The Dancyville Methodist Church Circuit
When Rev. Edmond Birten Rucker was
assigned his first pastorate in 1927.
Mrs. Val Rucker Routon
daughter of Rev. Edmond Rucker
|The Dancyville Methodist Circuit was
comprised of four churches with the Dancyville Church being the largest, centrally located
and where the parsonage was located. South of Dancyville at the Fayette County line was
Taylor's Chapel. North of Dancyville was Spring Hill Church and a few miles west of this
church was Ashbury Church.
Dancyville and Spring Hill had larger buildings and larger memberships. Taylor's Chapel and Ashbury were smaller in size and much, much smaller memberships. Both small churches were "hold over aristocracy," maintained by a few proud, wealthy descendants of the founders.
Each church had two Sunday sermons a month, alternately morning and afternoon services. quarterly meetings of all four churches were held quarterly at alternating churches. These meetings were all day services on a designated Saturday. The Preciding Elder (supervising pastor of the district) would deliver a morning sermon. The women of the church hosting would provide wonderful lunches. The church had no kitchen so all the food was prepared at home, then taken to the church ready to serve. There would be baskets of food of country ham, home made bread, corn pudding, fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad, fruit salads, fresh coconut cakes, all kind of pies, boiled custard, and pots of coffee (made on the heating stove) with pure cream. After the meal, served in the rear of the church, there would be the circuits business meeting. Each church would make it's financial report for the quarter, including church expenditures/maintenance, mission contributions and the pastor's salary. The pastor's salary would consist of the Sunday collection and whatever amount was added at the quarterly meeting. The pastor's salary in 1927 was one thousand dollars a year, which meant the quarterly report should be $250.00. The presiding elders' salaries was an additional percentage of each pastor's salary in his district - So the quarterly meetings were mainly to audit each church's financial situation. Sometimes the churches would get behind, but each November, (end of conference year in those days) a few days before my father would have to leave for the annual conference, Mr. Douglas (whose wife was the main support of tiny Ashbury Church,) dressed in his riding clothes and riding a beautiful horse would come to the parsonage and ask, "Preacher, how much does the charge lack in full payment of your salary?" His next move was to pull out his check book and write his personal check for the full amount owed by the entire circuit. Mr. Douglas was reportedly an atheist. He did not attend church - but he was devoted to his deeply religious wife's dedication. He drove her and the children to all church reunions, then picked them up. He was a perfect host when she entertained her pastors in their beautiful home in a large estate between Dancyville and Stanton.
The annual salary of one thousand dollars was less than my father had earned as a high school principal, but there were benefits as the parsonage (furnished) being totally free to the pastor and the churches had several "poundings" a year where the churches would go together and bring general food for the parsonage pantry as stands of lard, 100-lb. sacks of flour, whole hams, canned vegetables and fruit. The church members held their pastor in high esteem. We were almost always invited to "Sunday dinner" with different church members - ( a pastor, wife and five children was quite a guest list even in those days - but we remember some of the first meals.) The people of Dancyville Circuit were such genteel, Christian people and so generous to our family. There were many aristocratic people and well to do families hanging onto their ancestors' pride that exposed our family to a kind of life we had not known - and to a fading life style we would have probably never witnessed if we had not lived at Dancyville.
GO HERE for the Dancyville Methodist Church Circuit Parsonage ~ 1960
THE FOUR CHURCHES
This church was overlooking a large hillside cemetery and was a large, white frame building, oil lights, a "stage" with one corner for the choir and pump organ (Mattie Sue (Cherry) Crawford the organist) - pulpit stand and two ministers' chairs. Men's Sunday School class section to right of pulpit - Where Mr. Dancy, Sunday School Superintendent always sat - on the back pew, right wall, was where the janitor always had a bucket of fresh water and a common dipper at each service. The loyal janitor was a short, small, black man, "Traz." He was totally illiterate, married to "Mousie," a plump, taller woman with visual problems. They lived in a three room house with their several children a mile or so outside Dancyville. In addition to his small janitor salary, church members gave the family used clothing and "extras." Traz always appeared at the backdoor of the house where the pastor was invited for Sunday dinner and he was served a large plate in the kitchen and given "left overs" to take home.
Some of the Dancyville families were I. B. Dancy, Joe Moore, Rawlins Moore, D.C. Crawford, Dixons, Scotts, Hunters, Davis, Raleighs, Jones, Rogers, Rutt Crawford and Mother, Irene Kennedy and mother, Mattie Sue Crawford and husband Rhea, Cooks, Keys, Howards and Cherrys.
GO HERE for pictures and history of Dancyville Methodist
GO HERE for the 1910-11 Dancyville Circuit Trustees' Roll
This church was really a family church, maintained by the Taylor descendants of the founders. It was located in an open space near a grove. It was a small, low building made with bricks made by slaves. The wide plank flooring and pews were hand hewn. The original pump organ and large church Bible were still in use. The pastor was expected to read his scriptures from this church Bible at each service. Members were the Sam Taylor Family. Mr. Taylor was old and disabled, unable to leave home, but very alert and influential, financially, as well as patriarch of ancestral customs being highly respected. His younger, outgoing wife, was a gracious hostess and energetic church member. She was church treasurer as well as circuit treasurer Their son, Rhea Taylor was Sunday School Superintendent, and their teen age son an active member. Their two daughters Jenny and Lois were away most of the time (either in college or teaching.) Their family lived on a large plantation in a stately ante-bellum home off the main road, reached through several acres of "woods and lots." The Allen Taylor family consisted of two sisters, Miss Mary Sue and Miss Frances. They lived in a glorious ante-bellum home, inherited from their wealthy father. The house was in the grove by the church. It had white Corinthian columns. The furnishings were beautiful antiques. Miss Mary Sue, short and plump, had common and business sense. She managed the plantation and household. Miss Frances was a serious scholar - a college French Professor. (I believe she had studied in France.)
We loved spending the night with them. Miss Mary Lee was so jolly and Miss Frances so prim. There were more than one stairway and unexpected veranda and such style and etiquette in the dining room. And lots of interesting books and conservation.
The third supportive family was a spinster, Miss Sue Alexander. She lived in her late parents home on a large plantation. Miss Sue would have made a great Truman Copote study. She was tall, lanky, and awkward, but she had a steel quality, and a personal style. She managed her affairs and large farming interest with only the help of her many tenants, who were almost totally dependent upon her. She also supervised her mentally challenged brother and his family who lived near her. She was wonderful to her pastor and family.
These three families comprised Taylor's Chapel with the exception of a Franks family, not connected with the Taylor family. Mr. Franks operated the country store and his wife was hired as caretaker of Taylor's Chapel. They, with their two children attended church.
Services at their Church were always formal and traditional and finances up to date, and the families so generous to the pastor and his family. We were treated so well and exposed to their wealthy culture and tradition.
When we visited the Taylor Families we had spacious, separate bedrooms with servants to light the fires and bring us fresh water in the mornings - meals were prepared by cooks and served in formal dining rooms with linens and family china - Scripture reading was from family Bibles and prayers were high on the list.
It was evident even then, due to the small size of the remaining proud families, that time was running out for their traditions to sustain the quality of aristrocry they had known in the past and were carrying on in probably the last generations.
(Note: Taylor's Chapel Methodist Church closed it's doors in 1964. The building remains.)
GO HERE for pictures of Taylor's Chapel Methodist Church
This white frame, typical rural church, sat one fourth mile off the then, main road between Dancyville and Brownsville. The church yard had beautiful old oak trees, and a small cemetery behind the church. The one large room had a "stage" for choir and piano, pulpit and pastors chairs. A large cast iron stove heated the building and in summer the cross windows provided breezes and cool air. The members were local country people, mostly average farmers, one store keeper and a teacher. At their church the choir was outstanding due to a young lady, Jeryline Powell, who had a beautiful trained voice - was a talented pianist, and her mother had a lovely alto voice - and they loved to sing in the choir and duets together. When they sang "Showers of Blessings," their talent and life zest reached our hearts. Besides the Powell Family there were two McCools - The older McCool was a loyal Sunday School Superintendent. His second wife, (first one died) was a much younger - very shy - but a wonderful homemaker. No children of her own, she showered her pastor's children with kindness when we visited their home. She would laden the table with heaping trays of fried chicken, home made bread, fresh butter, fresh vegetables and caramel cake to die for. Our father taught us not to ask for second helpings when guests - But at Mrs. McCool's she would watch our plate (and probably our eyes) and when we were about to empty our plates she would look at our father and say, " Now, preacher, I cooked this for these children to eat" and without our asking she would replenish our plates. We loved her - and her food.
The younger McCool had the country store where we first saw sliced bread and canned spaghetti. They had two children whom my brother and I liked to visit.
I remember a Mann family - she was church treasurer - and an Adams family. And a Burford Family. The Burfords had luscious strawberries and she would cover them in home made whipped cream, along with chicken and dressing when we had Sunday dinner with them.
Springhill is still active. The building has been bricked, otherwise it looks the same from the outside.
This church was about to close when we were there due to declining members - It was a very old, small white frame, typical rural church. The main family was a Mrs. Randle ( ) Douglas, wife of a wealthy plantation owner. She was from a line of devout Methodist - the brother a presiding elder in the Memphis Conference. He was church treasurer and organist and a staunch member. I remember some other families, a Mr. Sweet with two daughters, Isabel and Phoebe. I believe he was Sunday School Superintendent. Another family was the Stanley Family with two daughters, Ruth and Mary Beth. All of the families were gracious and good to our family and loyal to the church. But the family that really sustained the church was Mr. Douglas - They had 3 children, a son in medical school who later became a physician in Jackson for many years, ( I had one of my friends who lived in Jackson many years later, say that Dr. Douglas, his wife and children had a regular pew where they sat every Sunday at a Methodist Church in Jackson. That reminded me of his mother's church loyalty years earlier.) ; another son, Ben who later had a flying school and a daughter, Betty Randle who married a Mr. Smith in Brownsville. The Douglas' had our family for dinner and I visited Betty Randle as we were near the same age. When I spent the night with her, breakfast would be served in the less formal dining room and each child present would have to recite a Bible verse before the meal was served - and it was at the Douglas' that I first tasted their holiday fruit salad - sliced bananas, dried apple, grape halves, fresh peaches and thin bits of sweet oranges, all mixed with home made whipped cream. I serve that at my Christmas dinner to this day. After we finished our dinners at the Douglas', Mr. Douglas would light a cigarette and smoke it while we children were all still seated. His crystal ash tray was beside his plate.
(Note: Ashbury Methodist Church closed it's doors in 1934. It is not known when the building was torn down.)
|THE MEMPHIS METHODIST
CONFERENCE and BEYOND
that time the Memphis Methodist Annual Conference convened each November at various
churches within their jurisdiction of West Tennessee and part of Kentucky. Church members
would host the ministers in their homes. The conference was divided into districts headed
by presiding elders. The presiding elders headed the churches quarterly meetings and
worked together with the Bishop (who headed the conference) in the pastors' assigned
churches for the next year. The four consecutive years was the limit a pastor could serve
one circuit or church. My father served 3 years at Dancyville, 3 years at
Tabernacle/Charleston in Tipton County. And 4 years each at his next assignments in
Martin, Paris and Fulton, Kentucky. He retired due to ill health a few months prior to his
death at age 61.
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