Original Church of God
The Original Church of God is noted as being the first African-American Original Church of God congregation in Tennessee. The congregation formed in 1900 by C.W. Gray, who held the first meeting on a front porch. As the congregation grew, the need for a permanent sanctuary became obvious. In 1907, the church purchased a lot in between Phillips and Gordon streets. Within weeks of the purchase, the Giles County Courthouse burned down. Using the salvaged bricks and front door from the courthouse, the Original Church of God erected their church, completed in 1909. The structure is recognized as the oldest Original Church of God sanctuary in Tennessee.
Backstory and Context
Constructed in 1907, the Pulaski Original Church of God is the oldest known extant sanctuary of the predominantly African American denomination. The Original Church of God, also known as the Sanctified Church, began as part of the Holiness movement of the early twentieth century. In 1900, elder C.W Gray began preaching the gospel on the front porch of Cora and Allison Smith’s house outside of Wales Station, a community northwest of Pulaski. As the congregation grew, area families hosted services in their homes. Within a few years the group purchased a tent to hold revivals which was erected where ever they could rent or borrow a space. On April 27, 1907, within a week of the Giles County Court House burning down, the community of The Original Church of God purchased an empty lot on Gordon and North First Street. Using doors and bricks from the burned-out courthouse the congregation built their first permanent building. The building was dedicated in 1909 and remained in use by the congregation until _____.
The symbology of using the bricks from the legal power center of the community, one that enforced the segregation of the community, held powerful meaning during the Jim Crow era in Giles County. Not only did the church serve the spiritual needs of the citizens, it also acted as a safe place for the African-American citizens to gather without fear. The neighborhood near the church has traditionally been the African-American part of town resulting from the Union occupation of Pulaski during and immediately after the Civil War. During this time, a fort was constructed on the hill above town and whose garrison included troops from the USCT. Many of the soldiers, some of whom were contraband slaves from nearby, relocated their families to the contraband camp forming around the fort.