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Lewis Co, TN:
History of the
Kimmins Church of Christ

Submitted by Patsy Riley Hinson, April 20, 2004

     Writing the history of the Kimmins Church of Christ tugs at my heart and I relish my connection with those wonderful men and women who dedicated themselves to living honest, loving, and caring lives through the years. They nurtured the values of hard work, determination and an absolute commitment to truthfulness. Memories from the past bring new revelation to a time and place that influenced the shaping of our lives just as surely as strokes from a brush change the canvas of an artist. These dear and proud Christians left their heart prints and brush strokes on all of us.

     Thanks to Sherrel O’Guin, Earlie Mae Henley Skelton, Eliese O’Guin Skelton, Richard Hinson, Jr., and much research, a window to the past has been opened to a vast storehouse of memories that will touch each of you as you walk down memory lane with me.

     Joseph Kimmins was born on a ship between Ireland and New York. He married Margaret Cooper of Virginia and they moved to North Carolina where all their children were born. The family moved from North Carolina to Bedford County, Tennessee sometime between 1807 and 1810 and later to Hickman County, Tennessee. The place near Aetna Furnace where they settled in Hickman County came to be called “Kimmins” taking its name from the family. This was where the first railroad in Hickman County was built. Thus Kimmins, Tennessee was born. In Private Acts dated 1897 Chapter No. 270, the line dividing the counties of Hickman and Lewis were changed as to include within the County of Lewis the area of Kimmins, Tennessee. The Community now nestles in the extreme northern portion of Lewis County Tennessee. In early 1920, 1930, and 1940 this community was a hub of activity with 3 stores, a livery stable, 2 hotels, and trains that came and went twice daily.

     On July 27, 1905, J.T. Ashton and wife, Mary A. Ashton bargained and sold one acre of land, more or less, to the Directors of the Kimmins School Property to be used for school purposes and also for a free church house.

     In the ensuing years this schoolhouse not only served the Kimmins Community as a learning center for their children, but also was used as a meeting place for several churches. Early on in 1909, 1910, 1911, and 1912, Union Sunday School met each Sunday in this building. Ed Quillen, who lived in the Kimmins Community, found a record of students, officers, and teachers in an old diary. His son, Terry Quillen, willingly shared this information with me. Many denominations used this building including the Methodist and Baptist, and also, the Church of Christ. Singing schools were held and the Kimmins Community would take part. Earlie Mae Henley Skelton remembers a preacher from Dickson that would ride the train to Kimmins on Saturday, spend the night with her parents, preach on Sunday, then catch the train back to Dickson.

     The Kimmins School House became the permanent meeting place for the Kimmins Church of Christ around 1917 or 1918 when George Washington and Melvina Gunter O’Guin moved to Kimmins. In 1919 they purchased property across the road from the schoolhouse. This small and slim man, with a distinguished mustache, seemed to accept the challenge of guiding this small church and it’s members. Members attending in November of 1921 were Bell Anderson, Earlie Jane (Babe) Anderson (grandmother of Earlie Mae Henley Skelton), W.J. Edwards, R.H. (Dick) Henley, Viola Morrison Henley, (parents of Earlie Mae Henley Skelton), Lettie Lee Henley, Ethel Ghist Lynch, (mother of Bob Lynch, grandmother of Eliese O’Guin Skelton; great grandmother of Connie Skelton Cannon and Steve Skelton), Mollie Horner Lynch, (grandmother of Bob Lynch; great grandmother of Eliese O’Guin Skelton; great-great grandmother of Connie Skelton Cannon and Steve Skelton), P.R. Loveless, Minnie Loveless, (P.R. was the great uncle of Earlie Mae Henley Skelton), George Washington O’Guin, Melvina Gunter O’Guin, (great grandparents of Patsy Riley Hinson), Robert L. O’Guin, Aura Brown O’Guin, (parents of Sherrel O’Guin, grandparents of Eliese O’Guin Skelton, great grandparents of Connie Skelton Cannon and Steve Skelton), and Gabriel Stamps. George Washington O’Guin died March 21, 1928, but these good people carried on. Hard times during the depression did not stop this small band of Christians as they labored to keep the church alive and growing.

     On a busy school day in the spring of 1938, Mr. Howell Edwards (teacher) dismissed school early because he could see a dark cloud and felt that bad weather was eminent. Soon after during a terrible thunderstorm lightening struck the bell tower of this one room building and the Kimmins School became a heap of metal, dust, and ashes. Elsie Riley Rochelle remembers being dismissed early and walking to the huge, old General Mercantile Store (the Wal-Mart of that time). They heard a loud pop and thunder, walked upstairs and watched through a window as fire and smoke engulfed their school building. Layers of memories were stolen away that day. The once proud school building lay in ruins. The community was left with no building for a school or church.

     Not to be beaten, these Christians abounded with what ever means they could and found that church did not consist of a building, but its members were the church. The front porch of R.H. Henley (father of Earlie Mae Henley Skelton) became the meeting place at times until a suitable building could be located to hold church services.

     The community of Kimmins had in its midst a very crude oblong building owned by the Kimmins Sweet Potato Association. This building was used to store sweet potatoes in the winter. Owners of this association included J. O. Lynch, H. R. Henley, Ezra O’Guin, W. O. Lynch, G. C. McClearen, Irvin Grinder, Joe D. Riley, A. B. Nicholson, R. H. Edwards, and L. E. McClearen. The owners of the Sweet Potato Association sold the building to the Kimmins Church of Christ around 1938, although, the deed was not recorded until 1944. Finding all the owners of the Sweet Potato Association and getting signatures proved to be a large task. Several of these men were members of the Kimmins Church of Christ. J.O. Lynch (father of Bob Lynch; grandfather of Eliese O’Guin Skelton; great-grandfather of Connie Skelton Cannon and Steve Skelton), H.R. Henley (father of Earlie Mae Henley Skelton), and R.L. (Bob) O’Guin, (father of Sherrel O’Guin, grandfather of Eliese O’Guin Skelton; great grandfather of Connie Skelton Cannon and Steve Skelton) were the trustees of the church.

     This crude building along with just enough land for parking was tucked between the public road (now New Kimmins Road) and the railroad tracks. Earlie Mae Henley Skelton recalls the cleaning that took place to ready the building for church services. These dedicated members, including Irvin and Della Riley Grinder (Della was the aunt of Patsy Riley Hinson), eagerly donated hours of loving labor to this project. Sawdust was used to insulate the sweet potatoes and wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of sawdust was removed before the building could be used. Two doors were located in the front of the building with wooden steps leading to the ground. During the early forties this old, gray, clapboard building was heated with a wood stove located in the middle of the room. Three windows located on each side of the building let nature’s sunlight in during the day and coal oil lamps found their home on shelves placed on the walls around the room to be used at night services. During the hot days of summer coolness was generated by opening the windows for nature’s air-conditioning along with hand held fans donated by McDonald Funeral Home or some local politician. Mr. H. R. Henley (Earlie Mae Henley Skelton’s father) rang the dinner bell located on a post outside the church building to let the Kimmins Community know that it was church time. Two young men (Mr. Henley’s son, Ralph and Nesby Riley)(husband of Paresada Skelton Riley and father of Patsy Riley Hinson) decided it would be incredibly funny if the bell was turned upside down and filled with water. Dressed in his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes including his starched white shirt, Mr. Henley was given a shower as he pulled the bell over to ring. Needless to say, he had to walk across the railroad tracks to his home and find some dry clothes to put on. During the forties the old building found a new skin of brown brick siding, the newest up-to-date siding for that era.

     The railroad tracks proved to be entertainment for the children. As soon as church was dismissed, the young children made a b-line for the tracks to see who could walk the farthest distance without falling off. Located directly across the road from the church was the McClearen Sawmill. The sawmill was owned by George and Way McClearen and provided jobs for numerous men in the Kimmins Community. Parents warned their children that this was no place for them to play. The sawdust could prove to be very dangerous.

     Early on, preachers were scarce. J. O. Lynch read the Bible, offered prayer, offered the Lord’s Supper, and had the dismissal prayer. Very few men attended and/or took a public part in the service at that time. After church services were over Mr. Henley would “gather up” the money and took care of it. At various times Lillian Lynch Prince, Edith Lynch Pace, and Maude Skelton Riley led singing seated from their pew when no male song leaders were present.

     Eliese O’Guin Skelton recalls her grandmother, Ethel Lynch, carried a little wicker basket with wire handles to church. It held freshly laundered cloths for the communion table, a little jar of home-canned grape juice (with one glass for all) and a little loaf of unleavened bread she had baked in her wood burning stove oven. The bread was very thin. She made little checks in it with a knife before baking. Even at a young age, Eliese knew that this was very special. Herbert Henley (brother of Early Mae Henley Skelton) bought the first communion trays for the church.

     Meetings were held with a visiting preacher staying with members of the congregation for a week and sometimes longer. Bob and Aura O’Guin, H.R. and Viola Henley and Sherrel and Mable O’Guin were the Holiday Inn’s of that day. Their homes were opened many, many times for these preachers. Families would always help out by inviting the visiting preacher for supper before the church services started at night. The waters of Ashton Branch and Cane Creek were used for baptizing. Later, Flatrock and Hohenwald Church of Christ had an indoor baptistery. These churches were more than happy to share their baptistery with our small church.

     In the early fifties, this brown brick sided building gave birth to a new concrete front porch with four metal scrolled supports and concrete steps. Members and their families would congregate after services under this porch. It provided a wonderful location to mingle. Without even realizing it these Christians were following the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. People love a warm hug, a genuine handshake, or just a friendly pat on the back. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. That is as true today as it was in the early beginning of the Kimmins Church of Christ. Women would rise early and start their dinner (not lunch) and it was not unusual to be invited home with a family to share a meal. Going out to eat at a restaurant on Sunday was not the normal thing to do in that era.

     “Welcome Church of Christ” was proudly displayed over the two doors. Old-fashioned screen doors were on the outside of the doors. Two new classrooms were added on the back of the church. Before these classrooms were added, all classes were held in one room. The right side of the church was the adult class, left side, teenagers. Front left corner pre teen and in the very back a children’s class was held. Miss Ethel Daniel, a very proper and caring woman, taught the teenagers. Mr. Sherrel O’Guin taught the adult class. Mrs. Ethel Lynch taught the pre-teen class. The children’s class was taught using small cards with a bible story, scripture and a picture on the front. Della Riley Grinder (aunt of Patsy Riley Hinson) kept some of those cards stored away in an old trunk. We were so grateful the family shared a few of them with us. What a treasure! New white siding was added to the building and modern electricity came into being. A warm morning heater furnished gas heat. What a change! Maxine Hinson Skelton (sister of Richard Hinson, Jr.) kept the building clean by sweeping it once a week and was paid a whopping twenty-five cents. 

     On February 15, 1978, for the sum of $5,500.00 dollars, approximately 5 acres was purchased from C.A. Tutor and wife Lerah Tutor by S.B. O’Guin (father of Eliese O’Guin Skelton), Nesby Riley (husband of Paresada Skelton Riley, father of Patsy Riley Hinson), Richard Dorning and Richard Hinson, Jr., trustees of the Kimmins Church of Christ. In September 1982, a building moving company lifted the old potato house up off its’ foundation, backed their equipment under it and moved it ever so slowly about a quarter of a mile to it’s present location. Mr. Sherrel O’Guin followed along as the building was moved bringing to mind The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament as it was transported from one location to another. A new classroom was added to the church building along with a supply room to store the copier. Two new bathrooms were built with a foyer and an honest to goodness water fountain. Brick was added to the front of the building and cream colored siding encased the church like a cocoon. Central heat and air was also added. A carport was built on the side of the church to be used as a drop off. Since that move in 1982, a paved parking lot sits at attention just waiting to be filled with vehicles. An annex was built that included a baptistery and two bathrooms with a picnic area attached to the side of the annex. This picnic area had a concrete floor and covered roof with built-in tables down the center to accommodate all the food. Moveable benches and tables, built by J. W. (Willie) Skelton (husband of Earlie Mae Henley Skelton) were located on each side of the picnic area. In 2003, to the delight of the ladies of the congregation, this picnic area was transformed into a fully furnished kitchen. The congregation has enjoyed many meals at this new facility. The ladies have also served meals to families who have lost loved ones, and provided a place for families to gather for family reunions, wedding showers, and baby showers. How fitting that this piece of property once belonged to Irvin and Della Riley Grinder, Robert L. (Bob) and Aura Brown O’Guin, and Sherrel and Mable O’Guin. Memory lives on in their descendants who still attend the Kimmins Church of Christ.

     The fourth Sunday of each month is youth day. On Sunday night the young men are given the opportunity to lead songs, offer prayers, and Bible readings, thus giving encouragement to the leaders of tomorrow.

     Some of the male song leaders through the years were Nesby Riley (husband of Paresada Skelton Riley, father of Patsy Riley Hinson), Elbert Lynch (brother of Bob Lynch), Richard Dorning, Tommy Joe Skelton (husband of Eliese O’Guin Skelton and father of Connie Skelton Cannon and Steve Skelton). Currently Richard Hinson, Jr., Steve Skelton, Ed Cannon, and Alan Cannon share in leading singing.

     Kimmins Church of Christ has been known throughout the brotherhood as being supportive of young men starting out in the ministry. Many students from Freed Hardeman and David Lipscomb College preached at Kimmins. Randy Daughtry, David Lipscomb College student (nephew of Shirley Hinson), was one of the churches’ favorite young preachers. Another was David Thompson from David Lipscomb. A number of other preachers, some who preached on a regular basis and others who held meetings included: Banto Gunter, John Lancaster, B.B. James, Riley Moore, Carmack Skelton, Carlos Gunter, Grady Campbell, Roger Banks, William “Bill” Jackson, Tom McLemore, Oliver Pantall, Ronnie Ray, Hollis Horner, Carlos Ammons, Elvis Williams, Cordell Holloway, Sidney Dye, Joe Griner, Curtis Posey, Brown Grover, Jerry Barber, Glen Mayfield, L.C. Loveless, Charlie Duncan, Jess Curry, Noel Meredith, Gene Durham, Wayne Baker, Jerry Durham, Patrick Hinson (a student of Freed Hardeman University), and Johnny Clayton. Johnny Clayton has been with the congregation over a year at this writing.

     Picturesque, our church can be seen along Charles McClearen Road here in Kimmins, Tennessee. A 100 plus year old large red oak tree guards the property like a soldier who stands at attention in Washington, D.C. at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The church has been humbled by time and is filled with meaning and memories. Let us not forget our beginning in that old school house and remember that the center portion of our church is still “the old potato house”.

     We have been nourished by a harvest planted by those who came before us, where faults and failings of humanity were forgiven under the sweet mantle of God’s loving grace. Let us keep the circle unbroken and tell the old stories. Let us share the wisdom of experience and plant the seeds of tolerance, caring, and compassion that will yield their bounty long after we have gone. Let us teach and by teaching learn, and a quote from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, “Live in peace with each other”.

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This page was created pm 26 April 2004 and last updated on  Thursday, August 13, 2015.