Jeff Harvey

Before proceeding with Ella Holroyd’s history of Athens homes as printed in the 1987 edition of the Mercer County Historical Society’s “History of Mercer County”, I want to make two clarifications.

One, I generally follow the lead of Ella Holroyd and later note editor Margaret Ann Scott as to who lived there. The one exception is where current businesses were mentioned. I don’t know many of the current residents of the homes. Of those I do know, I don’t want to impose upon them.

The other clarification is that Perry Hill and Dan Zirkle had lengthy tenures as principals at Athens High School after Joe Vachon’s retirement.

Going from AHS, the site of the present Athens Baptist Church once had a log house under a large tree where “Grandma” Ellen Kirtner lived with her children including two daughters who married into the Martin family.

Mrs. Kirtner said that, when she died, she wanted a nice Baptist Church built on her property.

James French, the first principal of Concord Normal School, was the youngest of three brothers, two of whom had some role in town history. His eldest brother, Col. William Henderson French, gave land a church for use by all who desired to use it in concord, peace and harmony.

J. Patrick Campbell, a Baptist preacher, came with his family to live in what would be known as the Olen Jennings home. They are buried in the little cemetery on the Jennings lot.

Rev. Campbell preached the first and third Sundays with the Methodist ministers had the second and fourth Sundays, with an occasional sermon from a visiting Presbyterian minister.

As Campbell aged, the Baptist congregation grew larger. R.G. Meador put in money and the Baptist church bought the Kirtner lot. Rev. W.L. Ball from Richmond, Va., was called to be the first minister in the new building. Dora Scott was the first organist and Concord music teacher Mabel Sydenstricker was the music director. This was in 1901.

The Baptists and Methodists still attended each other’s services in this time until the ministers for each church decided to have services each Sunday. Church attendance grew so much that the Christian Church was organized in 1904.

Rev. Tom Goldston, Sr., and Rev. Ted Reid pastored the church for most of the 1970s and 1980s, with the latter being the longest-serving minister in church history.

Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Princeton Times. Contact him at delimartman@yahoo.com.

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