Please let us know how to contact your Church Historian!
Welcome to the John Abernathy Smith Heritage Center (formally Archives and History) page! Methodists have long been meticulous record keepers, publishers of Christian materials, worshipers in historic churches, and difference-makers in the world. As such, the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences have an abundant and fascinating history.
There are two main organizations engaged in the preservation of the archives and history – The Commission on Archives and History, and the Tennessee Conference Historical Society. The Tennessee and Memphis Conference Archives are housed at the John Abernathy Smith Heritage Center, a museum and depository open to anyone interested in Methodist history in Tennessee. We would love for you to visit!
The John Abernathy Smith Heritage Center
520 Commerce Street, Suite 205
Hours: Monday, Thursday, and Friday 9 am – 2 pm
(researchers are requested to call for an appointment)
The Heritage Center is the home of records, written works, and objects of lasting historical value, that relate to the history of the Tennessee and Memphis Annual Conferences and antecedents. Due to of the role the conference plays as a center for publishing, the base for church agencies, and its’ original geographic area encompassing most lands west of the Appalachians, there are materials that are associated with many people and regions outside the present boundaries of the conferences.
Tennessee Commission on Archives and History (CAH)
The CAH consists of clergy and lay members, and is responsible for preserving the heritage of the conference through conservation and preservation of historical records, documents, publications, artifacts, and historic sites, and promoting that history and heritage as a ministry of the church. The current president of the Commission on Archives and History is Rev. Leland Carden.
The Conference Archivist is the director of the John Abernathy Smith Heritage Center and is appointed by the Commission on Archives and History. The Archivist is responsible for curating the conference archival holdings; assisting historians and individuals researching genealogy, local church history, denominational history, and general regional history; collaborating with church historians to research church history, and sharing conference and church history through presentations and social media. The current Conference Archivist is Gratia Strother. To visit the archives, call 615-601-1581, or email Gratia Strother.
The Conference Historian is appointed by the Commission on Archives and History. The Historian is generally responsible for researching and presenting a history of the conference, connected groups, Methodism, and the church in general, as well as assisting in the authoritative representation of these histories by others. The current Conference Historian is David Martin.
Tennessee Conference Historical Society
The Historical Society is a separate organization that works with the CAH. Methodists interested in conference history can join the Historical Society, and participate in programs and activities that carry out the history ministry of the church. The Historical Society executive board currently meets with the CAH. The current president of the Historical Society is David Martin. To join the Historical Society call 615-601-1581, or email email@example.com.
A Very Brief Timeline of the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences
- Initially formed as the Western Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1800, the Tennessee Conference consisted of all lands west of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
- The Western Conference was divided in 1812 into the Ohio (the territory north of the Ohio River) and Tennessee (lands south of the Ohio River) Conferences.
- The rapid growth of Methodism on the frontier, combined with the westward movement of an increasingly mobile nation, led to multiple sub-divisions of the Tennessee Conference—Illinois (1816), Indiana (1816), Arkansas (1816), Missouri (1816), Louisiana (1816), Mississippi (1816), Kentucky (1820), Holston (1824), Memphis (1840), and North Alabama (1870).