Our Historic Roots
"I John W Syler do hereby convey unto Richard W. Featherston, Trustee of the Christian Church, John W Syler Trustee for the Cumblerland Presbyterian Church, Joseph G. Shapard Trustee for the Methodist Episcopal Church South and Francis C Turner trustee for the Baptist Church, the described lot . . . being a front of the tract of land on which I now reside and containing one half an acre more or less . . .to be used as a place of public worship." June 28, 1856.
With the stroke of a pen, a multi-denomination church building in Decherd was launched. Each denomination would use the building from Friday to Thursday for one week each month. If there was a fifth "Sabbath" (Sunday), it would be for the Baptists.
But conflict was just over the horizon. The American Civil War came to Decherd and Goodspeed's History of Franklin County recounts how the church was destroyed by Federal Troops in the early part of the war.
By the early 1900s, the building had been replaced and the Church of Christ was the sole occupant. On April 29, 1909, a tornado ripped through Decherd and destroyed the church for the second time. But it would be rebuilt and remain as a Church of Christ edifice until May 15, 1970, when it passed into private hands and was decommissioned as a house of worship.
Howard Luttrell, a local TV repairman, used the old church as an annex for his successful repair shop and an auction barn for antique furniture. Meanwhile, a 1980 series of evangelistic meetings conducted by Seventh-day Adventists in Tullahoma led to a new congregation in Decherd. The small group began Wednesday night services in the office of Dr. James Van Blaricum, and then began looking for a church home where weekend services could be held. Luttrell, a Seventh-day Adventist offered his repair shop annex to the fledgling congregation.
On December 10, 1981, twenty people gathered to organize the "Winchester Branch of the Seventh-day Adventist Church." Luttrell was one of them. A mere four months later, the Luttrell family sold their interest in the building and it became the first church in Franklin County to be owned by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
Reconstruction of the historic sanctuary began in May 2014. Termites and time had taken their toll on the old building. A new metal roof, soffits, and gutters were installed. The old vinyl siding was removed allowing the original wood lap siding to be cleaned and painted. Interior refinements included two new accessible bathrooms, removal of carpeting to reveal hardwood floors, removal of acoustic ceiling tiles covering up a beautiful stained tongue-and-groove ceiling, plus new wiring and light fixtures throughout. The leaking baptismal tank, formed with concrete blocks, was removed and a fiberglass baptistery installed.
A close inspection showed that the original building with its brick foundation was a simple rectangle. Later additions included the baptismal tank and two small classrooms behind the pulpit, a two-level fellowship hall, and the foyer with steeple. These additions are evident by the change in foundation style from traditional bricks to poured concrete forms. When these modifications were made, they were simiply framed up to the existing exterior siding which is still visible today when exploring the attic areas. The two-level fellowship hall was subsequently carefully removed when extensive termite damage and asbestos siding were discovered.
Another interesting feature, though undocumented, is that the original rectngular building may have had two entry doors, a common architectural feature in the 1800s. This allowed men to enter and sit on one side of the chapel and women and children on the other, a common practice of the era. The "evidence" is that the foyer addition did not include a direct entry into the sanctuary as one might expect. Walking in from the front porch you faced a solid wall separatng the foyer area from the sanctuary. The resulting access path was to walk around that solid wall by going either right or left and then turning into the sanctuary. It would not be hard to surmise that the foyer was simply built wide enough to incorporate what had originally been two exterior doors into the sanctuary.
Compiled by Mary Daniel Wimbley, founding member, and Jay E Prall
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