published Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Living 'foursquare for truth and virtue'

The church in East Tennessee was well established by the time the Rev. John Thompson Price came along in the last quarter of the 19th century, but the Civil War had literally torn individual congregations apart.

"Everything was destroyed in East Tennessee," said Ronald McClure, author of "Reverend John Thompson Price." "People didn't have much hope."

The young Cumberland Presbyterian preacher, first with another minister and later alone, helped revive congregations in the eastern part of the state and start new ones.

Price, who was raised in Marion County, met with groups of people in abandoned churches, in schoolhouses and wherever the interested might be willing, McClure said.

"He wanted to try to get people back together, to [revive] regular worship attendance," he said.

Among the areas Price visited, McClure wrote, were Brittsville, Birchwood, Georgetown, Evensville, Spring City, Dayton, Graysville, Coulterville, Daisy, Mowbray, Falling Water, Red Bank and Dunlap and other communities in Bradley, Hamilton, Meigs, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.

One story concerned a young woman dying of tuberculosis in Georgetown, which the author termed "a religiously dead town, especially the Cumberland Presbyterians they were ministering to."

When the preachers met her on her deathbed, she, instead, ministered to them, exhorting, "Jesus is a reality, and you are right in preaching that he is the Savior and you must go on in your work."

Among the Cumberland Presbyterian churches Price is credited with helping establish is Oak Grove, an existing congregation today in Marion County, in 1888, and Spring City in 1892.

McClure, a resident of Athens, Texas, wrote the book from the preacher's journals following a request from the preacher's great-great granddaughter, Garé Yeager.

He never knew Price, who moved to Texas in 1933 for the remainder of his ministry but died in 1951.

"He was way before my time," McClure said, "but I grew to respect him."

Price, the author said, may not have served large churches but made a difference in many small churches.

"He was very simple," McClure said. "He was never one [to deal with] anything modern."

The author also provides alphabetical lists of the hundreds of church weddings Price performed in Missouri 1921-1933 and in Texas 1938-43. Unfortunately, Price's journals didn't include those from his years in East Tennessee.

McClure lists the payment for each, which ranges from nothing to $10. Most were under $5, and for one he got a nickel.

"He must been a pretty busy fellow," he said.

Also included in the book are 15 letters Price wrote his wife, Nettie, an Evensville, Tenn., native, after her death in 1943.

"Maybe I did not appreciate you as much as I should have when you were here with me," he wrote a month after her death. ... Your company and counsel I enjoyed and depended upon during our 49 years that we walked and worked together. When I was sick you ministered to me in the kindest sort of way, and when I was blue you drove the blues away. ... I used to wonder if my sermons were not rather commonplace to you, but the look on your face indicated that you were interested, and that look was an inspiration to me."

The letters, said McClure, showed they had "a close relationship, that they depended on each other. They were like love letters."

Texas pastor Dr. Floyd Poe summed up Price's life in his funeral address, which is also included in the book.

"Yes, modern life went on by him and left him behind," he said of the Tennessee native. "Its pace was too swift. But life will always have to return to the things he held sacred. Time and custom can't permanently and successfully go by and forget the principles of such men ... They have not lived and died in vain who have stood foursquare for truth and virtue."

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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