Nelson Chapel History
Nelson Chapel dares back to the 1885 – 1890 period when a small group of people met at the Nelson school. They has a common goal to study and teach God’s word. This school was located on Reagan Mill Road about 200 yards behind this building.
The name Nelson came from Mary Catherine Vaughn Nelson, widow of Alexander M. Nelson. Alexander died during the Civil War while fighting on the Union side and is buried in Louisville, Ky. Mary Catherine owned all the property that the Nelson school, Nelson church building and the Nelson cemetery occupied. Mary Catherine’s grand-daughter Lou Vicey Nelson who died at an early age in 1894 had the distinction of being the first grave in the Nelson cemetery.
`Mary Catherine Nelson died in 1891 and is buried in Four Mile cemetery, Blount County, Tennessee. Most of the Nelson family left Tennessee around the turn o the century and moved to Kansas and Oklahoma. Mary Catherine’s brother Benjamin Vaughn and his wife, Martha, made a deed for a tract of land where the church building and cemetery occupies to the Christian Church on December 12, 1894 for a sum of five dollars. The first building was torn down around 1925 and the present building was built. Many improvements have been made since.
During the beginning of the churches formation there was no regular preacher. The church was fortunate to have a preacher once a month. Some of the first preachers were Alexander “Alec” Brawner, Samuel L. Willocks and Dr. K.B. Lawson. The same preacher would go around to other Christian churches in the area.
The first elders of the congregation were William Heaton, George Kirkland, George W. Summey and M.K. Ridings. The first deacons were Columbus Swaneyand Richard Johnson.
Nelson Chapel like all small country congregations had its share of struggles. Around 1900, the congregation was mostly made up of women and children. During a period of time when there were no men capable of carrying o the duties of the church, the women carried on. One such person was Mary Jane Willocks Kirkland. She step up to the challenge by leading the singing and prayer. She also walked from her home on Reagan Mill Road and carried homemade grape juice and communion bread to Sunday worship services.
Around 1906, there was a movement among the Christian churches which brought about the introduction of instrumental music into the worship services. All of the Christian churches in the area except for Nelson Chapel added a oiano or organ into their worship services. Nelson Chapel stood firm against it. It was at that time we became known as the Church of Christ and became the first Church of Christ in Blount County. We were even referred to as “Antis” at that time.