This photograph of the 1908 Isom’s Chapel church structure was taken in the 1940’s.
One of Limestone County’s widely known rural churches had its beginning in a cabinetmaker’s workshop. Emanuel Isom organized the Methodist Church that is named for him in 1846. It was located on the Mooresville Road east of Athens, Alabama and was organized under the direction of John Nichols, a Methodist minister, who lived in Athens at that time.
There were eighteen charter members, most of whom were members of the Isom family. They were Emanuel (who was the great-great grandfather of some of the present members), John, Jim, William, Bryant, and Sylvester, all of whom were brothers. The sisters were Lucinda, Adeline, Mary Ann, Meade and a half-sister, Ursulia.
Since the eighteen charter members had no house of worship or any other building in which to meet, Isom, who was a cabinetmaker, offered his workshop as a temporary meeting place. The workshop stood approximately 500 yards south of where the present building now stands. Services were held there for about six years.
Membership of the church grew from the original eighteen to fifty the first three years. By 1890, the membership had increased considerably with sixty-seven of the congregation coming from the Isom family.
In 1852 Emanuel Isom, who owned a land grant, gave one acre of land for a church site. The first church was constructed on this site from logs that Isom himself cut and hewed from his nearby woods. The Monroe Isom family is buried on the location where the log structure stood.
The log structure housed the church until 1884, when the members built the first frame building, which stood on the south side of our cemetery. This building stood until 1908 when another sanctuary was constructed. Services were conducted in this building, although it was not completed until 1910. In 1934, the first classrooms were added. To this 1908 building more classrooms, a kitchen and a fellowship room were added in 1955.
Construction on the present building began in 1963 under the leadership of Rev. Marcus Long. Quite a bit of the construction was done by Rev. Long with help of Rev. Reuben Jones, a former pastor who had retired and was living in the community, and other members of the church, such as, James E. King, Dewey Vinson, Robert Laxson, Bunard Prater, Jewel Prater, Isaac Thomas, Thomas Smith and many others.
The two-story building was completed in 1965 with a beautifully carpeted sanctuary which had a seating capacity of about 300, a full sized basement containing classrooms, a kitchen, and a fellowship hall and four bathrooms. In 1967, a new wing was added onto the southeast corner of the building containing six more classrooms and a carport and ramps for wheelchairs.
The services that were held in the first two buildings were conducted without any musical instruments. The early nineteen hundreds saw the addition of an old-fashioned pump organ. In 1920, a piano was introduced. In 1964, an electric organ and a new piano were purchased for the new church. Mrs. Roberta Clem Vinson had been the instrumentalist since the use of the old pump organ, but with the introduction of two instruments, Janie Thomas Lambert joined her. Other instrumentalists through the years have been Dorothy Jones Henderson, Juanita Thomas Turpin, Sherry Gossett, Lora Lambert, Amy Fenton, Connie Galloway and JoAnn Crutcher. In about 1980 (no exact date) a new electronic organ was donated to the church by the children of Mr. And Mrs. Isaac Thomas, in their honor.
The first choir was organized in 1957 with Annie Ruth Laxson Yarbrough as the choir director. Other choir directors have been Janie Thomas Lambert, Dorothy Jones Henderson and Yvonne Yarbrough Chadick, all of whom were volunteers. The first paid choir director was hired in 1991. He is Joey Hall, who grew up at Sardis Springs Baptist Church. He is the son of Grady Hall who for years has tuned pianos in the area.
A steeple was erected on the present building in 19–. The steeple was a memorial from church members in memory of Billy Clifton Henderson and his parents, Asa and Tillie Prater Henderson. Billy’s wife, Dorothy Jones Henderson and Billy’s cousin, Sanford Henderson, his wife Betty, and son Ray, all of Atlanta, Georgia, were responsible for the installation of the steeple.
For fifteen years, local ministers were employed to conduct the services. The Rev. Horace Holland, great-great grandfather of some of the present members was one of these men. Some ministers who served the church were: Rev. John Nichols, Rev. Winston, Rev. William Johnson, Rev. Epison, Rev. Walter Starling (who married Mary Isom, daughter of Emanuel Isom), Bill Canterberry, Rev. Igo, Rev. Dye, Donald S. McGlawn, W.B. Gaston, Rev. Davis, Guy F. Ponder, George Hall, B.M. Bowen, George Burns, F.F. Lester, A.N. Burns, J.P. Cornelius, A.F. McDonald, L.P. Martin, D.C. Pless, Dan Aiken, H.C. Reece, Rev. Pinkard, Woodrow Williams, L.D. Brookshire, J.W. Smith, Ira Lutz, George Cook, Otto Hammons, Amos Murphree, Lennie Jones, A.L. Arnold, Reuben Jones, A.M. Jones, Marcus Long, Herbert Williamson, Henry E. Ford, J.D. Boyd, Leroy McClendon, Denny Johnston, Buel Gladney, F.B. Martin Jr., Frank Ellison, L.C. Guthrie, Barry C. Dunn and Edward Glenn Gooch.
When the Cambridge Circuit was organized, Isom’s Chapel became a part of that circuit until 1950 when it became a station for two years. In the fall of 1952, Isom’s joined with Belle Mina as a half-station. Isom’s Chapel became a full station in 1963 with Marcus Long as the pastor and has remained a station ever since.
Several outstanding people have gone out from Isom’s Chapel into full-time Christian work, one of whom was Dr. Paul Clem, son of Mr. And Mrs. Robert M. (Bob) Clem. Paul is a great grandson of the church founder and great grandson of the Rev. Horace Holland. He served as minister of several Methodist churches in North Alabama and before his retirement served as superintendent of the Birmingham, AL district in the North Alabama Conference.
Methodist men from our church have gone into different parts of the world defending our nation’s freedom of peace and worship. Isom’s Chapel has suffered the loss of some of its members defending these freedoms. Clifton Crouch, son of Mr. And Mr. Frank Crouch Sr., lost his life in World War II. Raymond Hanks, son of Mrs. Ethel Hanks and a great grandson the church founder, lost his life at sea during World War II. A Flag in his memory was place at his grave in the Isom’sChapel Cemetery on September 11, 2004. Most of the men have been granted the good fortune of returning to Isom’s Chapel to carry on the history and tradition of this church. Members have served in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Written by Roberta Clem Vinson (1980),
(great grand-daughter of Emanuel Isom, with the assistance of her father Mr. Bob Clem, her uncle, Mr. John Clem and Mrs. Ethel Starling Hanks, all of whom were Isom descendants).
ADDENDUM by Annie Ruth Yarbrough 1987 —–
Other members of our congregation who have entered the ministry are Mr. Lynn Brazell, Miss Annette Jones (daughter of Alex and Lucy Jones), and Mr. Steve Ashbrook (son of Lindell and Mary Ashbrook).
Lynn Brazell only attended our Isom’s Chapel for a short time, but was very active while here. He answered the call to preach while here. He moved out of our area, and it is not known at this time, 1987, where he is located.
Dr. Annette Jones, who grew up here at Isom’s Chapel, answered the call to the ministry in 1977. She has worked in different areas of spiritual counseling as well as served as associate pastor while completing her courses of study. She received her Dr. of Divinity degree in 1986 from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. She then served as Director of the Center for Counseling and Spiritual Growth at Bering Memorial United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas. In 1999, she became the full time pastor of St. John’s on the Lake United Methodist Church of Miami, Florida.
Steve Ashbrook answered the call to preach after he and his family became members of Isom’s Chapel in 1986. He entered Asbury Theological Seminary in September 1987. Steve is originally from Kentucky, but grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. His wife, Kyong, is from Korea. They have two sons, Steven and David. Steve completed his studies in 1991 while serving as the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He then moved out of the North Alabama Conference, took a position as associate pastor of the First United Methodist Church, Panama City, Florida in the Alabama-West Florida Conference after which he was pastor Pine Grove United Methodist Church, Opelika, AL, Bonifay First UMC, Bonifay FL, Heritage UMC , Enterprise AL, finally Dauphin Island UMC, AL. Steve has served as Military Chaplain since 2001 in the United States Army, he presently stationed at Redstone Arsenal, AL with orders to Ft. Drum in the late fall of 2007.
When the present building was constructed, plans were made to place a cornerstone in the north-west outside corner of the building. However, this was not done until 1982 under the ministry of Bro. Buel Gladney. The cornerstone was laid, along with a time capsule containing a copy of the church deed, a copy of the church history, pictures of some of the original members and other memorabilia, which will be of special interest to future members. It is hoped this time capsule will not be opened until or unless the building is destroyed. The cornerstone reads as follows: “Isom’s Chapel, established 1846. New building 1965.”
Isom’s Chapel has suffered the tragic loss of six loved ones in recent years. Tracy Posey and his brother Todd Posey, ages 16 and 13, were killed in a car wreck on their way to East Limestone School one cold, rainy morning of 1982. Their mother, Judy Posey, left us in 1983. Then, Josephine Thomas Brown, the aunt of Judy Thomas Posey, and her twin daughters, Shelia Brown Barnes and Sharon Brown Nelson, were killed in a car wreck in August 1987.
Under the leadership of Bro. F.B. Martin Jr., who became pastor of Isom’s Chapel in 1985, the membership grew remarkably. In the seven years he was here, he received a total of 124 new members. Also, under his leadership the sanctuary of the church underwent quite a renovation with the remodeling of the stage, installation of new carpet, pew cushions and new stained glass windows that were installed as memorials and honorariums during the 1989-1990 church year.
The church in 1993 entered a new building phase due to the growth of the community and the growth of the church. From January 1990 to the end of 1993, the membership grew from 209 to 246. The church is surrounded by new housing sub-divisions. This area is considered to be the fastest growing area in the county. It was the feeling of the church that we needed to expand in order to be prepared when the new families come into the church. The Sunday school rooms and the nursery have been outgrown and a new room has been created in one of the halls. Also, the fellowship hall is much too small. Plans were made to build a family life center that would include new classrooms, new kitchen, new and larger fellowship hall, pastor’s office, nursery, basketball court and bathrooms.
Construction on the new facility, to be known as, “Community Fellowship Center”, was begun in the fall of 1997 with Summitt of Huntsville as the contractors of the metal frame, and the members of our church doing most of the other labor under the leadership of C.A.(Chris) Christopherson as chairman of the trustees.
The first phase of the new facility was completed in early 1999 with the first official fellowship supper held on January 13, 1999. However, there were many little finishing jobs that yet had to be done.
The gymnasium was completed in 1999 in time for Upward Sports, a spiritual sports adventure, geared toward elementary school children (K-6th grade) of the church and community. This began in November 1999 and ran thru March 2000. Jeana Swaim and Dave Wood were the leaders of this venture that proved to be very successful, with children coming from near and far to join one of approximately ten teams. As of 2005, the program has continued at Isom’s. Until 2001, Ora L. (Scotty) Scott served as leader. Others who have recently served as leaders are Joe Anderson and Jerry Green.
The church, surrounded by so many new housing projects, continues to receive many young families who are such a great part of our church family. Under the leadership of Bro. Barry Dunn, who became our pastor in June 1996, ninety-eight (as of Dec. 31, 2002) new members have been added to our church roll with many other families attending who have not yet joined us.
A new piano was given in memory of Mr. James Isaac Thomas by his family to be used in the new fellowship hall.
2001, under the leadership of Jeana Swaim, saw the beginning of a new Sunday School Program for the children. This program called, “Rotational Sunday School” is unique in that the children rotate from class to class over a period of six weeks, studying the same Bible story, but from a different angle each Sunday. This has proved to be very successful and popular among the children.
2002: The second phase of the new building has been completed. Classes are now meeting in the second floor rooms. This phase of the building is to be consecrated on August 14, 2002 with the District Superintendent, Rev. Bill Bostic, coming to participate in the consecration service. The new piano in the fellowship hall was moved into the sanctuary and the one that had been used there for several years was moved into the new choir room.
September of 2002 saw the beginning of a second Sunday morning service for those who prefer to come a little early. Early service began at 9:15 a.m. with Sunday school being held for them at 10:45 a.m. The early service was originally held in the gymnasium, but has since moved to the sanctuary.
There are many talented people in our church, but we call your attention to all of the artwork done by Scott Bryant. His woodcarvings are found throughout the new building and beautifully enhance each room where they are placed.