History of the Restoration Movement

The Church Of Christ

At Essary Springs, Tennessee

In the southeastern part of Hardeman County, Tennessee, near the Hatchie River lies the community of Essary Springs. A.G. Freed moved there at the invitation of David S. Nelms in 1889 to start a school. Freed preached for the church and began planning to open a school.

The Southern Tennessee Normal School was organized September 16, 1889. The school continued until 1895 when Freed was invited by the board of Trustees at West Tennessee Christian College in Henderson, Tennessee to merge the two schools. Freed agreed if he could lease the school for ten years. Then the school moved to Henderson.

Another claim to fame for the Essary Springs area is that C.P. Roland was born there in July, 1893. His father, was a student under Brother Freed. Later when C.P. Roland was ready for college he was sent to Henderson to attend Freed-Hardeman College. He had a long standing relationship with the college as an educator and administrator.

Essary Springs Church Of Christ
Sunday School 9am
Worship Service 10am
Sunday Eve. Service 5pm
The Birthplace of Freed-Hardeman University 1892

Sketch Of The Original Building When A.G. Freed Conducted His School There

Copy Of A Flyer Sent Out To Invite Students To Attend Freed's School

The Original Pulpit Used By Essary Springs Church & School

An Old Pew Used By The Church

Anyone visiting the old building will want to take the opportunity to take a nostalgic pull on the rope to ring the old school bell

Old Essary Springs As It Stood In 2007, Over 100 Years Since School Days

GPS Location Of Church Building
35°00'43.4"N 88°47'51.8"W
or D.d. 35.012062, -88.797728

David S. Nelms

While visiting the church building in Essary Springs, be sure to go out to the town cemetery where David S. Nelms is buried. It was Nelms who originally contacted A.G. Freed. At the time Essary Springs was a bustling little town with as many as three hotels. It was a growing area that needed a place of higher learning. Nelms knew of Freed's teaching skills and contacted him to see if he would come there to start a school. One way to consider his importance is to recognize that had it not been for David Nelms there would never have been a university called Freed-Hardeman. As Freed was from Indiana, he might have never come to work among the good people of West Tennessee had it not been for David Nelms. David, his wife Maggie and other members of the church at Essary Springs lie in the little cemetery at Essary Springs to await the coming of the Lord.

GPS Location Of Nelms Grave
35°00'43.5"N 88°48'12.9"W
35.012075, -88.803594
Facing East / 16' Accuracy

David S. Nelms
May 5, 1845
Jan. 26, 1934

Special Note: Thanks to Tom L. Childers for taking my wife Jenny and me to visit the church at Essary Springs in June of 2007. I was preaching in a gospel meeting at Scott's Hill that week for the congregation at Austin's Chapel. What a delightful week it was. Essary Springs is of great significance to me personally. My son, Richard, while a student at Freed-Hardeman University, 2004-2010, preached some of his first sermons at that little congregation. It was inspiring to him as a young preacher to have stood in the pulpit where so many great gospel preachers of the past have stood to proclaim the great message of Christ. In the last few years the attendance of the church has dwindled significantly. There are only about four members still attending. It will not be long before the doors will close forever, if something is not done to revitalize the work in the community. Due to its rural location, the community is disappearing, and eventually it would appear that the church will ultimately close its doors. Yet the kingdom of heaven has come and gone in many locations in the world, and the contributions of each deserve to be recalled and remembered. As of 2020 the congregation no longer meets.

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