The center of the Providence community is Providence Presbyterian Church and its cemetery, located on the Washington County/Greene County line about six miles from Limestone and two miles north of the Old Stage Road. Thomas Gillis donated one and one-half acres of land for the church and cemetery; later, three acres were added by the will of Ann Allison Thompson Kennedy.
Providence cemetery was in use by 1801, and many early members of the church are buried there, although many of the grave markers can no longer be found. A survey of the cemetery in 1958 listed slightly over three hundred legible tombstones, but only eleven had dates of death earlier than 1850. A distinctive feature of the cemetery is its stone wall, which is about three feet high and was built in the early 1800’s, without mortar, by the church members.
Providence Presbyterian Church was started soon after 1780 by Rev. Samuel Doak. Its first resident minister, Samuel Houston, was ordained there on 21 August 1783, thus becoming the first Presbyterian minister ordained in what is now Tennessee. The church was officially organized and established in 1784. The first church building, built in 1783 of logs with a hearth at the center of the building, burned in 1823. A new building was constructed in 1824, but collapsed in 1886 due to a record-breaking snowfall. The present building was erected in 1888 and dedicated by the Rev. J. D. Tadlock. A few years ago, it was covered with brick and its interior was modernized.
The earliest list of church members which has been located is dated 1836, over fifty years after the church was started; many members had probably died during this long period. On the 1836 listing the following names are included: George Gillespie, Archibald Frame, Thomas Carson (from Doe Run, Pennsylvania), William and Henry McCall, John Blair (a local miller and Revolutionary War veteran from Pennsylvania), Moses and Lemuel Carson (whose parents came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania), William Leslie Humphreys, William Rainey Seehorn, Edward Ross (born in Ireland; fought at Point Pleasant), Sevier Tadlock, James Dinwiddie, Jr., Alexander Henderson, Joseph Shields, John Armstrong, and Alfred Brabson.
Mill Creek, now called Carson Creek, flows near Providence Presbyterian Church. Many of the early landowners obtained their property by purchasing North Carolina land grants. Land grants dated in 1782 and 1783 which mention Mill Creek were issued to the following grantees: James Wilson, Moses Moore, John Hambleton, Joseph Wilson, Samuel Trotter, and Thomas Brandon. Recorded land transactions issued before 1809 in which Mill Creek is mentioned show the following owners of land: Thomas Brown, John Tool, John Cosson, John Campbell, James McWhorter, Thomas Rogers, Robert Eaches, John Gillis, Hugh Cummings, John Gilliwith, George Boyd, James Roberts, Thomas Givens, Thomas Brabson, and Joseph Bailes.
In the late 1800’s or early 1900’s Aaron Keys operated a grist mill on Mill Creek, as did “Big” John R. Carson. The Brabson Mill near the Old Stage Road is still in operation. Near Providence, but in Greene County, a Mr. Roberts ran a grist mill and a chair factory.
Surnames found on tombstones in the old part of Providence cemetery include: Loyd, Duncan, Thompson, DeVault, Ferguson, Cowan, Hays, Cosson, Kennedy, Mercer, Seehorn, Campbell, Morrow, Carson, Taylor, Brabson, Martin, Million, Blair, Tadlock, Gillespie, Cremer, Stonecifer, Buchanan, Armstrong, King, Morelock, Moore, Humphreys, McCall, Aston, Blakely, Jones, Harrison, and Moody.
The community was first served by a post office in Greene County, but in 1868 a post office called Mill Brook was established, with Jesse Armentrout as postmaster. In 1882, George E. McKay became postmaster, and in 1899 Kate McKay succeeded him. The post office was closed in 1900 when Rural Free Delivery from Limestone began. – contributed by Mary Henderson