Celebrating Black History - Love for God keeps church growing
Col. Bob Smith, Special to The Press
Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 12:00 pm
The family love for God has kept this small congregation together lo these many years. Families like the Phelps, Parhams, Clemons, Milligans, Smiths, the Pigues of Martin – Jack and Mary who is now Mrs. Burks. She was honored this year on her 100-year birthday. She has a granddaughter, Zella Richardson, who is president of our church choir today.
Miles Chapel has served as a place where the farmers picked up farm workers to pick cotton, pull corn, dig sweet potatoes, haul hay and landscape. These men used only picks, shovels and garden rakes.
Some of our first pastors’ pay was so small, they had to do some of these jobs in order to survive.
“Uncle” Frank Cox of this church laid the first water lines in this, our city of Martin, Tenn.
“Uncle” Johnnie Burdette made cornmeal for Stafford Milling Co. until he was too old. Then, Pap Stafford gave him the job of house boy. Little did he do but feed the chickens, help in the garden, freeze ice cream in season and do whatever he wanted to.
The reason I used the word “Uncle,” is I want the younger folk to know what my uncle told me. He said, “Some whites would call you ‘boy’ until you were 80, then they would call you ‘Uncle’ in order to show respect.”
Grover Bushy and his wife, who were members at Miles Chapel, were very helpful in carrying black families to Lansing, Mich., every homecoming, which is the third weekend in August.
He would give the men jobs on his construction crew and the wives jobs as cooks, housekeepers, teachers and others for a way to be self-supporting.
Ballard Phelps and his wife, Callie were members of Miles Chapel.
Phelps was a N.C.S.L. Railroad worker. He was a hymn-singing, prayer-praying, spike-driving man and kept a brand new car, but only drove it to church on Sundays.
Oscar Phelps was song leader at Miles Chapel for years.
Max Sandford was also a singer. He would hold his right ear when he sang. Why? No one ever knew.
Another singer would come from Memphis every spring, fall and winter and sing for a week each time. He was called “Professor Twiggs.”
He was joined by Bro. Dave Williams of Milan and Daniel Glass of Jackson. Professor Twiggs made “When I Take My Vacation In Heaven” famous. This was Rev. O.B. Wynn’s theme song.
Other great singers were Geo Arbuckle, Bethel Smith, Ruthie M. Smith and Mildred Phelps. Other choir members were Arbra Patton, Justine Milan and daughter Mary Ann, Morine Arnold, Wilsie Fulton, Maggie Caton, Alberta Smith, Bethel Smith, Georgia Milligan, Elenora Mitchell, Bob Smith, Aaron Bonds, Cinthia Bonds Hopson, Ima Hopson, pianist Henderson Cauldwell and from the UT Martin Music Department Mitchell B. Southall.
Miles Chapel’s Soulairs young adult choir members were Zella Richardson, president Jerene Moody (he was also a UT Martin student), pianist and director April and Sherrie Patton, Belinda Brooks, Valerie Hobson, Mary and Maria Milan, Bryan Diggs, Earnest Evans and Steve Crutchfield.
These were some of the voices of Miles Chapel Church and some still sing there today.
Thursday we will remember some of our early pastors and early members who made significant contributions to our house of worship.