Clay United Methodist Church
Cedar Mountain Church
In April, 1818, the Presiding Elder of the Nashville District of the
Tennessee Conference sent Rev. Ebenezer Hearn to preach and
organize societies in that part of Alabama so recently taken from the
Creek Indians. Rev. Heam found on Cedar Mountain several families
who had recently settled in that part of the country.
The Society at Cedar Mountain was, in all likelihood, organized
before Alabama was admitted to the Union (Alabama was admitted
December 14, 1819). Church services were probably being held before
the Society was officially organized, the reason being the Charter
Members settled here two years earlier and two of them were preachers
and others lifelong Methodists.
The church called Cedar Mountain was organized in 1819, when
the Rev. John Kesterson was in charge of the Tuscaloosa Circuit
(spelled at that time Tuscaloosa) and before the Jones Valley Circuit
was formed. Charter members at Cedar Mountain were Rev. Perry
Tunnel and wife, Rev. James Johnson and wife, Francis Self and wife,
George Taylor and wife. (History of Methodism in Alabama by Dr.
Like most people who wrote in the 19thcentury about a man and
his wife, Dr. West failed to mention the wife's name. In researching
family records, it was found that Francis (Frank) Self's wife was named
Lidy (maiden name not found) and George Taylor's wife was Nancy Cooper.
It is not known if the society at Cedar Mountain built a church or
Met in a home.
They continued worshiping at Cedar Mountain Church until 1826
When that church was superseded by a new church some three miles
Away called Shiloh. This church was a small log building that was also
Used as a school. It was built on what was later known as the Nelson
Ware property. But at the time it was built, Nelson was only a boy, so it
probable was owned either by his father, Jacob, or his grandfather, Samuel.
At the organization of Shiloh in 1826, George Taylor and wife, the
Rev. William Taylor and wife, Isaac Taylor, Jonathan Moreland and
wife, and Jacob Ware-and wife were transferred from Cedar Mountain
to Shiloh. (William Taylor's wife was Martha, Jonathan Moreland
married Celia Self and Jacob Ware married Elizabeth Self. These two
Self girls were sisters and were the daughters of Isaac and Nancy.
At the opening of the church at Shiloh, Mary Taylor Catherine Taylor
and Harris Taylor joined as members. Harris Taylor was the first Class
Leader at Shiloh. Three years later, in 1829, upon recommendation from
the Society at Shiloh, Harris was licensed to preach. Harris married
Nancy Self in 1826. She was the daughter of Francis and Lidy Self. In
Dr. West’s book, History of Methodism in Alabama, Francis was the
first person Ebenezer Hewn contacted at Cedar Mountain Francis is
believed to be a brother to Isaac.
Elijah Self joined the church at Shiloh the year it was organized and
Had his membership there 64 years. During that time he was Class
Leader and local preacher. Elijah married Catherine Taylor in 1827.
(The Taylor family was distinguished in the County and among
William Taylor was licensed to preach on recommendation by the
Quarterly Conference from the Society at Cedar Mountain, Tuscaloosa
Circuit. He later served as pastor at what is now Taylor's Memorial,
named such in his memory. He is buried in the cemetery next to
Isaac Taylor, another brother, was also licensed to preach by the
Society at Cedar Mountain and was a faithful and able preacher even in
the face of great difficulty. He too is buried in Taylor's cemetery. Isaac
was marred to Hannah Hopper in 1821.
Harris Taylor, another brother who was mentioned earlier, was also
a faithful minister even though he only lived to be 47 years old. He is
buried in the Methodist Church Cemetery at Alexandria, Alabama,
These are the sons of George and Nancy Cooper Taylor who also
had another son named Casper. Even though Casper never became a
preacher, he was a faithful and active layman in the Methodist Church.
The George Taylors had three or four daughters. Catherine, also
known as Caty, married Rev. Elijah Self, and one of their sons,
Nathaniel, was a Methodist preacher for many years in Alabama.
Mary was another daughter. (It is believed that Mary was also
called by a second name of Polly. It is possible that Polly could have
been another daughter.) Rebecca, probably the youngest daughter, was
married to Pleasant Wear in 1832. Rebecca and Pleasant had a large
family who were most all Methodists. Quite a few of their descendants
are members of Clay Church at the present time. Pleasant was one of
the Trustees of Shiloh recorded in the Land Deed Book Volume 13,
Jacob Ware, who was a member at Cedar Mountain, was a brother
to Pleasant even though they spelled their last names differently. Many
of Jacob's descendants also are members of Clay Church. The Wears -
Wares understand they are from the same family, just as the Self’s how
there are not two sets of Selfs.
Francis Self, also known as Frank, had moved away from the area
by the year 1834 as records show he purchased land in Benton County
(now Calhoun County) and was tasked there in 1844 for 300 acres of
land and four slaves.
On March 3, 1856, Elijah Self and wife, Catherine, deeded to the
trustees of Shiloh one acre of land. This land was located where
Trussville Road intersects Old Springville Road (then called Elyton
Road). A one room log building was erected with a wide fireplace for
heat, two small windows for lighting, and long crude benches for
seating. This building was also used for a school. The first Shiloh was
abandoned and the members started attending this new church which
later became Clay.
In 1878, when the first post office was established, a name for the
community was being considered. The book, Place Names in Alabama
by Virginia 0.Foscue, says a local resident, Bill McCoy, suggested the
environmental name descriptive of the clay hills in the area. Uncle Tom
Self has told the story on many occasions about how Clay got its name.
He had never seen this book due to the book not having been published
during his lifetime. However, he gave the same story with the exception
that it was some fellow just passing through that suggested naming the
community for all the clay soil around. Prior to being named Clay, the
community was known as Self's Beat. Shiloh church and school now
was used for something else--Clay's first post office. Until it was tom
down in the 1960ts, a slot in the door was still present.
The land that was given by Elijah and Caty Self was part of forty
acres of land granted to Elijah in 1849 when Zachary Taylor was
President of the United States. Elijah later sold part of this land to one
of his sons, James H. Self.
In 1881, James Self traded two acres of land for the old Shiloh
building on one acre of land to the Trustees of the Methodist Church of
the Birmingham Circuit. At this time a new frame building was erected
on this property, which is the same property this church is on now. The
first grave was opened that same year in the cemetery which is on that
two acre tract.