A Spiritual Journey Through Decatur and Morgan County (Ala.)

Decatur, Ala., June 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Decatur-Morgan County (Ala.) has deep spiritual roots and for a look into the area’s earliest settlers and religious beliefs, the Morgan County Amen Trail takes visitors on a spiritual journey to 19 historic, significant and unique churches.

The Morgan County Amen Trail highlights 20 beautiful churches rich in history and architectural design. Many of the churches are at least 100 years old, on its original site and still hold services today. This self-guided driving tour recognizes churches that define the heart of Decatur and Morgan County’s rich and diverse cultural and spiritual heritage.

“Any season is a perfect time to take a divine journey to explore the many historical churches found throughout Morgan County,” said Decatur Morgan County Tourism President/CEO Danielle Gibson. “Each of these churches has a story to tell, with each one offering a glimpse into the understanding of the strong religious values of the early settlers in Morgan County.”

The Morgan County Amen Trail begins at St. John’s Episcopal Church (202 Gordon Dr. SE) and ends at Lacey’s Springs United Methodist Church (1036 Hwy. 36, Lacey Springs). Continue reading for a complete list of sights.

St. John’s Episcopal Church (202 Gordon Dr. SE, Decatur) 

St. John’s was established in 1880. The church building, comprising the present nave and chancel area, was dedicated in 1893. Originally facing north, the building was physically turned around in 1948 to face west.

First Baptist Church of Decatur (123 Church St. SE, Decatur) 

The exact date of the organization of the First Baptist Church of Decatur is unknown, however, the first building was constructed during 1838 - 1839. In 1864 the church was destroyed by Federal troops during the Union Army occupation. Rebuilding was slow, but in 1883 a second building was erected. Over the years there have been many additions to the church as it has grown in number. In 1915 they won a settlement from the United States government for the destruction of the property in 1864.

First United Methodist Church (805 Canal St. SE, Decatur) 

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as it was then known, raised a sanctuary as early as 1835 and was the earliest congregation in Decatur. A later house of worship was damaged by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The congregation was later reimbursed by the federal government for the damage.

First Presbyterian Church (701 Oak St., Decatur)

This church was formed in 1853 as one of the earliest congregations in Decatur. The first building was located on Bank Street but was dismantled by the Union Army in 1864 during the Civil War. After worshipping with the Methodists in a log structure after the war, the Presbyterians built a small building in 1873 on the current site. 

Christ’s Mission (1700 Carridale St., Decatur)

Built in 1898 by Mission Organization of York State of the Congregational Church, the denomination never caught on in Decatur, and in 1901 St. Paul’s Lutheran Church bought the building and made it home for 67 years. In 1951, to increase the size of the sanctuary, the church turned the building. The mover assured the anxious pastor that if he so much as rang the bell during the move, the builder would pay the preacher $50. The bell didn’t ring. In 1968, Christ’s Mission bought the building.

Central United Methodist Church (616 Jackson St. SE, Decatur) 

The massive stained-glass windows at Central United Methodist Church illustrate the peace and beauty of a symbolic pastoral scene while illuminated the teachings of Christ.

First Missionary Baptist Church (233 Vine St. NW, Decatur)

The building was designed by prominent Black American architect W. A. Rayfield in 1913 and constructed in 1919-1921. One of the finest features of the church building sanctuary are the memorial stain glass windows.

Hartselle Tabernacle - Camp Meeting (Tabernacle Road, Hartselle) 

The Hartselle Camp Meeting got its start just before 1900. It and other camp meetings can trace their heritage in part to the holiness movement in the 19th century. Earlier camp meetings grew out of the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s on the Southern frontier. A Methodist preacher, the Rev. Ben W. Huckabee, came to Hartselle in the late 1890s. He met with residents to pray about starting a camp meeting. Families cut and peeled the bark from cedar trees and hauled them to the site for the supports that still hold up the tabernacle.

First United Methodist Church (210 East Hickory St., Hartselle)

The church was organized in 1872 by Rev. W. E. Cameron, then pastor of the Danville Circuit. The membership was 23 people. Three families are named as being active in the establishment of the church. A second building was erected on the same lot in 1889.

Bethel Baptist Church (1301 Bethel Road NE., Hartselle) 

Bethel Church is significant to the history of the Baptist movement in Hartselle because it was established in 1872, years before Hartselle was incorporated. Records indicate that the church was organized in a community school house. 

First Christian Church (209 East Main St., Hartselle) 

The Christian Church was organized in 1881 with seven members. The present building on E. Main St. was under construction for seven years between 1914 and 1921. The back half of the building was built and used. However, during WWI construction was stopped because of the building embargo during the war. The world-famous hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” was written in Hartselle in 1887 by Prof. A. J. Showalter, who at the time was conducting a singing school in the Christian Church when the building was on Milner Street

Church of Christ – Hartselle (700 Sparkman St., Hartselle) 

The Church of Christ met in a tent on a lot across the street and west of the L&N Depot. As a result of these meetings, the Church was organized on July 17, 1920. The first building was located on the corner of Hammett and Rock Streets and the first service was held there the first Sunday in Oct. 1920. They built and occupied the present building on Sparkman Street in 1949.

Nazarene Church (739 Main St. W, Hartselle) 

The Nazarene Church was organized in 1929. The building was built on land donated by Mrs. Mollie Turney. It was located where a parking lot is now located. The Nazarene Church later moved to a new building on Hwy. 36 West.

Presbyterian Church (406 North Nelson St., Hartselle) 

This church was organized in 1876 with 12 members in the building belonging to the Methodist Church. Their first building was constructed on the southeast corner of Hickory and Hammett. In 1921, the church became inactive and many of its members joined the Methodist Church. The Presbyterian Church was re-established in 1958.

First Baptist Church (210 Woodland St. NW, Hartselle) 

In January of 1914 the First Baptist Church of Hartselle was incorporated. The church borrowed $3,500 for 12 months at 8% interest to launch the organization. Up until 1955 the church had been known only as “Hartselle Baptist Church,” but in November 1955 the name was officially changed to the First Baptist Church. The church was relocated to its present campus in 1965.

Hartselle Missionary Baptist Church (Walker Street, Hartselle) 

Established in 1886, the church first met under a tent on Nix Street (now Mountain View St.). Later a log church was built, and in 1949, they moved into their present building.

Trinity United Methodist Church (North Seneca Drive, Trinity) 

The front entrance of Trinity United Methodist Church has been welcoming worshippers since July of 1987. Careful construction is evident inside and out from the carefully crafted and detailed woodwork to the stained-glass windows and tremendous ceiling beams. 

Pleasant Grove Methodist Church (Highway 67, Ryan) 

Established in 1937, this small rural Methodist church exists today because of the work and love of its small but devoted membership. The church cemetery is shared by the entire community. 

Lawrence Cove Independent Baptist Church (AL Hwy. 55, Eva) 

The church is situated in a green valley known as Lawrence Cove in southeastern Morgan County. The church was established in 1884, and it was rebuilt several times due to a fire in 1946, a tornado in 1957 and to accommodate its continually growing membership. 

Lacey’s Spring United Methodist Church (1036 Hwy. 36, Lacey’s Spring)

The Lacey’s Spring United Methodist Church was organized in 1885 by Rev. W. T. Bartee and 15 charter members. The church’s membership grew substantially in the subsequent years, and a permanent home was constructed in 1915. In 1932, a tornado ripped through the town and destroyed the church along with the Presbyterian and Baptist churches. The congregations from those three churches banded together and, in 1938, built the “Union Church building,” which they shared for their worship services. The present Lacey’s Spring Church was built in 1955.

Two of the 20 churches listed on the Morgan County Amen Trail - St. John’s Episcopal and Hartselle Tabernacle -  are also a part of North Alabama’s Hallelujah Trail (https://www.northalabama.org/trails/hallelujah/), which was published in the National Geographic’s Driving Tours of Appalachia.

A free copy of the Morgan County Amen Trail is available for download at https://www.decaturcvb.org/things-to-do/activities/trails/amen-trail/.

For more information, contact Gibson at 256.350.2028 or 800.524.6181.

About Decatur Morgan County Tourism

Decatur Morgan County Tourism is a not-for-profit organization promoting tourism and economic growth in Morgan County. Travel-related expenditures for Morgan County in 2020 exceeded $239 million and state lodging taxes collected reached nearly $1.2 million. The tourism and travel industry within Decatur and Morgan County provided 2,557 direct and indirect jobs for local residents and total travel-related earnings exceeded $62 million. For information on special events and attractions in Decatur and Morgan County, call 800.524.6181 or 256.350.2028; or visit http://www.decaturcvb.org