ROGERSVILLE — As some of you may know, I am the chairman of the Hawkins County church book that is being compiled by the Hawkins Co. Genealogical and Historical Society. I am currently working on these histories, and have been in touch and even visited some of you.
My friend, Tim Andrews, is a member of Ebbing & Flowing Spring United Methodist Church. Early last year, Tim planned to give me a private tour of the church so I could take photos for the church book. However, his dad became ill and we forgot about it. But, a few weeks ago while in Food City, Cleo Woods invited me to the upcoming singing.
Therefore, after my church service on June 23, I went to EFSUMC to get photos.
The fourth Sunday in June is designated for “Singing on the Lawn.” The Hawkins Co. Singing Convention had been held at EFSUMC since 1890 but had gotten too large for this location and in 1967 was moved. However, in 2011 the church decided to bring back the singing, so, they created “Singing on the Lawn” and invited singers from near and far to come and once again fill the afternoon with singing behind the beautiful little church. Two years ago, the church was unprepared for the huge crowd, and had to park vehicles in the woods between the trees.
This year, they were prepared. It was a beautiful, hot sunny day after the rain. When I arrived, a few people were there, but everyone was still setting up and doing those last-minute things. Mark Tyne, music director for EFSUMC, was helping Jim Bowman, Hale Vance, Reed Matney, and others perform all the sound checks for the microphones and speakers and getting all the musical instruments tuned. Jim Bowman’s shirt was soaking wet. Sweat dripped off his hair, face, and nose. Someone said he was drowning the sound system, but he kept going until the sound was perfect.
While waiting I explored the grounds. This is on the top of the hill up above the Ebbing & Flowing Spring. Trees were all around but the top of hill where the church sits is cleared. On the east side, there is a field of grass that rolls off down the hill, and a small cemetery in front of the church. When Fred Dimond first arrived as pastor seven years ago, he noticed that the church needed some serious maintenance. They selected Mark Tyne to do those repairs and additions to the church, and then he selected them. Mark added on to the front of the church, put in bathrooms, fixed the twisted and bent steeple, and installed a concrete and block foundation under the church. A new door is ready to replace the church’s damaged back door. I discovered the door leaning against a wall in a little old building with props on the side to keep it upright. I asked Doug Kirkpatrick about this building.
This little building was the original Ebbing & Flowing school and church from 1820-1899 until the present church was constructed. Educating children with Mary Beal being the teacher continued until 1956 when the county closed it for lack of pupils. The old slat benches from the church were in the middle of the room and desks over near the windows. The original black board was there and many books, one titled “How We Feed the World.” There was a coal bucket in the middle of the room, but someone had stolen the old pot-belly stove.
Only after the estate of Mary Beal Doty was settled did the church realize they owned approximately 3.2 acres including the old school/church building. Until then, they thought the church owned 100 feet all around the current church building which did not include the original church building. Since they now own the original Ebbing & Flowing Spring church, the members want to restore it. It needs almost everything – stabilizing, lap-siding, a roof and foundation, windows, and a part of the floor where apparently a ground hog chewed its way in. Anyone who would like to be part of this restoration is welcome, and all private contributions are appreciated. Apparently, some of the pupils are still around Rogersville. Maybe this little school house will bring back memories of a time when life was care-free and fun.
Singers, musicians, and performers came to make music once again at the Ebbing & Flowing Spring church grounds. Fred Dimond welcomed everyone, spoke from the Bible, and had prayer. Joe Williams and the Circuit Riders started the music singing songs made famous years ago, so we sang along.
After Joe Williams, Francis Beaver and Theron McCullough sang joyfully. He had a strong voice and part of the time he didn’t even use the microphone. Carson Peters & Iron Mountain were here from Piney Flats. When Carson was ten years old, Ricky Skaggs asked him to perform with his band Kentucky Thunder at the Grand Ole Opry, and since that day, Carson and Iron Mountain have performed there many times. So, it was a special treat for all of us. Each member is a talented singer and musician in their own right. Although Carson is only 15, he is a master fiddler, singer, guitar player, and performer.
There was Eric Marshall on the banjo and his son Ben on the bass fiddle. Jamie Peters, Carson’s dad plays guitar, and Austin Tate, who just turned 20, played the mandolin and sang with that ever-ready smile. We enjoyed watching them do what they obviously love, while singing “It’s Me, O LORD, Standing in the Need of Prayer.”
Then, from down near Bean Station, Ronnie, Donnie and Karen of Purkeys Family Gospel sang originals written by Donnie. Having already played backup with Joe Williams, Alex Lipe came on stage with his wife, Ellen, and sister, Laura Lipe Pearson. I told Archie and Linda Lipe, who were sitting near me, that they had to be proud of their family.
Betty Brennan, from Higher Ground in Kingsport, was giving away CD’s of her musical message. When she started singing, I was surprised by her unique voice. I have heard one person with a similar voice and that is Cher. Betty didn’t sing enough but gave part of her time to the Larry Lawson Family from Duffield, VA who sang “Echoes of Love.”
Charles Thomas from Whitesburg sang the old hymns and the Star-Spangled Banner – all the verses. Ken Yount brought out the flag. All stood. Hats came off, hand over each heart, and we sang along thankful for our heritage and freedom. Mark Tyne sang with his granddaughter Torie Walker a song that she wrote titled, “Lord, Please Forgive Us.” Finally, Jim Bowman & Country Classics got to sing and play several songs including, “I’ll Fly Away.” As the last notes faded away the sun was dipping into the west.
I met a lot of friendly people at the 2019 “Singing on the Lawn”, saw old friends, and took lots of photos. It was nice way to relax while enjoying the singing in this peaceful spot on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.