Sunday school-9:45 a.m.
Prayer Group- 10:00 a.m.
Bible Study- 10:30 a.m.
LOGOS- 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Chancel Choir- 7:30 p.m.
of the Rogersville Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Charles Coffin was a New Englander who came south in 1800 to be vice president of Greeneville College. He was originally a Congregationalist but transferred to the Presbyterian Church when he cam south. As early as March 1803 he preached at Hawkins Court House, then a log structure near the site of the present First Baptist Church. Mr. Coffin's diary records that from July 1805 he preached regularly at Rogersville and "Armstrong Settlement" as he always calls New Providence. He gave a sixth of his time to each church; his diary gives the payment of his salary and names some of his elders. But Mr. Coffin belonged to Union Presbytery and his two Hawkins County charges were in Abingdon. Union Minutes in 1807 say: "Ordered that Mr. Coffin continue to supply where his prudence my direct him." In 1808 Mr. Coffin relinquished his charges here. In 1810 he became president of Greeneville College; in 1827 president of East Tennessee College (now the University of Tennessee).
Thus in June 1816, when the Rev. James Gallaher accepted a call to Rogersville and New Providence, the name of this church first appears in the Abingdon minutes. Mr. Gallaher reported the next year that Rogersville had 23 communicants and that he had baptized 19 children and two adults. He preached at the Courthouse and at McMinn Academy until 1824, when a brick church was erected on Front (now Washington) Street. Mr. Gallaher left in 1830 for Cincinnati; his missionary tours, his Calvinistic Magazine, his “Western Sketch-Book” made him nationally known. Eight years later, during the pastorate of the Rev. James Adair Lyon, on October 14, 1838, the Rogersville Church split asunder in to Old School and New School Churches—the First and Second Presbyterian Churches of Rogersville.
In 1840 a part of the congregation known as the Second Presbyterian Church, or New School, erected the building in which we worship today. The land was deeded by Stokely D. Mitchell.
Recriminations flew back and forth in the pamphlet warfare that led up to the split and lawsuits followed. For forty-three years there were two churches in Rogersville. The War of Secession brought on more difficulties, as the New School churches went generally into the Northern Assembly. Yet there were Southern sympathizers in the New School Church as well as Northern sympathizers in the Old School Church. A general reshuffling took place and the Rev. John J. Robinson left his pulpit at the Second Church to assume the vacant chair at the Old School one, taking two of his elders and part of his congregation with him.
Among the pastors of the Old School Church were Dr. James Park, later pastor for fifty years at the First Church, Knoxville; and Dr. Jonathan W. Bachman, pastor for an equal period at the First Church, Chattanooga. Both Dr. Park and Dr. Bachman were president of the Female College at Rogersville during their stay here. Outstanding in the New School Church was the Rev. Samuel Sawyer, a northern man and an outstanding evangelist. Both the Northern and Southern Churches were active and ministered to by capable men.
It is most remarkable that the two churches were able to unite on August 26, 1881, so soon after the bitterness of the War. By prearrangement, the side losing their Assembly chose the church building. By a vote of 106 to 42 the Southern Assembly was chosen. The united church removed to the New School building and chose the Northern Church pastor, the Rev. Samuel V. McCorkle, who entered the Southern Church with his former congregation.
The female institute established by the Independent Order of Oddfellows in 1849 soon came under Presbyterian control and from 1882 was known as the Rogersville Synodical College. Its early presidents were usually ministers and through them the school was closely indentified with the Church. The rolls of the two Presbyterian churches in Rogersville are filled with names of students from all over the south who began their religious life at the Rogersville Synodical College.
A large part of the strength down through the years of the Rogersville Presbyterian Church grew from the quality of its lay leadership. Ruling elders of the caliber of Dr. Joseph Rogers Walker, Judge Hugh G. Kyle, Mr. A.B. Rogan and Mr. A. W. Maine are not found in every congregation.
The women of the church have always played an active part in the work of the church. First through the Missionary Society, then through the Women’s Auxiliary and later through the Women of the Church. The Synodical of the Northern Presbyterian Church was organized in Rogersville in 1873 at the home of Mrs. Wm. Simpson. Mrs. W.K. Armstrong was the second President of the Appalachian Synodical which was organized in 1915, and was the first woman ever elected on the General Assembly’s Executing Committee of Foreign Missions. Members of the congregation have left their imprint of Christian leadership in business and political life far beyond the bounds of Hawkins County.
The Sunday school has been a vital party of the life and education of the church throughout its history. Today there are 86 members on the roll.
Throughout the full history of the church there has been a strong feeling of the Great Commission- “Go ye into all the world.” The early ministers went on evangelistic tours which resulted in the organization of churches in many communities. In more recent years there has been strong support of denominational benevolences including both Home and Foreign Missions. Within the confines of Hawkins County and largely through the leadership provided by the Rogersville Church the following churches were organized: Liberty Hill, Mooresburg, New Salem, Liberty, West Ridge and Church Hill. Liberty Presbyterian Church in the St. Clair Community is the only one still active.
In 1926 the sanctuary of the present building underwent extensive remodeling and an educational building was added to the structure. Today the physical plant is pressed to meet the needs of the growing congregation. A new brick manse was built on the west of the church in 1960.
Both the cemetery adjoining the original church on Washington Street and the one just east of the present building are maintained by the congregation. Within the boundaries of these two plots lie the earthly remains of three former ministers, the Rev. George A. Mathes, Rev. Frank McCutchan, D.D., and Rev. Nathan Shotwell, D.D., and others who have labored long and well in the service of their Lord.
Today the church membership stands at 223—including 176 active members and 47 inactive members. We have several young families and we depend upon our younger members to a great degree for leadership and an enthusiastic and vigorous spirit. A larger percentage of our members are over retirement age and many members have died during the past 25 years. As the younger members of our congregation take on more and more responsibility of both financial support and leadership of the church, we pray that the future of this congregation will be one of growth so that our outreach in the community and in the world—can equal, and even surpass, that of our past.
The Rogersville Presbyterian Church has been a vital part of this community for two hundred years. This celebration has brought into focus our legacy from the past, our gratitude to God for his sustaining care, and the privilege that is ours to make our contributions to the on-going of His kingdom.