HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST AT JACKSON STREET
In 1896 G.P. Bowser, Alexander Campbell, Marshall Keeble and S.W. Womack left the Lea Avenue & Gay Street Christian Church to begin a new congregation after the New Testament Pattern – the Church of Christ at Jackson Street. The decision stemmed from the pattern set forth by the Restoration Movement. Bowser, Campbell, Keeble, and Womack understood that to follow the Scriptures they must repudiate all human institutions and exalt only the Church of our Lord. They believed in the church of the Bible and had the courage to condemn sects and denominations with their creeds and human devices.
Marshall Keeble was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, December 7, 1878. He was the son of former slaves, Robert and Mittie Keeble. At the age of four, his family moved to Nashville. He was baptized by Preston Taylor in the Gay Street Christian Church in 1895 at the age of 17. He was never educated beyond the seventh grade. His first job was working in a bucket factory six to ten hours a day at around 40¢ per hour. He married his first wife, Minnie Womack, the daughter of S.W. Womack in 1896. She was a graduate of Fisk University High School. After their marriage, Marshall worked for a time in a soap factory. Later he purchased a grocery store. He also purchased a huckster’s wagon. Minnie ran the store while Marshall sold the produce on a route around the streets of northern Nashville. Later a second store was purchased.
Keeble’s life’s work, however, was that of a gospel preacher. With the help of his father-in-law, S.W. Womack and other gospel preachers, he started preaching the gospel in 1897 in Nashville, TN at the Jackson Street Church of Christ. He remained a member there until his death. Though preaching locally, he did not solely involve himself in located work. In 1914 he decided to give up all his business interests and preach the gospel only. He dedicated himself to evangelistic work holding gospel meetings in brush-arbors, tents, barns and church buildings. He established over 200 congregations over the next sixty years of preaching. Sometimes he would baptize over 100 people in a single gospel meeting. In the 1930s he wrote to the Gospel Advocate stating that he had baptized over 15,000 people. Estimates range between 20,000 and 40,000 people as being baptized by this great gospel preacher in his life time. He was an evangelist that was most influential among both African American and Caucasian people. Preaching took him from Florida to Washington, and from California to the northeast. He made numerous trips to Nigeria where he had great success in evangelistic efforts.
George Phillip Bowser was a noted teacher, evangelist, and writer as well. An elderly preacher in Nashville helped lead him to the restoration movement and he was baptized in 1897. Bowser soon joined other black leaders including Keeble to begin an acapella Church of Christ in Nashville. He established his first school at the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Nashville and focused most of his evangelistic efforts in Education. He is known as the father of Christian education among black Churches of Christ. As Keeble continued to travel, there became more of a need for a full-time pulpit minister. In 1936, H. B. Watkins became the first employed minister followed by O. H. Boatright in 1944. Albert D. Gray, Sr. served as minister from 1959 to 1979. In 1979, Dennis Michael Crowder became the full-time pulpit minister and currently continues to serve in that capacity. 1990, the Church of Christ at Jackson Street moved into a larger, more modern facility and is considered one of the more prominent historical landmarks in Tennessee state history.