A History of the Vernon Church of Christ
The congregation of the Lord’s church in Vernon began meeting in the old Lamar County High School Building in 1917. Mr. J. Andrew Johnson was principal of the school (1917-1920) and was one of the early leaders of theVernon congregation. For several years brother Johnson, being the only male, led singing, led prayer, taught the Bible class, and waited on the Lord’s table. Another leader of the congregation was Mrs. J.A. (Orpha) Hankins. It was sister Hankins who prepared the communion for each Sunday service. Sister Hankins was also responsible for washing and ironing the table cloth each week that covered the Lord’s Supper.
Sometime around 1919, the Vernon congregation began using a building that was owned by the Freewill Baptist group. This building was on the corner of First Street S.E. and First Avenue S.E. Not many years later, because of growth in the congregation, a larger building was needed. In 1922 the old elementary school building was purchased for $1,000. This building was located on the present site of the church and was modified on the first floor to create one large room for meeting purposes. The upstairs part of the building was used by the Masonic Lodge where they met from time to time. The congregation was able to pay half of the money for acquiring the building and the remainder was borrowed from Mr. John Wheeler who worshiped with the Bethel church of Christ. When the congregation repaid part of the loan, brother Wheeler marked the note paid in full.


In the old, but new church building, slated pews were used for seating of the congregation. Also, during the early years of the congregation, only one cup was used in administering the fruit of the vine during the Lord’s Supper. Although the congregation met every Lord’s Day, it was only once a month that the congregation met for preaching, with brother M.L. Sexton doing the preaching.


Every fifth Sunday brother C.A. (Charlie) Wheeler, who was born in Lamar County near Crossville, would come down from Jasper and preach for the congregation.


Many preachers held gospel meetings in the old school house church building with one being brother Gus Dunn Jr. It was during this meeting in 1927 that sixteen people were baptized into Christ in the creek at Turner’s Mill. One of those baptized was Fannie Lou Rector, later known as Fannie Lou Cole, a faithful member at the Vernon congregation until her death. Other ministers who held meetings at the Vernon congregation include; A.D. Dyes, Gus Nichols, R.C. Nickol, H. Leo Boles, and N.B. Hardeman.


Many comical events took place in the old church building. Once a small dog invited himself to church. At this time the doors and windows had no screens on them, and were kept open for air circulation. The dog came in and began howling, barking and running under the pews. To say the least, the worship service was temporarily delayed and the dog was quickly escorted outside. On another Sunday morning, a bird nest with eggs was discovered in the pulpit. Arrangements were made to dispose of the nest and its contents, but sister Mary Lawrence had compassion on the nest and carefully removed them and carried them home after service. Each Sunday, as sister Orpha Hankins cleaned the communion trays, she would go to a back room in the building and pour the remaining juice through a hole in the floor. The young children were always volunteering to help with this effort in hopes that they could drink some of the juice while pouring it down the hole. And during the last few years of using the old school building, sister Lucille Bostick and sister Millie Hill would arrive early for worship to clear out birds that would roost in the building during the week.


The old elementary school building served the church well for many years, but eventually a larger facility was needed. So, in the January 8th, 1947 issue of the Lamar Democrat an ad was placed saying the old elementary building would be sold to the highest bidder on January 11th at 2:30 p.m. in Vernon. While the old building was being torn down, and the new building erected, the congregation met in the courthouse. At this time attendance was up around the upper thirties. After completing the new building the first full time minister, brother G.R. Dobbs, was hired. Also at this time the first elders and deacons were appointed to serve the congregation. These elders were: J. Andrew Johnson, Bradley Wheeler, Raymond Bostick and Luther Randolph. The deacons were: J.F. Long, Ray Hankins, and Reddus Bostick.


In 1962 a new wing was added and the entrance was remodeled in 1964. The present auditorium, seating 400, was constructed in 1969 and in 1982 a new two-story educational complex was built. Also in 1982, the property next to the building was purchased for additional parking and future expansion.


(information from a term paper by Eddie Finch entitled “A Study on the History of the Vernon church of Christ”, April, 1992)