May 1, 2019, Susan Harber, The Daily News Journal
Eagleville Baptist Church on 159 Church Street is immersed in rich history of paramount significance. Baptisms, burials, weddings, gospel meetings, and deep friendships were a mainstay for this close-knit house of worship. A Tennessee historical marker is erected on the grounds defining the paramount significance of the congregation.
Harpeth Baptist Church (Missionary Baptist) was organized on November 7, 1839 by a presbytery of John Landrum, James Keel and John Rushing. The first log meeting house was on the banks of the Harpeth River, and members were present each Sunday if the river did not rise. Reverend John Rushing was the initial minister with services held twice a month. The first members included Thomas and Sophia Jordan, Elizabeth Williams, Josiah Johnson, Drury Bennett, William Collom, Robert and Nancy Palmer, and John and Rhoda Hazelwood. In 1840, John Scales bequeathed two acres to the Harpeth Baptist Church ‘forever’ according to the deed. Thus, the congregation was ‘off and running’ with much zeal and goodwill over the next 176 years. The namesake of Eagleville Baptist Church was intact as of 1866. In 1842, there were 48 members with Sunday referred to as ‘the Lord’s Day.’ Business meetings were held on Saturday once a month. Before the Civil War, a hard line was taken with members being excluded ‘for drinking, dancing, and failing to attend services.’ The reverend was often a farmer, as his ministerial salary could not support his family.
In 1847, notable resident Chesley Williams was elected Church Clerk. Chesley deeded a lot of land (1878) in the village of Eagleville for the congregation. Former slaves Ralph and Barbary are listed in the archives as attendees present at services. Several slaves attended regularly and sat in the balcony. The two-story frame building was a Confederate hospital during the Civil War and was burned by Federal soldiers. Afterward, a brick building was built in 1870, and two services convened each month. In the same year, two deacons J.C. Williams and William McCord were inducted. The church was admitted into the Concord Association in 1870. This building remained intact until 1957 and was torn down for the creation of a new auditorium.
In 1853, the Duck River Baptist Association held their annual meeting at the church. Trustees confirmed the existing building to include a second story for use by Methodists and Presbyterians. Thus, these two faiths utilized this same meeting house with the Baptists. In 1860, the church relocated to the current site in downtown Eagleville. Several early members included Wilsons, Landrum, Sayers, McCords and Jordans. George Martin Savage, president of Union University, moved to Eagleville in 1884 and opened the notable Savage School in the same year. The school was in the same location of the emerging Eagleville Baptist Church. Courses of math, science, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German and metaphysics were taught in the curriculum. The school had a boarding house for girls and ten rooms for boys. The school building embodied 8 rooms beside the Chapel. Dr. Savage was a church leader, who baptized members and delivered beautiful eulogies at funerals. Many hard-working minsters were at hand within this assembly. In recent times, Brother Marion Arbuckle was known to visit the entire community in Eagleville seeking to pray for all who were ill. He also attained to visit every home in Eagleville to profess his ministry. Several congregants have maintained long memberships. Lorene Russell Rigsby worshiped there for 62 years and was treasurer for 24 years. Mary Vincent and Bessie Perrell Mosely were members for more than 70 years. Currently, Reverend Ronnie Grooms is the active and hard-working pastor. Eagleville Baptist Church documented immaculate minute books of record from 1839 onward. The membership records, treasurer ledgers, and Sunday Records are a true asset to the historical preservation for years to come. Eagleville Baptist is a special congregation that has endured over time for good to community and mankind.
Susan Harber, historical writer, has written 18 olden stories for a new booklet ‘Reminiscing in Rutherford.’ with Books #2 and 3 will follow within a year. If you would like to purchase a copy, Contact her at [email protected] and she will mail a book to you. Books will also be available at the Linebaugh and Smyrna Library.