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Franklin Clark "Dock" Stephenson
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Birth: Apr. 1, 1826
Mount Hope
Lawrence County
Alabama, USA
Death: Aug. 31, 1885
Shelby County
Tennessee, USA

Stephenson Chapel Church and cemetery were named after him.

The History of Stephenson Chapel Methodist Church and Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee.

Prior to 1870, there was no place for worship in the southwest corner of Shelby County Tennessee except a log house owned by the Primitive Baptists and used as their "meeting house". Despite the fact that this group was gracious in allowing people of other faiths to hold services in this building, those of the Methodist faith in the community realized a great need and had a consuming desire for a church of their own.

This small group banded together in 1870 and brought a tract of land, which included the site of the present Stephenson Church, from Zero Harris- a Memphis man of considerable land holdings. The Civil War had left these pioneer Methodists with little or no money, but urged on by their great desire to have a building and a most inordinate willingness to achieve their goal, they secured materials and laid the foundation for a one room building. This was done under the direction and inspiration of the five trustees, J.W. Levi, R.H. Weaver, W.P. (Pete) Lyon, Captain C.W. Smith and F.C. Stephenson, but each member made his contribution in a labor of love. Some made shingles; others carried logs to Captain Smiths Sawmill; while others laid bricks.

Before many months, a one room building was completed and furnished with crude seats, a table and pulpit stand. It is interesting to note that the pulpit stand was large enough for shelves to hold the saddle bags commonly used at that time. This church was named Stephenson Chapel for F.C. Stephenson, the grandfather of Reverend E.L. Morgan who later became a pastor for the church.
During the forty years that this building housed the Stephenson congregation, the Memphis area faced the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. The building and the churchyard became a refuge for many of the people of Memphis who were trying to escape this disease. The building was used for many happy occasions, too, and singing schools, picnics, Christmas festivals and public school activities were centered there.

Mr. J.W. Levi became the first Sunday School Superintendent, and he was faithful to this task for fifty years, retiring only when his health and age prevented his active participation.

It was in 1908 that Reverend John T. Myers, a young, enthusiastic minister, who had just been admitted to the Memphis Conference from the Presbyterian Church, moved the congregation to action in building a new church. He offered $300.00 if members of the Missionary Society would raise a like amount as nucleus of a building fund. The campaign was begun, and the ladies accumulated an even larger amount through various and numerous benefits. In a few months, another one-room building was presented for dedication having been constructed under the supervision of Mr. John Elam.

New pulpit stand and new pews were purchased. This building was dedicated by Dr. E.B. Ramsey in October, 1908.
The community and congregation grew through the intervening years and there was need for more room. In 1925, the pastor, Reverend E.L. Morgan and a committee composed of R.G. Gill, Floyd Adams and Mrs. O.B. Parker drafted plans for a three-room annex for the church school. Funds for this addition were made possible through the sale of a tract of land which had been previously been given to the church by the late Lafayette Moore. This addition provided space for a more effective church school organization.

The church membership again increased in such numbers as to necessitate the need for additional space, and in 1941, Reverend C.A. Baker and a staff of church workmen remodeled the caretakers house on the church grounds, adding two new rooms, and thus a four room unit was made available for the children's division of the church school.
During the pastorate of Reverend C.L. Holmes, plans for a brick annex were made and a building fund was started. These plans were delayed, however, by the burning of the parsonage. Interest and effort were centered for the time being on restoring the home for the pastor.
In June, 1948, Reverend M.S. McCastlain succeeded Reverend Holmes, and under his leadership, the plans for the church addition, which had been interrupted by the burning and the subsequent rebuilding of the parsonage, were continued. Reverend M.S. McCastlain was instrumental in securing generous contributions and the members joined him in soliciting financial gifts from friends of the church, former members as well as from active members of the church.

The men and women of the present membership gave even more generously of their time and labor. The three story addition, including a modern kitchen and dining room, pastor's study, sixteen classrooms, was available for use in the fall of 1951. The sanctuary was enlarged and redecorated; the pews bought in 1908 were replaced by memorial pews, each one a gift of the family of each of those honored by these memorials. The alter was rearranged with new furnishings which included memorial chairs, a baptismal font given in honor of Reverend and Mrs. M.S. McCastlain, and the gifts of the cross and candlesticks from Dr. and Mrs. John Peters. Dr. Peters is the present District Superintendent of the Memphis District.
Mrs. Amelia Weaver Hildebrand deeded five acres of land, lying to the south of the church property, to the church as a site for the parsonage. In 1900, a five room cottage was built by Mr. S.C. Turnage, the contractor, and it was used for the first time by Reverend T.G. Pettigrew. Later, this house was rented when the pastor lived in the community of another church of the circuit. In 1915, however, and the years following, the parsonage was again used by the minister.

In February 1947, this parsonage burned and was replaced on another site nearby at a cost of $9,000. At this time, Reverend C.L. Holmes was pastor and the trustees were Allen Weaver, Roy Nelson and W.H. Hazel, Sr. As in previous instances, the pastor and the men of the community combined their labor and much of the work was done at night by these men who had spent a busy day at other employment.

Sacred music has been a most important part of the church program everywhere, and so it has been throughout the years at Stephenson Church. The first instrument, a melodeon, was brought from England by Mr. Clark who taught school in the community previous to 1870. He gave this instrument to Mrs. Olivia Stephenson Weaver, who presented it to the church in 1870. When the melodeon was no longer of use, it was replaced by a bellows organ, the funds for which were secured through the efforts of Dr. N.F. Raines. In the 1920's, pianos replaced the organ and these were used until Easter Sunday, April 13, 1952 when the Easter music pealed forth from a Hammond organ.
The early congregation of the Stephenson Church had services only once a month. The first pastor was Reverend Tommy Davidson, regular pastor of the First Methodist Church of Memphis and known affectionately throughout Southern Methodism as "Uncle Tommy". The status of the church changed during the years from a four-church circuit to a two-church circuit, and finally in 1946, it became a station.

For more than 80 years, Stephenson Church has stood among the stately oaks, close by the cemetery in which many of its faithful and loyal members have found their resting place, and it has served its people well as a place of worship. This simple, modest "church in the wildwood" has a rich tradition and holds great promise for the future.

Signed: Mrs. S.R. Nelson, Mrs. C.B. Parker, Mrs. V.H. McCain: 5/22/1952

Additional notes:
A new sanctuary was built to the south of the main building, in the mid 1960's. Due to changes in the demographics of the community, after Southwest Shelby County was annexed in to the City of Memphis in the late 1960's, the congregation became smaller, as people began moving away from the area. On March 31, 1973, the trustees of the now defunct church, subdivided the property of Stephenson Chapel United Methodist Church and the cemetery. The buildings and properties were sold, and the funds put in trust for the perpetual upkeep of the Stephenson Chapel Cemetery grounds, a three acre tract of land to the north of the old church property.
"Franklin Clark, second son and third child of Pleasant Wright Stephenson and his wife, Margaret (Peggy) McGaughey, was born near Mount HOpe, Lawrence County, Alabama, April 1, 1826. He was educated in the common schools of the country. His name in boyhood was familiarly known as "Dock" Stephensen. This came from the fact that he was named in honor of two doctors - Dr. Franklin, the philosopher of Philadelphia, and Dr. Robert Mason Clark, a practicing physician of Mount Hope, Alabama, at the time "Dock" Stephenson was born. Everyone called him "Dock" except his parents. They called him Franklin. "Dock" did not have a good opportunity for acquiring a good education. The country was new, and his father was a farmer of limited means. But "Dock" had a strong mind and retentive memory. He secured a fair business education. He was always a good, obedient boy, and was very popular among the young people as well as with the old. He was charitable and generous to a fault He joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church when a very young man and always lived in accordance with the vows then taken. After his marriage to a Methodist lady he joined her church. When he came to the average boy's desire, the age of twenty-one, characteristic of the Stephensons, he set out in the world to make his own fortune. He stopped near Germantown, twenty miles east of Memphis, Tennessee, in the employ of an extensive farmer. Being an intelligent, industrious man, and a practical farmer, it was not long until his services were in much demand by the large farmers of the surrounding country. Want of space will not admit of a history of his career. But it was eminently successful. He married Miss Emily Camilla Germany, of Tennessee, December 25, 1849. She was born in Newman, Georgia, February 2, 1828. This proved to be a very happy union. She was a most excellent Christian woman. She was a woman of extroardinary intellect and an unusually retentive memory. She had but few equals and no superiors. As a housekeeper and in the culinary department she was an adept. Her life was a model for her children in their future intercourse with the world. She believed the doctrine of "training up a child in the way he should go, and shen he is old he will not depart from it." She did not only believe the doctrine, but she practiced it.

Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN Date unknown

Bronze Markers Will Be Dedicated Sunday Afternoon

Stephenson Cemetery Association will dedicate two bronze tablets in honor of World War and Confederate War veterans buried in the cemetery on Highway 61 at 4 o'clock Sunday afternoon.

Confederate War veterans whose names will appear on one of the tablets are Thomas M. Brown, George W. Cook, Logan W. Gill, James H. McCain, Calvin Y. Moore, Ephrain W. Morgan, Jesse M. Morton, Sam W. Parker, Isaac H. Sanders, Charles E. Smith and Robert Weaver.

World War Veterans to be honored are Charlie T. Levi, Vannoy F. McCain, John W. Murphy, Ebb F. Stephenson, and Walter E. Stewart.

R.T. Leech and the Rev. Raymond Council will be among those on the dedication program. Final plans for the program have not been completed.

The Commercial Appeal, 8 Feb.1970, Stephenson United Methodist Church given portrait of the founder, Franklin Clark Stephenson....The Rev. Edwin Lee Morgan, grandson of founder and former pastor of the church .. discovered the portrait painted by his mother, Mrs. Annie Stephenson Morgan. Mr. Stephenson, who operated a plantation in what is now southeast Memphis during the Civil War, gave 12 acres of his land for the church and led in its organization.

Per notes from Maggie McCain, Franklin Clark Stephenson was a Charter Member of Stephenson Chapel Methodist Church and was on the first Board of Trustees of the church.

When Stephenson Chapel United Methodist Church closed, all artifacts were sent to the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church in Jackson, TN.

Family links: 
  Pleasant Wright Stephenson (1800 - 1880)
  Margaret Isabel McGaughey Stephenson (1802 - 1869)
  Emily Camilla Germany Stephenson (1828 - 1904)
  Olivia Watson Stephenson Weaver (1850 - ____)*
  Millard Alfred Stephenson (1856 - ____)*
  Walter Clarence Stephenson (1857 - 1897)*
  Annie Germany Stephenson Morgan (1859 - 1944)*
  Maggie Cassander Stephenson Maynard (1861 - 1891)*
  William Pleasant Stephenson (1867 - 1880)*
  Franklin Clark Stephenson (1826 - 1885)
  Samuel Anderson Stephenson (1830 - 1887)*
  Hugh Elic Stephenson (1832 - ____)*
  Albert Johnson Stephenson (1834 - 1879)*
  John Stephenson (1836 - ____)*
  Albert J. Stephenson (1838 - 1879)*
*Calculated relationship
Stephenson Chapel Cemetery
Shelby County
Tennessee, USA
Created by: Neil Loftiss
Record added: Nov 14, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 44303675
Franklin Clark Dock Stephenson
Added by: Neil Loftiss
Franklin Clark Dock Stephenson
Added by: Neil Loftiss
Franklin Clark Dock Stephenson
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Dee (Cason) Lavery
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

- Neil Loftiss
 Added: Apr. 2, 2011

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