I’ve talked about the old Smith Presbyterian church on this blog a couple of times before. Tonight, while digging through the archives of the Harlan Daily Enterprise I found an article dedicated to that church! i attempted to screen shot it, but it still wasnt good enough to see, so I am going to re-type the article and add the photo.
By Castle Rock Smith
In the early days of the county the active preaching of Solomon Pope and Noble Burkhart made the upper reaches of Martins Fork, a Methodist stronghold. The first Presbyterian Sunday School at Smith was organized by my father J.L.Smith. It met in the log school building near where Board Branch flows into the river.
My most vivid recollection of the Sunday School when we lived at Smith, the year I was seven, was the energetic way Bascomb Burkhart sang hymns.
During the years Mr. Michael devoted to Smith he built a frame church with Sunday School rooms nearby, which served the community for a number of years.
In the late teens a community center was established by the Presbyterian board, with buildings near the Burkhart home. A number of young women came to serve at the station, and three of them became an intergal part of the community by marrying young men of Smith.
There was a deep place in the nearby Cranks Creek where the young people enjoyed swimming. One day Jenny Pace was about to drown and Marion Crawford, one of the workers at the mission went to her rescue. She succeeded in bringing Jenny to safety but upon reaching the shore, dropped dead herself.
The Crawford family gave $5,000 toward building a church in Marion’s memory.
Many others contributed toward this end and the result was the gray stone chapel on it’s grassy Knoll. The attractive gray stone chapel facing beautiful Smith Valley with the sweep of the Cumberland Mountains as a backdrop.
This enchanting — almost out of a storybook– building on the knoll became the much loved church home for the Smith neighborhood. Many funerals have been held here. Many children have studied and frolicked at vacation bible schools and many men have preached here.
One of the men who has devoted years of time and effort to the spiritual life of the community is Rev. Boaz Smith, who married Jenny Pace.
Interesting that two of the men who had such a strong influence on the religious life of the community were Smiths, though not related to the Smiths of the valley.
Dr. Thomas Smith an Optomologist at the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital preached here for a three year period and is highly regarded by the community. He has commented on the ecumenical situation at Smith; a Presbyterian Church with a largely Methodist Congregation, using Baptist literature in the Sunday School and pastored by a member of the Church of Christ.
Truly the one God was the Lord of all in one of the gems of his handiwork, Smith Valley.
But this Eden has had its troubles. In the 40’s something went wrong with the heating system and services were held in the nearby consolidated school. Many people were not happy away from their church. Mary Smith Ledford, and David Nathan Smith undertook to clean up the building. A tremendous job, while not in use it had been vandalized. Chairs and tables had to be replaced in the basement Sunday School rooms.
Services were moved back to the church. Dr. Burkhart and Lee Ledford SR reroofed and painted the building. Things were going well again. Then came what seemed to be the day of doom. A dam was to be constructed that would flood the lovely, historic Smith Valley and the water level would be higher than the knoll.
And again there was heating trouble, so the building was abandoned once more. Now standing, a sand monument to past memories, with everything in it stolen that could be moved, even the plaque giving the names of donors and the date the building stood, waiting to be bulldozed into oblivion.
The members of the church, under the impression that the money paid for the building by the government was theirs, had called a meeting for the purpose of dividing up the money among the churches in the area.
A laudable intent, but Lee Ledford JR, raised the question of their right to dispose of the money, and on investigation they learned that Presbyterian Church buildings belong to the Presbytery.
The Ledfords now proposed a happy solution. Why not preserve the building by moving it to higher ground? The Transylvania Presbytery agreed to use the money for that purpose and the Government granted permission to occupy the land on a higher knoll nearby. Mr. Asher, a man in Harlan who had moved buildings in Harlan, including a church was contracted to do the job.
With a number of jacks, all operated simultaneously by air pressure, the building was slowly and delicately lifted and steel beams placed under it every few feet. Then numerous dollies moved into place. Its solid stone walls made it the heaviest building Mr. Asher had ever moved and the most difficult because it had to be kept level while going up a considerable grade, which had been well prepared in advance. Special equipment had to be obtained to keep the building level.
One observer of the moving noted that, despite the combination of a heavy and at the same time meticulously careful operation, he never he never heard an oath. Mr. Asher is an active churchman in Middlesboro and his crew is a demonstration that a difficult job can be performed without swearing. Very fitting that such a crew have charge of moving a church.
At this writing the building is still resting on the steel beams that kept it intact. Trussed high above the ground, waiting for the foundation on which it will be lowered, as carefully as it was raised.
It will be quite a different, but charming location, surrounded by woods, immediately west of the cemetery. A road from the relocated highway curves around the cemetery to the church.
A dedication service will be held when the landscaping is complete, probably about September.
The Ledford’s had converted a basement room of their home into an attractive chapel, where services will continue to be held pending the day the little congregation returns to it’s home.