Shirley Steele Harless Remembers Nebo Church
Shirley Harless,a lifelong resident of Clearfork, is interviewed by Philip Reed. (rghs98)

Phil: What is the name of the church?

Shirley: Nebo Methodist Church.

Phil: When was it built?

Shirley: 1860.

Phil: Who helped build it?

Shirley: Just the people who lived in this area. The Steeles, the Gregorys, the Stowers and probably the Neals.

Phil: Has it ever been remodeled?

Shirley: I can remember when it was remodeled. I'm going to say like 1949-50; the pulpit part was remodeled.

Phil: Where is it located?

Shirley: It's kinda like 9 miles on 61 West on the left-hand side of the road.

Phil: Has it ever been in another location?

Shirley: Yes, I'm going to say 10 miles on 61 West going toward Tazewell on the left hand side on a hill.

Phil: What denomination is it?

Shirley: Methodist.

Phil: Has it ever been associated with any other denomination?

Shirley: Not to my knowledge.

Phil: What families have attended the church over the years?

Shirley: The Fox families, the Gregory families, the Stowers families, the Steele families, Kinsers, Sisons. Did I say Fox?

Phil: Uh-huh.

Shirley: That is the only ones I can think of now.

Phil: What is the membership?

Shirley: I'm going to say 30, I'm not really sure.

Phil: What is the largest and smallest amount would you say, did it ever change from 30.

Shirley: Well, yes, right before they closed it, it was very small. That was one reason they closed it and moved to Rocky Gap. It was a smaller congregation then.

Phil: When did you begin attending the church?

Shirley: When I was like three of four years old.

Phil: Ok, were you baptized in this church?

Shirley: Yes.

Phil: Where id the baptisms take place?

Shirley: The only thing I can remember, it wasn't really baptism, they sprlinkled them. When I went to church, they had a pan like and they would sprinkle people. They'd put water on their hand and wet their head and they called it sprinkling.

Phil: Does your church have a grave yard?

Shirley: No, here they have family cemeteries not just a Nebo cemetery. It's like Steele cemetery, Stowers cemetery.

Phil: Do you remember any particular preacher and if so describe them.

Shirley: Preacher? What stands out in my mind when we had singing, when Brother Leslie would come and teach singing for us, like every summer we'd have singing classes for a week at a time. He would get up with his chalkboard and he would show us the musical notes and he would, its like choir like choir practice for us and he would teach us to sing. But no preacher stands out in my mind.

Phil: Has there ever been any preacher-related scandals?

Shirley: No, they were all clean and nice fellahs, as far as we knew. If there was a scandal we didn't hear it.

Phil: Did the church have revivals?

Shirley: Yes, they would hold three revivals every year, most of the time they were like a week. Ad when it was finished they may have a dinner like a get together of like a homecoming like on Sunday after the revival was over then they'd have an eat-out everybody would bring a covered dish and they'd eat out.

Phil: Were there any tent or camp revivals?

Shirley: No, no.

Phil: When were the revivals held, what time of the year?

Shirley: Most of the time in the summer time because of the weather and because people didn't have the vehicle or means of transportation to get here especially like in the winter so they'd hold them in the summertime. And at Christmas they'd have a Christmas play.

Phil: Did many people come from far away?

Shirley: No, because we're so rural.

Phil: Would entire families come?

Shirley: Yes, they did. Most of the time it was mom and her children. I mean some men came but over all it was mom with her children.

Phil: What kind of music and hymns did you church play in the past?

Shirley: Always a piano, unless we have like our dinner after a revival we may bring an accordion or something like that.

Phil: Who would play the piano or organ, if you remember?

Shirley: Eileen Kinser, Phyllis Stowers, Elizabeth Hickenbottom, that's the only ones I can think of right now. There weren't too many of us talented enough to play a piano.

Phil: Did your church ever have a gospel singing group and if so what was their name?

Shirley: No.

Phil: Did any singing groups come from outside?

Shirley: Uh-huh, when they would have their homecoming they would have groups to sing. After dinner everybody went back into the church and there were different groups invited like from other churches and what not and they would sing.

Phil: Describe what the homecomings were like since you've already told me you have homecomings?

Shirley: It was like we'd have Sunday School in the morning and preachering. Then we'd go outside, if it was real pretty. We'd just make big long tables out of board with sawhorses, put the boards on top of the sawhorses and put a tablecloth on top of the boards. And everybody would put their dinner in top of the same table and we all just ate. And then after dinner we'd go back and different groups would sing. Then they'd sing until everyone got tired and went home. And they'd just visited, talk, and have a good time.

Phil: How far away would people come from?

Shirley: How far? Well, from here to Bastian, up to Tazewell.

Phil: What kind of food would you have?

Shirley: Oh goodness, good food. Fried chicken, anything, cakes, pies. It was the best, you name it, and they'd bring it.

Phil: What else would be done?

Shirley: Nothing else, we would visit, we would eat, we would sing, we'd hear the preachers. If there were any other preachers who wanted to preach in the afternoon, they let them preach or speak, which ever you'd rather say. And the kids, the smaller kids just would play among themselves, if they wanted to they went outside and played. Everybody would just visit and have a good time.

Phil: What would the church do for Christmas?

Shirley: We always had a Christmas play; the children would put on a Christmas play. We drew names, we exchanged gifts, and maybe a couple of us we'd go sing, like caroling. And if anybody was sick or needed anything, they'd go see, you know, what ever they needed they'd take to them.

Phil: What was done for the children?

Shirley: We had the play, the children participated in the play and the church always brought them a treat like hard candy, an orange, and an apple and always put it in a bag. They always had them a treat. And maybe the Sunday School teachers would give them a special treat for their class, like if I had a class and I might give them something special. Not much, because there wasn't that much money around for us to have.

Phil: Any special services?

Shirley: No, just our Christmas play, well probably on the Sunday before or after Christmas there be a special service by the preacher. And something else I forgot to tell you, they had a youth group and it was called the MYF. This church was like in districts and we was in the East Tazewell district. Each church, of course we had one, two, three, four, on Clearfork. They were all small churches and they were called East Methodist district. And each church had an MYF, which was a youth group for their young people every Sunday night. And then in the summertime we'd have everybody on the East District would get together and we would have a picnic and a get together for the young people.

Phil: What would the church do for Easter? Any special services?

Shirley: Sunrise, always had a sunrise service. pretty much the same thing we do now.

Phil: Describe a typical Sunday morning when you were a child, from the time you got up to the time you went to bed.

Shirley: On a Sunday morning. We'd get up, get dressed, go the Sunday School and went home and eat our lunch and fool around. When I was a teenager we went back to MYF like at seven o'clock at night. And that was it.

Phil: What was MYF?

Shirley: Methodist Youth Fellowship. That's what it was called, Probably the Baptist church was BYF.

Phil: Would there socializing after church, would the children attend evening service?

Shirley: The only thing I can remember the children would go with their parents to the revival and we always had the MYF in the evening. That pretty much all because like I say people was so far away from churches that, you didn't go that much because you couldn't, you didn't have the means to go, you didn't have a way to go.

Phil: Did the church provide dinner and breakfast and if so what was it like?

Shirley: No, we had no way to do anything like that.

Phil: What did you wear to church?

Shirley: Homemade dresses; homemade sewn dresses or store bought clothes if we could afford it. We always wore dresses; we didn't wear jeans to church and slacks. It was always a dress. Most of the older people would always put on pretty hats, they were proud of their hats.

Phil: Describe the happiest moment you ever had at church. The saddest moment. The greatest religious experience you ever had.

Shirley: No religious experience; the saddest time was family funerals.

Phil: When was the happiest moment?

Shirley: The happiest moments I guess was when we went to MYF. Cause we always had a good time, we always loved it.

Phil: Is there anything else you'd like to say about Nebo Church?

Shirley: Well, like I guess you see that steeple on top of the church. Someone built it, I know who it was, it was a Stowers man that I guess he was raised on Clearfork, he had that steeple built by a man up Laurel by Roy Akers. He paid for it and he had it brought over here. All the neighbors came in, men, and they put the steeple in for him. Everybody was real proud of that. When they moved the church, you know, like when they moved the highways. And the church like I said was sitting like literally in the middle of the highway. That was something to watch them turning the church around and move it to the other side of the highway. They built a new foundation and took there and put it on the other side of the highway, that was something to see

And Mr. Wiley Stowers he was a really devoted man for the church. And he paid for this pulpit he built in the church. It was made of hardwood. He was a good carpenter. He worker hours and hours to build this pulpit and he put the railing around it. He varnished and shellacked it and I'll never forget him. He was always working in the church and he did a real good job with that.

Phil: I'm not exactly sure what a pulpit is. Can you help me?

Shirley: Well it's the raised, well I guess you'd call it an altar they called it a pulpit but it the altar. See this church didn't have an altar it was just a plain, even floor all the way through. And it, well I guess I was in the first year of high school and this Mr. Stowers decides he was going to build us, he called it a pulpit, an altar. And he went and bought the hardwood and built it about this high, the first part of it, and then built another part like for the preacher to stand on. He was like two, three steps up.
This Mr. Wiley Stowers bought a great big Bible to put in there. I often wondered where that was at, now he didn't buy that Bible, his daughter did. After he did this work on the church, Shirley: bought this big Bible and put in the church and put it on a little table in front of the altar.

When Forrest Kinser Chapel was closed, that was about 5 miles up the road, they brought their piano and what little bit of furniture they had down here and the people from Kinser's Chapel moved down here and they stayed here for about fifteen years. Well everything has to be money wise and for a whole bunch of different reasons they closed this down and everybody went to Rocky Gap to the Methodist Church.

Phil: Well, thank you for your time and trouble and that's it.

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