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Kirksey Tavern

Pine Level, Alabama


By Martha Broach Benbow

          On June 15, 1863, Pine Level Methodist Episcopal Church South acquired two tracts of land, totaling 7.42 acres from James M. Graves. The deed was made to William C. Parks, W.W. Leak, Perry Ozier, F.A. Boswell, D.B. Eubank, I.I. Moore, and Jackson Frizzel, Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  A building on this land was known as the “tavern”. It had long been a stage coach inn on the Montgomery-Troy line. This building was remodeled and used as the church building until 1937, when it was torn down under the leadership of W.O. Calhoun, pastor. In its place a new brick structure was constructed, consisting of a vestibule, sanctuary, and Sunday School rooms. The original plans included a wing on each side of the building making the structure in the shape of a cross. Mr. Luther Edwards was the contractor.


          The church’s name was changed to Pine Level Methodist Church in 1939.


          In 1953, while Robert Hendricks was pastor, the left wing of the church was built. It consisted of two class rooms and two bathrooms. Mr. C.B. Hattaway was the contractor for this wing.


          At the Merger Conference in 1968, the church’s name was changed to Pine Level United Methodist Church.


          The Church’s dream of someday completing the original building plans of 1937 became a reality in 1979. Dr. Roger Dick Johns was pastor when the right wing of the church was begun and completed. This wing included a kitchen, two class rooms, a secretary’s office, and a pastor’s study, doubling as a class room. The Fellowship Hall was remodeled and the entire educational area was painted and carpeted. James Kohn was the contractor and George Turnipseed and James Pugh served as Chairman of the Board and of the Building Committee.


          Dedication services were held March 9, 1980, under the direction of Dr. Roger Dick Johns, Pastor, with the District Superintendent J.O. Ellisor, Jr. giving the dedication sermon. Kitchen furnishings given in memory of Dr. and Mrs. N.L. Broach and F.S. Benbow by Martha B. Benbow and family were dedicated in a brief ceremony during the day. The climax of the day was the witnessing of the laying of the cornerstone. Sealed behind the cornerstone was a packet with historical information of the church which included a roll and list of pastors, Administrative Board and Church School officers for the current year, pictures of the two church structures, a copy of the latest newsletter, the bulletin for the dedication service, and a copy of the dedication sermon.


          On September 27, 1981, the Administrative Board approved the buying of eleven stained-glass windows for the sanctuary and vestibule from Wineburger Company. James Pugh, Sr. and Dr. Dick Johns were elected chairpersons for this project. The pictures in the windows portray the life of Christ, namely:

          Window #1 Annunciation

In Memory of All those who served God as members of this church

          Window #2 Nativity

In Memory of the families of Ozier, O’Neill, Ledbetter and Adams

          Window #3 Baptism

In Memory of W.A. Canty and Willie Pugh Canty

          Window #4 Healing ministry

In Memory of Robert Burgess Pruett

          Windows #5 , 6, 7 Ascension and Four Gospels

In Memory of James Henry and Lorena Canty Pugh

          Window #8 Good Shepherd

In Memory of Benjamin Green and Ella Ozier Barnes

          Window #9 Gethsemane

In Memory of Dr. N.L. and Myrtle Graves Broach and F. Sanderson Benbow

          Window #10 Resurrection

In Memory of Viola Dawn Roten

          Vestibule Jesus Knocking

In Memory of Oliver Cromwell and Mamie Wright McNeill


          The painting of the interior of the sanctuary and vestibule was done after the stained-glass windows were installed. A committee of Martha Benbow and Kathleen Pugh selected a soft cream color that harmonized beautifully with the windows.


          Mr. and Mrs. Robert Eugene Roten made a gift of new cushioned pews for the choir area in the sanctuary in the fall of 1981. The rich gold color of the cushions blended beautifully with the church’s décor.


          Also in the fall of 1981, the McMillan Family presented Kriebel and Bates’ picture of Christ. This gift was in memory of W.H. McMillan and Sue Ola McMillan. It adorns one of the walls in the Fellowship Room.


          On February 14, 1982, a dedication service was held for the presentation of the stained-glass windows with District Superintendent Karl Stegall presenting the dedication sermon.


          Mrs. Julia S. Rice of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, presented two oil paintings to the church in 1982- a painting of Pine Level Episcopal Church South as it looked in 1936 and Pine Level United Methodist Church as it looks today. These beautiful paintings hang in the Fellowship Room so they can be admired by all that see them.


          In the early months of 1982, Jessoise Rawls, a member of our church that looks to the preservation of the past, wanted the translucent glass panes from the sanctuary windows preserved by placing them in the windows of the rooms in the two wings of the church. With James Pugh, Sr.’s help, this dream became a reality with Jessoise raising most of the money for this project. As a result, the windows in the two wings of the church have a very special glitter due to the 1937 translucent panes that Miss Rawls sincerely thought of preserving.


          An important, practical, expensive project was conducted in 1982. The entire church was insulated, thus preserving both heat and air, making for a most comfortable church.


          On May 25, 1982, James Pugh, Sr. headed a project for filling in the valley between the church and the property Martha Broach Benbow gave. This project was estimated to cost around $2,000. Marvis Evans contracted the job, and James Pugh, Sr. used his own tractor and labor, plus seeds and fertilizer to complete the job. It would have cost $3,500 or more if all this extra work hadn’t been done free gratis by James Pugh, Sr.  Pine Level Methodist Church has one of the most generous and caring members that one can imagine.


          Light fixtures for the sanctuary and vestibule were purchased from Wineburger Company and installed on July 31, 1982, by Tommy Parson, who donated his time and labor. Because of Tommy Parsons we have excellent installation. We value his friendship and loyalty to our church. Eight light fixtures with dimmer switches were placed in the sanctuary and a shorter fixture of the same design was installed in the vestibule. The fixtures selected by the committee composed of Kathleen Pugh, Martha Benbow, Elizabeth Livingston, and Claudie Belle Pugh, are copper cylinder shaped, ranging from around three feet or more in length. Later, three recessed eye-ball lights and two dimmer switches, selected by Committee Chariman James Pugh, Jr. and Jerry Grant, were installed by William (Bill) Livingston for James Pugh, Sr. who was in complete charge of this project. A security light was put on the north side lawn of the church.


          In July, 1983, a Church Identification Marker, made of granite stone was presented by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Eugene Roten as a gift to the church. This beautiful marker is on the front lawn of the church for all to admire. Its purpose is to welcome all to Pine Level United Methodist Church.


          On July 25, 1983, the Administrative Board felt the need to install new carpet after installing beautiful stained-glass windows and elegant light fixtures. A committee composed of Kathleen Pugh and Martha Benbow was appointed to get samples of carpet appropriate for the sanctuary. Plush carpet from Alabama Carpet Sales, Montgomery, Alabama, was selected and installed, using the color, Harvest Wheat, at a cost of $3,206.82.


          Before the carpet was installed, the altar rail was opened to accommodate special programs such as weddings and pageants. The kneeling rail was raised and widened making communion services more comfortable.


          Trouble with the Public Address System, reported by Bill Livingston on October 24, 1983, led to expansions being made and the buying of a second microphone for the second lectern. Sonny Benbow paid for these expenses and now our P.A. System is in good condition, due to the competent work of our electrician church member, Bill Livingston.


          On October 23, 1984, a ramp for handicaps was financed by Sonny Benbow and built by James Pugh, Sr. It is Sonny Benbow’s wish that all handicapped persons enjoy using it.


          On August 26, 1984, Martha Broach Benbow bought a beautiful genuine black Morocco leather pulpit Bible for the church. It was dedicated to her parents, Dr. N.L. Broach and Myrtle Graves Broach. She hopes this gift will give as much pleasure to the Church as she had presenting it.


          One of the most interesting projects that has been going on since 1983 has been the cemetery. With James Pugh, Sr., over-all chairman, a new look has been accomplished. Removing trees and stumps from the cemetery, repairing broken markers, fighting the erosion problem, lining up the graves for easier maintenance, and sodding the grounds with centipede, have been some of the problems resolved. Chairman Pugh appointed Ena Paul, Martha Benbow, and Claudie Belle Pugh as members of the cemetery committee. This committee has recorded every marker by name and is in the process of sending out letters to every relative or interested person during February 1985. The establishment of a perpetual Care Fund is being considered for maintenance and up-keep.

Methodist Church at Pine Level Was Once a Crossroads Tavern

By Mildred S. Smith

Published in the Montgomery Advertiser on 6/29/31

            From tavern to place of worship, from stagecoach trail to paved highway, that is the history of the Pine Level Methodist Church building and the Bee Line Highway from Montgomery to Troy, the original trail of the stagecoach, that drew up to the tavern doors daily to let passengers off and on, and to change for a new span of horses.


            In the days preceding the War Between the States, Pine Level was quite a business and social center, with educational advantages that drew boarding students from a distance.


            Old-timers tell how, at commencement season or on other festival occasions, Dave McMoy drew the stagecoach up in front of Mrs. Kirksey’s tavern (now the Methodist Church) with a flourish and crack of his whip, and ladies in their crinolines and dandies in their high stocks and frock tail coats alighted to be met by the gay young set of Pine Level. To be invited to the social affairs in Pine Level, to have a beau or a sweetheart from the Pine Level crowd, was something coveted by the young ladies and men of the other towns in South Montgomery County. Nowhere were such good times to be had, such a gay, rollicking, pleasure making crowd.


            Sedate business men were among the passengers deposited by the stagecoach at Mrs. Kirksey’s tavern, too, where its roaring log fires and hot meals in the winter or cool breezes and ice-cold water from the well in summer brought cheer to the traveler.


            Within the walls to which worshippers now come, corking tales were told by loquacious travelers to a bevy of listeners, or tales were swapped with the townspeople. Here, too, the weary traveler might lean back in comfort and enjoy his pipe while he sniffed the aroma of coffee, the fragrance of pork sausage frying in the hog killing season, or of fried chicken in summer.


                                                Stagecoach Line


            The stagecoach line was owned by Jeff Morriss, of Troy, who engaged Dave McMoy, a brother of the late Andy McMoy of Pine Level, to run it for him. Dave was wounded in the war and given a discharge to return home. He drove the stagecoach until after the war, the line being discontinued about 1866. The route followed the present Carter Hill Road or Bee Line Highway, the paving of which has just been completed.


            After the discontinuance of the stage line, the tavern was sold to the Methodists of the town for a church, and was remodeled to fit its new needs. It now houses an enterprising congregation of Methodists who have services twice monthly, morning and night, who boast a splendid Sunday school, a Woman’s Missionary Society and an Epworth League. The Rev. J. Ray Hudgens is the present pastor, many having filled the pulpit since the first pastor, the Rev. Sampley.


            Early history of Pine Level shows that it had a shoe shop, a tannery, a blacksmith shop, a wagon and buggy factory, gin and corn mill and an indefinite number of saloons, camouflaged under the name of grocery. Queerly, it brings to mind the story of the old ship captain, stranded on a sandbar in Clearwater Bay, Florida, who wrote to the nearby grocery man: ”Please send me a week’s supply of groceries, one box of soda crackers and a barrel of liquor.”


                                                Crossroads Saloon


            Shaver Brothers operated a saloon, which they called “The Crossroads Grocery.” Between this saloon and Graves’s grocery, was a commissary during the time of the War Between the States, for storing food for the soldiers. Tom Cook was the town’s shoemaker and Riley Adams, a blind man, tended a barroom. Wiley Bobbitt operated a store on the Moore Road (the present road to Curry’s) but closed soon after the war. A livery stable occupied the site on which M.B. Guice’s barn now stands.


            Prominent among the first people of Pine Level were the Shavers, Allens, Dicksons, and Wrights.


            Dr. Jim Townsend, father of J. Murray Townsend, was the town’s leading doctor, and William Graves was a prominent farmer, merchant and lumberman, and incidentally had a handsome son, Henry, that was the social catch of the county. John B. Parker was another of the first settlers, and reared a large family.


                                                First School


            The first school of Pine Level was a small one-room log house and the teacher was a Miss Nelson. The settlement was called Pine Tuckey at this time. The next school was near the present home of M. B. Guice. When Pine Level became larger, changed its name from Pine Tuckey, and began to make rapid strides in education, the residents built a huge three-room school that served until it burned several years ago; and the present consolidated junior high school building was erected by the county. Before the building burned only one room was used and the number of pupils had decreased to less than two dozen.


            The Baptist Church is the oldest church in the community, being something over 100 years old and built of pure lightwood fastened together with pegs and home made nails.


            A steady stream of cars passes daily through Pine Level, along the old stage trail which is now the Bee Line from Chicago to Jacksonville. In the heart of the town there is a sturdy old-fashioned building with a modest sign “Pine Level Methodist Church.” Its structure still shows some of the earmarks of the old tavern. Its mission too, is very much the same, for, as it filled the need of the traveler along the stage trail for comfort, and cheer and rest, it now fills the need of the traveler on the highway of life as a place of sanctuary and rest.

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