New Hope Church
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
Dalton Allford in "The History of New Hope Church” in
"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
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
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
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
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.
Source: Newspaper article, no source, no date
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
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
There are two other entries that shed light on the early
history at New Hope. The first comes from “The Bible Advocate” dated
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,
The second comes from “The Bible Advocate” dated November
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.
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)