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Homestead United Methodist Church
By Jim Bridges
Smoke Signals Feature Writer
James Bridges

When most people admire a church, they see and think of the building, yet the building is only a symbol that a group of God’s people have joined together in prayer, faith, love, and hard work with much sacrifice, to have a central place to worship and spread the message of God’s saving grace to the people of that community.” Those words came from Edna L. Gossage Blue and appear in her book, “A People Dared, God Cared,” copyright 1984.
Edna Blue was a member of the original group that banded together to form and build a Methodist Church at Cumberland Homesteads, a government subsistence project that began in Cumberland County outside Crossville in 1934. It was not an easy task and took many years. Plans for the homesteads included everything but schools and churches. It was deemed the county would take care of the schools but not denominational churches, for fear of dissension. Early families began arriving and wanted to have a church in which to worship. On Sunday afternoons Edna’s group gathered in a saw mill to sing and hear messages from visiting ministers. Next they met in an unfinished house until the weather began to get cold. By that time, Homestead’s men had donated their labor after work and on weekends, the government had furnished lumber and other materials and the first Homesteads Elementary School was completed. The school was used for all community gatherings and since Edna and her group were non-denominational they were permitted to meet there. When government policy began to change, the Homesteads community manager met
with a local Methodist minister and decided that lot number 306 was where a Methodist church should be built. That lot was at the intersection of Deep Draw Road and State Route 68, current location of Cumberland Homestead Methodist Church.
Things began to pick up: The small congregation agreed to pay $675 for the lot. A part-time minister was replaced with a retired minister who was replaced with a full-time minister. A $10,000 loan was secured from the Methodist Extension Board for the church and parsonage. Coincidentally, Camp Forrest, one of the largest army training bases during WWII and located on the outskirts of my hometown of Tullahoma, Tennessee had been declared “surplus” in September 1945 and given “inactive” status in February 1946.
All 1,300 buildings were to be dismantled, including a dozen chapels. On August 7, 1946 the United States of America deeded lot number 306 to the church trustees. On December 6, 1946, the membership bid $1,500 to purchase a chapel from Camp Forrest. The money was borrowed from the Methodist Tennessee Conference. Volunteers went to the camp to dismantle the chapel and it was trucked to Crossville where it was reassembled. The church was occupied before Christmas in 1947 although it was far from being completed. According to the cornerstone, Cumberland Homestead Methodist Church was established in 1946. Up until the addition in 2004, the entire building looked like it did at Camp Forrest. Then the addition gave the entire front a whole new look.

As mentioned earlier, I was born and reared in Tullahoma. Although I was too young to serve in the military I sold newspapers at Camp Forrest one summer. Like other townspeople, my family was on post a number of times so I became familiar with the various buildings. It is

very likely I saw the chapel that was dismantled and moved to its present location. I don’t recall being in any of the chapels but that, too, is a possibility.
Have you ever seen something and gotten the feeling that you had seen it before but in another location? That is how I felt several years ago when I first saw Homestead United Methodist Church. Every time we passed the church a strange feeling came over me. Finally my curiosity got the best of me so I decided to stop and take a look. After circling the building the feeling was stronger than ever. When I read the inscription on the cornerstone the mystery was solved. It was a former military chapel and the date of 1946 when it was established coincided with the time Camp Forrest was being dismantled.

<<< Artist’s rendering of the church as it was at Camp Forrest during World War II

There are some other things related to Camp Forrest and me. When I visited my longtime Tullahoma friend Joe Williams, then a student at TPI (now Tennessee Tech), the Student Union was located in a building from the camp. In 1954, I enrolled under the G.I. bill for the fall quarter at TPI. It was a late decision and all campus housing was taken so I lived in a private home for two quarters. In the spring quarter of 1955 they placed me in Dixie Court, a group of one-story frame buildings that came from – you guessed it – Camp Forrest. During my freshman and sophomore years I had Composition and Rhetoric and English Literature in another building that also came from Camp Forrest.
It’s a small world, isn’t it!

A People Dared, God Cared,” by Edna L. Gossage Blue, copyright 1984
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