On November 15, 2020, Barfield Baptist Church realized a dream come true, as they celebrated a new expansive building at 550 Veterans Parkway in their new sanctuary. Today we will reflect on the earliest history of this special congregation.
The hub of Barfield in primitive days included a general store, blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, and post office. Horses with ploughs, chickens, livestock, and fields of crops were visible in a wide swath of pristine countryside.
Frederick Barfield (1757-1828), son of Jessie and Sarah Barfield, is the namesake for this community. Jesse fought with the militia in the Battle of Moss Creek Bridge in 1776 in North Carolina. Jessie and his son Frederick also served in the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. Jessie died five days later after this engagement. Moreover, Frederick was seriously wounded in active service.
Frederick’s children were Susan, James and Sally. He was a trustee of Bradley Academy and received a large Revolutionary War land grant that was manifest in the community of Barfield. In August 1804, Frederick was a commissioner to select the seat of Justice for Rutherford County.
The new congregation is across the street from Barfield Crescent Park that is brimming in state historical prominence. The park was the site of first humans in settlements within Middle Tennessee. Barfield Crescent also features prehistoric underwater trenches and a shallow sea that once held gargantuan marine reptiles.
Barfield Baptist maintained meticulous records in church history for 122 years within Rutherford County. The church first assembled under a large oak tree near the old Barfield Post Office on September 8, 1898. The original members were Robert and Camilla Butler Patterson Jamison, widow Nancy Gamewell, and Ellen McCullough. Robert Jamison and Camilla wed on the eve of the Civil War. Robert fought in the War Between the States in the Company D, 45th Infantry and returned home to farm in Barfield and attend First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro as deacon and church clerk. He also became president and professor of languages at Union University High School in the 1880s. The Jamison family was very active in every good deed for the new church at Barfield and were front and center with their six children. Camilla was known to the Barfield congregation as the ‘mother of all goodwill.’ Robert Jamison was very involved in the building of the new church. In 1923, his son Harry Jamison presented the church with a silver communion in honor of his parents that was displayed for 100 years. Both Robert and Camilla are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro.
Two prime founding families of Barfield Baptist descended through William Thomas Gamewell and William Campbell. Gamewell was a Confederate soldier, who claimed Nancy Lavinia Hill as his wife after the Stones River battle. They were wed on October 21, 1868 and raised eight children, including twins Robert and Etta on a 140-acre farm in Barfield. William died at age 48, and Nancy joined the Baptist Church in Murfreesboro. A widow at 41 years old, she never remarried and was fully committed to family and spirituality. In 1919, her two sons William and Robert donated a half acre to build a church. Dr. Robert Gamewell Jr. is a namesake for a bridge over Veterans Parkway crossing Stones River. The Gamewell family were strong supporters of the early Barfield congregation.
William Henry Campbell also desired to donate land to the 1898 congregation. William and wife Nettie sold 135 acres to James Bell, who then donated half an acre to Barfield Baptist one month after Campbell was deceased in 1900. The lot was positioned on the West of Stones River. In death, William Campbell was described as ‘model Christian man with living faith.’
The initial one-room wooden church building was attended by Barfield farmers with their families, who arrived by foot or horse and buggy. The church was organized under Reverend Isham Anderson Hailey in September 1898. He was a former minister of the First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro from 1895-1899. Brother Robert Jamison was elected Deacon and Otis Gamewell served as church clerk. The first week at this new congregation resulted in six baptisms in Stones River on Sunday, September 11, 1898. Within a week, K.P. Johns, Fannie Johns, James Barber, Miss Lee Cook and John McCullough were also baptized. The church was growing day by day.
Congregants met in the Union Church building, while their new church was constructed. Reverend Hailey preached one Sunday a month at Barfield. He soon departed Tennessee to serve churches in Kentucky and Mississippi. The second pastor was Calvin Dillion in 1900. In this year, the church obtained property at Midland and Barfield Road for a new building. On April 6, 1902, a conference was held to dedicate the new premises. The church now showcased their own building after three years of zealous ambition. The cost of this church was $700. After completion, a foundation was firm, and revival meetings were held in a grand manner.
Charter members included Nancy Gamewell, along with Otis and Laleyer Gamewell Brocksmith, Robert and Camilla Jamison, and Ellen McCullough. New members soon received were William Campbell, Ernest McCullough, Maude McCullough, Laura Morton, William Womack, Callie Evetts, and Mrs. John Ogle.
The years rolled by in a forthright manner. An impoverished country was at hand in the 1930s and accompanied by two World Wars, a Vietnam War and unending transition amidst the world as a whole. Yet, Barfield Baptist stood strong and unwavering. During the Depression, deacon and treasurer Houston Lovvern traveled horseback on Saturday mornings to collect coins to pay their pastor on Sunday.
The congregation ‘continued on’ with big plans in the 20th century to expand. In 1944, four rooms were added, and the congregants provided all of the labor. By 1949, full time services were held under the leadership of Leonard Arbuckle. Ten Sunday School rooms were erected under J.V. Braswell. In 1961, a parsonage was built across the street from the church, and Robert Lemay was the first pastor to reside there. Greely Davenport was pastor in 1974 during the church remodeling project that included new pews. This was followed by a new baptistery in 1976 and enlarged auditorium in 1977. In 1984, Dave Brown was a pastor and ever-present during additional renovations.
An F4 tornado ravaged Barfield in 1997 destroying 44 houses and inflicting 18 injuries, while costing $4.7 million in property damage. A new steeple was crowned on Barfield Baptist in 1998 after this horrific twister carved a path within the community. In this same year, Ron Byers, a handsome man, arrived as the minister and remains front and center after 22 progressive years. By 2018, the attendance had increased from less than 50 from the onset of Ron’s ministry to 250 members. Ron was born in Murfreesboro, and his father was the Vice President of Sword of Lord Publishers, a religious publishing house. Ron had desired ministry since he was 15 years old and is a fervent and dynamic preacher.
Barfield Baptist remained in the same venue for 120 years. The original building was part of a complex at 1033 Barfield Church Road. In 2004, a new auditorium was in place; and in 2010, the church held two services. Ten acres was later purchased on Veterans Parkway to accommodate 500 attendees in a 16,199 square foot building.
Since inception, there have been thirty pastors with long-term members actively seeking goodwill. In August 1945, Rachel Lovvern Morton joined the church and was a Sunday School teacher for decades and active member for 75 years. Deacon Alex Briley served for a tenure from 1932-1978. Deacon Bobby Douglas and wife Louise joined Barfield Baptist in 1958 and are still attending as active members.
In November 2020, Barfield Baptist is proudly worshiping within their new abode, as they carry a bright Christian light and resilient message for our community.