The Speaks Chapel dedication newspaper clipping, above, from 1991 was contributed by William G. Mullins Sr, found in the pages of his Aunt’s Bible.
The Speaks Family Association assists with the maintenance and upkeep of the Speaks Chapel United Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia. This church was founded by Nicholas Speaks in about 1823 and was originally the Speaks Chapel Methodist Episcopal, South, and although small today with only 22 members, is still in operation. The Speak/e/s/es Conference in 2009 was held in Middlesboro, Kentucky at Cumberland Gap. During that conference a special service and homecoming were held at the church which made the conference and visit very special for those of us who descend from this founding Appalachian family.
In order to facilitate maintenance for the church, a special fund is maintained within the Speak/e/s/es Family Association and contributions are made separately to that fund.
Speaks Chapel Methodist Church History
By Dolores Ham
The Speaks Chapel United Methodist Church, located south of Rose Hill on Road #680, has a rich heritage and history. A marker in the church yard gives 1828 as the date the church was established. At that time it was the Speaks Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1839 Nicholas Speak donated the land where the first church building of logs was erected. This church building was also used as a school house. When Nicholas Speak donated the land for the church building, the trustees of the church were Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs.
The present building was probably built in the early 1900’s. It is believed to be the third church building.
Early records of the church are sparse, but here are some bits of information from various years.
Speaks Chapel was listed in the Quarterly Conference Record as “Speak” in 1895. The District was in Abingdon and the charge in Lee (County). The Presiding Elder was A. J. Porter at that time; the past was T. J. Crumley. The Trustees at that time were W. Thomas Edds, Frank Baumgardner, Robert H. Edds and John Speak.
The Fourth Quarterly Conference was held at Speaks on Jan. 18, 1896, with A. J. Porter in the chair and John W. Smith, Secretary. One item of business pertained to Speaks – on motion: G. H. Ely was elected District Class Leader, in place of James Speak, who was deceased. Andrew Weddle and Jonathan Haynes were also elected trustees. Other appointments for Speaks in 1896 were Samuel G. Bales, T. S. Speaks and J. C. Bartley.
In 1897, Edward Shipley was class leader for Speaks, and John P. Speaks was appointed as a steward in place of Edward Shipley.
A steward, N. C. Burkhart, was listed as Pastor and T. J. Crumley as presiding elder. A motion was made that the trustees be instructed to act in conjunction with the trustees of M. E., South in removing the old school house.
The church at that time was in the Lee charge, Abingdon District of the Virginia Conference, with T. J. Crumley, Presiding Elder, and N. C. Burkhart, Pastor, in 1898.
Speaks Chapel on Jan. 21, 1899 was changed to the Bristol District in the Holston Conference.
Speaks Chapel has been on charge with Morley several times, and with Morgan Memorial beginning in 1972-1973, with Pastor Franklin Lewis and Supt. Henry Dawson, continued until the end of 1979, Pastor James M. Wright, Rev. Monroe Ball, Jr. as District Superintendent for five years and Rev. Harold Buck, ending in December, 1979. B. Speaks has been in the Big Stone Gap District for several years.
It is believed that Nicholas Speak was at least a lay preacher in the early Speaks Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. Some other ministers of Speaks Chapel church were: Rev. Sarber, Rev. Graham, Rev. Huston, Rev. Bobby Osborne, Rev. Jones, Rev. A. J. Porter, Rev. Miles, Rev. Ben Trooper, Rev. Arch Buchanan, Rev. Cam Brooks, Rev. Bobby Debusk, Rev. Ledford, Rev. R. A. Trobaugh, Rev. Franklin Lewis, Rev. James Wright, Rev. Bill Porter, and Rev. C. W. Huff, Jr. Two distinctive ministers of the church were Rev. Franklin Lewis and Rev. Graham. The pastor in the 1990’s was Rev. Robert Brewer, Jr.
Some of the older members of Speaks Chapel were: Mrs. Emma Edds, Mrs. Cornie Lovens, Mary Edds Fee, Finley Fee, Mae Ball Debusk, the Haynes family, the Hatcher Parson family, Lester and Golden Parson, Frank and Hassie Parkey, Mary Sloan, Ben and Viola King, and the Tank Hobbs. Other families who attended the church were Janie Suttons, Cassie Jones, Hobbes, Speaks, Martha W. Fee and the Balls.
The church was closed in 1863 and reopened in 1971 and remains open at the present time (2010).