Hammock Publishing’s Bill Hudgins provides a first-person account of a fire last night at the church he and his wife, Wilda, attend, Gallatin’s First Prebyterian. According to news accounts this morning, the church building was errected in 1836-37.”:
There was a fire at First Presbyterian Church in Gallatin Sunday night, the church we go to and where we were married 25 years ago this coming Wednesday. It apparently started in the audio system near the front of the sanctuary, over on the right side as you face the building. Burned part of the organ and that front part of the sanctuary, the ceiling fell in over the choir and pulpit area, the heat broke out or at least something destroyed, a stained glass window the Dodsons bought in memory of Wilda’s brother, Frank, who died a few months after we were married.

There’s smoke and water damage in the new part of the churchbehind the sanctuary, there was fire in the roof as well, and of coursesmoke throughout the sanctuary. But they said the pews back from thepulpit didn’t get wet, and we were able to salvage a lot of records anditems from the study and office and other parts of the building. It was pretty moving to see everyone pitching in to move things, older members struggling to carry speakers, books, chairs, and younger members stepping in to take the things and caution everyone about the ice that was quickly overtaking the parking lot.

People kept, well, sneaking is not quite the right word, but taking every opportunity to try to enter the sanctuary and other parts of the building to assess the damage and bring out more stuff. The baptismal font came out eventually – it narrowly escaped being crushed by the falling ceiling.

There’s a Dairy Queen just down the street a block, and they sent coffee and burgers up to the firefighters. Good thing there wasn’t another call tonight, as they had fully committed all their resources to this. We stayed about 90 minutes and when we left, they were still watching some hot spots in a roof area. I suspect they will be there quite a while yet to make sure it doesn’t flare up again.

A friend called us and we raced up there – a passerby had seen the smokeand flames, and called the FD, which is just a block away. I got aglimpse inside the sanctuary, and could see the damage to the organ, theceiling and walls. General consensus is that it is not as bad as itcould have been. The organ came from the old downtown Nashville Presbychurch, so no knowing how old it is. Amazing that with all the old woodtrusses and organ and everything else, that it didn’t just go up in flames.

They had been talking about an addition, but the newest part design wasmaking it awkward to come up with a workable design. So this might turnout to have a silver lining if they decide to tear down some or all ofthe new part and rebuild the whole thing.

We will know more in the morning – I plan to go up there and see if I can help. The sheriff has offered us lots of trustys to clean, carry, etc. as well.