I recently came across a listing of nine churches in Johnson City in 1908, which was three years after the devastating downtown fire. The find reveals a lot of key information about these places of worship:
Recently, I wrote about a grievous fire on May 5, 1905 that decimated the businesses in the rectangular block between E. Main, Spring, Jobe and Roan streets. The amazing occurrence was when flames approached the wooden "Little White Church," but then made an abrupt diversion from it leaving the building unscathed. Many people saw it as a miracle of God.
In 1928, two evangelists came to Johnson City to lead pre-announced revivals. The first one was Winston-Salem, North Carolina evangelist, Edward Fraser, who arrived on September 13 with a sermon he titled, “Weeds – Spiritual and Physical.” He rented land for his tent meeting on East Market Street opposite the Colonial Hotel (at about the location of today’s Colonial Way, see attached photo).
On Friday, March 26, 1909, Munsey Memorial M.E. Church South began a new venture that they named Munsey Club. According to J.O. Lewis, secretary of the city’s Commercial Club, several pieces of workout equipment were acquired. They included popular Whitley exercisers that were attached to the walls at regular intervals, dumbbells, punching bags and Indian clubs.
An old diary that I kept in 1957 shows this entry for Feb. 10: “Today, the Preaching Mission starts out at the college.” That brief memoir reminded me of the annual February event that I attended at ETSU’s Memorial Gym for several years in the 1950s.
I have many fond memories of patronizing Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church’s now defunct swimming pool and adjacent snack bar in the 1950s. It was the only indoor public pool in town, which meant you could go there year round. The cost was a mere $.50 an hour. I learned to swim at this pool from an instructor who wore a bathing suit but never got in the water, opting instead to tutor us from poolside.
Last February, I wrote about the tri-city Preaching Mission that faithfully came to Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol annually in February for an 8-day convention between 1955 and 1986. Recently, I located supplementary material about it.
Wallace Britton, historian of Central Baptist Church, is working with the church’s massive archival collection for inclusion into a forthcoming book. Britton served as Minister of Education and Administration at the church from mid 1960 until late 1967. He credits the late Lona Holtz Akard, the church’s life-long historian, for archiving the church’s anthology.