in the light of God’s word and confidently marches on to Zion.” David Jones, church evangelist said.

(Complied by David Jones from material written by Gale Howell Mills, Max Miller and J. Dalton Allford)

 

 

More On The Thompsons & The Work At New Hope


New Hope Church of Christ - Old Building

 

 


New Hope Church of Christ - Present Building

 

Location Of The New Hope Church And Grave Of W.L. Thompson

The New Hope Church and Cemetery is located in southwest Tennessee, just north of Middleton, and 10 miles south of Boliver. About three miles north of Middleton on Hwy. 125 turn left (west) on Lisbon Rd. At the end bear right and head back into the country about three miles to the cemetery and church. The Thompson plot will be on the east side of the road.

GPS Coordinates
35˚ 06 925 N x 088˚ 56. 970 W
Grave faces West

 


W.L. Thompson
Aug. 27, 1819 - May 11, 1893
His Wife
E.A. Thompson
June 11, 1819 - Jan. 13, 1890
Erected To Their Memory By The
church, relatives and friends.
THOMPSON


THOMPSON
W.T.F. Thompson
1847-1900
Cynthia Catherine Cox
His Wife
1843-1925
Son of W.L. Thompson & Elder At New Hope

 

Special Thanks extended to Thompson descendant through the Allford family, Alta Allford Davidson. Alta and her husband Jerry are long time friends and co-workers in the kingdom. Jerry, long time gospel preacher, was one of my Bible professors while a student at Heritage University. New Hope is Alta's home congregation, and is rightly proud of her heritage. Thanks to her for making much of this information available. - The Editor

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