by Ernest Clevenger, Jr.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BNc) — The Restoration booklet, A History of the Cowart Street Church of Christ, Chattanooga, TN, published in 1972, and compiled by Ernest A. Clevenger, Sr., has been edited and reissued by Ernest Clevenger, Jr.

Cowart Street was the mother church in Chattanooga, established in 1886.

The 37 page booklet has been converted into a PDF e-Book. It contains informative articles by early members, a roll call of men, many well-known, who preached for the church, an article about finding preachers locally, and several narratives of families who made up the church.

Cowart Street was responsible for the establishment of more than a dozen of the congregations in the Chattanooga area. It lost its property to freeway construction in 1958.

This Restoration history e-Book can be downloaded free.



  1. My great grandparents are W.B. Shockley and Musa Case. I suppose that makes us related, Brother Clevenger. I enjoyed reading the e-book.

    1. My Daddy, Raymond Leonard, knew some Shockley’s from . Tom Shockley and he were old friends and both attended Cowart Street.

    It was a beautiful fall Sunday morning in the year of 1901 when my father, Dr. Leonard Case, took my brother, Hubert, and me to Cowart Street Church of Christ for the first time after moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I was nine years old, and Hubert was five.
    I shall never forget what he said to us as we reached the building. He said, “Children, if the Bible is right this church is the right one, and we know the Bible is right.” The meeting house was a frame building with two aisles. At the end of each aisle was a cast iron pot-bellied stove. The building was lighted by kerosene lamps which were later replaced with gas. The gas meter was installed in the entrance, and a quarter was dropped in the meter to pay for the gas we used.
    There were four or five classes in the auditorium, as class rooms had not been added when I first attended Cowart Street. I was taken to Miss Essie Roberts’ class which was the first two or three benches at the right of the auditorium as one entered the building. There were two or three benches of children there that day. The children that I remember were OIlie and Mae Porter, Leona and Nell Pursley, Gertie Gribble, May Kerr, and May Bell Rutherford.
    Cowart Street was the only true church in Chattanooga at that time, and the members were scattered all over the city. I remember a Bro. Lawson who walked from East Chattanooga every Sunday and was never late. Bro. Roberts from Hill City (now North Chattanooga) was the preacher and also father of Miss Essie, my teacher.
    The first Christmas I was there Miss Essie gave each of us in her class a sterling silver shoe horn or a shoe hook. I received a shoe hoot which I kept for many years.
    After my father passed away in 1905 I walked to church many times with Miss Annie Laura Hill and her father, Bro. A. R. Hill, who was also a gospel preacher. Bro. F. B. Srygley held a meeting in May, 1906 and I attended every night. On May 3, 1906 I was baptized by Bro. Srygley.
    It was not long after this time that another congregation was established in a different location of the city. As our crowds increased at Cowart Street another congregation would be started in another part of the city, and the church then had several congregations in various communities in Chattanooga. I remember when Red Bank church was organized a brother said to Bro. Ike Jacobs that Red Bank was one church Cowart Street could not claim as one of her children. He replied, “No, but it is about time Cowart Street was having some grandchildren!”
    I also remember the first prayer meetings to be held at Cowart Street. Bro. Porter Ramsey (if I remember correctly) tried very hard to get them started on Wednesday night. Once there were so few, Bro. Ramsey became disheartened and suggested we go back home. Sister J. E. Thomas spoke up and said, “No, we have just met the promise,” referring to the scripture that says, “…where two or three are gathered together in my name…”
    There are many memories I hold dear about the church on Cowart Street. One I love to think of is that all five of my children and two of my grandchildren were baptized there. My son, Lonnie Blackwell, preached his first sermon in that pulpit in 1937. My eldest daughter, L’nita was also married there. We also had many of the best preachers in the brotherhood to hold our meetings. A few I remember were Bro. Howard (Bud) Sutton, F. B. Srigley, F. W. Smith, Price Bllingsley, T. B. Larrimore, Bro. Floyd, Bro. Jernigan, E. A. Elam, S. H. Hall, G. C. Brewer, R. C. White and Cowart Street’s last meeting held by C. R. Nichol.
    Bro. Nichol was a member of Cowart Street in 1889 or 1890. He left to enter Nashville Bible School in Nashville which was founded by Bro. David Lipscomb. Bro. T. E. Tatum was the preacher who taught Bro. Nichol the Bible way to do mission work and the error of instrumental music in the worship. Bro. C. R. Nichol was attending Walnut Street Christian Church, and they sent him to Cowart Street to invite the congregation, especially the young folk, to one of the missionary meetings to be held at Walnut Street. Bro. Tatum asked him what he wished to speak to the church about, and upon being told he took Bro. Nichol to one side and taught him more perfectly, and Bro. Nichol worshipped at Cowart Street until he entered Nashville Bible School.
    I spent many happy days and some sad ones at Cowart Street, but the saddest day was when we had to sell our building to the City for the Freeway. Our last sermon was preached at Cowart Street on Sunday, May 18, 1958, but Bro. Joe Weir. So after 72 years of continuous meetings our doors were closed at Cowart Street. On the next Wednesday night a little more than 40 met at our new location – 1901 Foust Street – for our first service. Bro. Joe Weir who was our preacher and teacher of the Wednesday night class conducted our first service on May 21, 1958 in the new building. Thus Cowart Street transferred to Foust Street. I continued to worship at Foust Street until a year after the death of my husband. I went to live with my daughter, Vivian, and her husband in October, 1962 in Rome, Georgia.

    (signed Musa C. Shockley)
    Musa Case Shockley
    Mrs. Shockley was the daughter of an elder and physician, the wife of an elder, and the mother of an elder and a preacher.