By PEGGY TATE
From the busy town of Woodbury going north on Gassaway Road (Highway 53N) about 12 miles you will see the community called Gassaway.
Turn right, cross a bridge you will pass a closed market and at one time the Melton Bank. Next you will pass the Gassaway Fire Hall where many community happenings are held and next is the Church of Christ, then you will come to the forks of the road and continue on to the left side, which is now “Big Hill Road.” After you have traveled one and a half miles from the Gassaway Road you can see a white country church called Clear Fork United Methodist Church.
October 1865 Rev. John H. Nichols became pastor of The Short Mountain Circuit which included Clear Fork. There were 14 appointments on that circuit at that time. (John H. Nichols Autobiography, “Proof of the Pudding,” published by the House of the M.E. Church, South 1913, page 30-31) Gassaway was established in the 1880s.
Clear Fork Church started as a small, log church. Some local people attended this church as the attendance grew another log church was built. Seating was needed for the church and a very large tree from the area was cut and made into about 45 benches, 39 of those are still in the church of 2012, plus two benches were made into tables that are also still in use at the church. On July 24, 1915 George Grizzle bequeathed to the Methodist Church an acre of land where the church was and it was recorded on Aug. 2, 1915, Book 12 at the Cannon County Courthouse.
The beginning of the third church was built with no windows, bathrooms or running water. In the summer time, the main door was left open for fresh air and in the wintertime heat was from a wood stove. As time went by the church became more modern.
In September, I interviewed my mother-in-law, Ernestine Tate, 93, from Auburntown, who was a member of the church along with many friends and relations. My question was to her was how did they get to church on Sunday mornings beside walking.
Her answer was her family lived on Wilmouth Creek Road. Her parents were Sammie and Jennie Tate George and they had eight children. On Sunday morning, her father hitched up two mules to a wagon and father, mother and the youngest child road on a bench up front and the seven other children put chairs in the back of the wagon as they headed to church. Neighbors, along the way, knew about what time the Georges would be passing and were standing out front ready to climb aboard the wagon. The the time they arrived at church, the wagon was full.
The congregation worked together to buy windows one at a time and later a piano.
Bro. Bobby Martin has been the preacher at Clear Fork for the past 10 years.
Another story about the church is told by Audrey Martin about her father, Jim Brown, who lived several miles up Wilmouth Creek Road in the mid 1940s. Jim noticed after his parents and uncle had left for town that his uncle had left the keys in his new flatbed truck. Jim and his brother Junior had heard about a revival starting at the church and knew people would be looking for a way to go. So Jim, at age 12, took his brother along in the truck and drive it down Wilmouth Creek Road toward the church stopping at houses where people were waiting by the road for a ride to the revival. They arrived at the revival with the truck bed full of people. No information was told about what happened to the young truck driver.
At the church today, Bro. Martin’s wife, Audrey, is the song leader and on Sunday mornings Mrs. Ruth Sterling, who is a young 91 years of age, plays the piano. Gerald Tate usually sings a special song he has selected accompanying himself on the guitar.
In 1997, Clear Fork members again shared the expense and added a fellowship hall which is used at the present time for community events, such as preparing food and fruit baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas for several local residents.
Audrey Martin is the wonderful cook who prepares the church suppers on the second and fourth Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m. during the winter months. The suppers consist of choice of catfish or chicken tenders, choice of three beans, french fries, slaw, hush puppies, drink and desserts made by Audrey and some women in the church. The cost is $8 and children under 3 are free. Take-out is available.
On the third Sunday night of each month at 6 p.m. is Singing Night. Audrey Martin and Gerald Tate sing together with Gerald playing the guitar. Anyone who likes to sing or plays an instrument is welcome to come and join in. Refreshments are served after the singing.
Clear Fork Church is open to the public and visitors are invited.