Church History

From the Lincoln County Historical Society

History is made, not by statesmen or soldiers, but by historians who prepare the records. Many of the events of our times will surely be forgotten in a hundred years. Historians of the future will pick out and record the events of our times which seem important to them, rather than those which now seem important to us. Therefore, in honor of those Christians who founded and perpetuated this church, this recollection of the Lord's blessing is dedicated. We pray it seems as important to us as it was to them.

In the June 12, 1847, issue of the TENNESSEE BAPTIST, Dr. J. R. Graves, Editor, made this comment about Fayetteville: "We reached this beautiful little town in the afternoon and spent the night with Bro. Smith, the only Baptist in the place. There is not a Baptist church here, for the very good reason that there has never been any attention paid to it. It is as large as Shelbyville, and may safely be said that there are not three sermons preached in the place by our ministers in the course of a year."

This church was partially organized at the Cumberland Presbyterian house of worship, in this place, on May 16, 1879, under the supervision of J. F. B. Mazes, the then corresponding secretary of the Missionary Baptist State Mission Board, who visited Fayetteville as one of the points of destitution under his charge. This organization was left incomplete and no record remains of it except a brief memoranda of the proceedings, now recorded in our most ancient church records. An organization was again attempted and effected on May 22, 1881, the best account of which is found in the minute record made by T. J. McCauley, who was our first clerk. Of it he wrote as follows:

"A council consisting of Revs. Wm. Huff and J. B. Chevis and Deacons J. C. Akin, J. S. Gillis, W. W. James, M. L. Shofner, M. D. L. Whitaker, John Sanders, and Geo. Alexander met in Bright Hall, Fayetteville, Tenn., to advise and assist in the organization of a Baptist church. After a sermon by Rev. J. B. Chevis on the Church of God for his subject, the advising council organized by electing Rev. Wm. Huff moderator and J. S. Gillis clerk.

"The following brethren and sisters towit, J. H. Burnam, D. W. Holman, T. J. McCauley, R. N. Whitaker, R. S. Grigsby, Misses B. V. Grigsby, and Julia Smith, Mrs. Sarah L. Morgan, Mrs. J. H. Holman, Mrs. M. Pettey and Mrs. Alice Allen, all of whom had letters from Norris Creek Baptist Church, and Mrs. M. E. Enoch, Mrs. Kate B. Grigsby, Mrs. M. E. Hill, L. L. Shull, Mrs. A. R. Shull, M. N. Whitaker and E. L. Whitaker who were without letters, in all 19 persons, by mutual and voluntary consent agreed to be associated in church relationship, adopting as their principles of faith and practice the articles contained in "Hiscock's Baptist Church Directory and Covenant," and asked to be recognized and known as the Fayetteville Baptist Church. The request was granted, and the council extended the hand of fellowship, receiving the young church into the brotherhood of Baptist churches.

"On Sunday, June 26, 1881, J. T. McCauley was elected clerk and W. H. Wilson, Treasurer. W. H. Wilson, D. W. Holman and J. H. Burnam were recognized as deacons, they having been previously ordained to that office. It was then ordered that a letter be prepared asking for admission to the Duck River Association."

Records of the Mulberry Baptist Church in Lincoln County indicate that the Mulberry congregation was an instrumental part of an effective organization completed in May of 1881.

The church was without a house of worship, and so continued renting and occupying Bright Hall for it's meetings up to February, 1888. Through the liberality of D. W. Holman, a church lot was obtained August 3, 1884. Later that lot was sold and the lot on which our first church still stands was bought. Early in 1887 the foundation walls were constructed. About 50,000 bricks were manufactured on the sight, all of which were used in the construction. Work continued through the fall and winter of 1888 and was completed near the end of 1889. Total cost of the project was $3,118.62.

The money was raised in a very considerable part through the effort of the ladies of the church with concerts, exhibitions, lectures, dinners, etc., and the remainder through the efforts of the men by personal appeals to individuals of all denominations and to neighboring Baptist Churches, to which came responses from 407 sources in amounts varying from 25 cents to 100 dollars.

This beautiful new building was not to be a church home. On March 27, 1890, only a few weeks after the dedication, it was destroyed by a tornado. In our first minute record book we find the following:

"By arrangement a few of the church members met at the home of Rev. F W. Carney, to consider what should be done in view of the fact that our church building was completely wrecked and destroyed, by the tornado of Thursday last (March 27) at about 9 o'clock PM, when so large a part of our town was swept away and when our people were so forcibly reminded that the almighty power of God is equaled only by His almighty love.

"It was agreed and determined that we would not despair, but at once set about raising the means to rebuild our church. To this end it was proposed that Bro. Carney, the pastor, take the field - visit - churches and brethren elsewhere and solicit aid. The church agreeing to pay his full salary during such work... We separated with sorrowf UI hearts, but leaning on the promises of our Father, that all things work together for good to them who love Him."

After a long and hard struggle, the church was rebuilt. It was dedicated on December 6, 1891. The following article, written for the Religious Herald by Col. B. M. Tillman, reveals the circumstances:

"I am here today at the dedicatory services of the new and elegant Baptist church house at Fayetteville. It is, indeed, a splendid building, with judicious arrangements internally. It now stands a fitting monument to the credit of a devoted and consecrated band of Christians, supplemented by the munificent donation from our well known and large-hearted brother, Col. W. W. Gill from Bedford County, Tenn. Col. Gill is now in his eighty-third year, and has for very many years been a servant of Christ. His membership is in the Big Spring Baptist Church, about seven miles from Shelbyville, Tenn. The former house of worship here was demolished by the "Cyclone" which struck this town on March 27, 1890. Very many houses were blown down. Under these circumstances the membership set to work to secure the means of rebuilding. They received help from various sources, but not enough to rebuild, and Brother Gill, seeing their wants, opened his heart and cheerfully gave them $3000 to finish the house. It is now completed, and was appropriately and joyously dedicated today. Col. Gill, upon the urgent request of the church, came over and was in attendance, and, in common with all others present, enjoyed the interesting services of the day."

Since this trying and difficult beginning, our church has grown and prospered with the aid of many good people who have rendered invaluable service. Space does not permit a detailed accounting of our accomplishments, the greatest of which are the souls saved by the grace of our Lord.

Many good men have served as pastor of this church through the years. Most of these pastorates have been short term. The longest term was served by our beloved D. D. Smothers. Although our church had acquired a home for the pastor on Lincoln Avenue, and later another on Green Street, a house on South Elk Avenue was given to the church by two members, Mr. and Mrs. T. P. Pitts, for use as a pastorium. That house was returned to the heirs of Mr. and Mrs. Pitts in 1993 and Pastor Emerson Wiles was provided a housing allowance to enable him to obtain a residence of his choice. In 1995 a similar arrangement was made with our Minister of Music and Youth, Donnie Browning.

The church had acquired property across from Rambo's garage (now occupied by Sir's Upholstery and Fabrics) and later traded it for the lot where the church building now stands (on the corner of Washington and Elk).

A Planning committee was formed in 1948, looking forward to the erection of a new church building. This building was erected in 1949-50. The debt was paid in full in 1956.

Brother D. D. Smothers ended more than 14 years as pastor in June 1962. A few months later an education and office building was dedicated. This building was named "The Smothers' Building." indebtedness on this building was paid in May, 1974.

A house was purchased in 1954 on First Avenue to be used as a dwelling place for the Minister of Music. Another house was purchased in 1976 in the Creson Addition (Gray Street) to be used as a home for furloughing missionaries. Ralph Yoars and his family from Hong Kong were the first occupants. As a result of action taken in 1995 to provide a housing allowance to the Minister of Music and Youth, the vacated house on First Avenue was converted to a mission house and the old mission house on Gray Street was listed for sale.

In June 1973 the church purchased the property at the corner of N. Main and E. Washington Streets for $45,000 from Mrs. Celia Hyde Cooper. The bus Terminal had been leasing this property for several years. The Bus Terminal building was removed and the entire lot is now used for Church parking.

Although early records indicate that the Church was partially organized in 1879 and completed in 1881, the Church chose to recognize the 1879 date and observed its 95th Anniversary on May 19, 1974. Then on Sunday May 27, 1979, the First Baptist Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary with Homecoming activities at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon. These activities followed a week of revival services from Sunday, May 20 through Sunday, May 27, led by past ministers in addition to the current staff. The program for Homecoming Day recognized the oldest members by stating: "As of May 19, 1979, we are aware that Mrs. Houston Sullivan joined our Church in 1912 and Mr. Hubert Holman joined in 1914. Their membership has never been in another church."

At least three missions have become churches under the guidance of the first Baptist Church. Kirkland Baptist Church was organized in 1936. In 1955 a tent meeting was held on a vacant lot at Brogan and Campbell Streets. A mission was organized and a building erected. This mission was organized into a church in 1960 and the property, estimated at $420,000 was given to the Brogan Avenue Baptist Church. The Howell Baptist Church was organized in August 1978. The Elk Cotton Mill Mission was begun in April 1962. This Mission was absorbed into the membership of the First Baptist Church and plans were made to place a mission on the east side of Fayetteville to replace the Elk Cotton Mill Mission. Four acres of land were purchased for this purpose jointly by the First Baptist Church and the Mission Department of the Tennessee Baptist convention. The property was later sold to the Friendship Baptist Church which erected a church building on that site, now identified as 125 Mason road.

Since this article was published:

  • Smothers building torn down -- 2005?
  • New Addition dedicated -- September 11, 2005
  • Hub bought -- December 2007
  • HUB dedicated -- October 2008
  • 125th Anniversary -- July 25, 2004
  • Mommies' Day Out program began -- August 12, 2008


Church records indicate that the congregation did not have a building or worship until 1890 and did not have a Pastor during the first few years of existence. The record of Pastors as far as we can determine is:

W. M. Burr1882 - 1888
F. M. Carney1890
Berry McNatt1893 - 1896
W.J. Stewart1896 - 1897
H. M. Gearen1898
G. A. Grammar1900
C. H. Crutcher1901
A. L. Davis1902
W. L. House1904 - 1905
Leon Savalle1908 - 1910
W. J. Cambron1911 - 1912
F. N. Butler1913- 1915
Roy Chandler1917 - 1919
J. E. Skinner1920 - 1921
E. L. Cole1922 - 1924
P. G. Carter1925 - 1926
J. Jeter Johnson1927 - 1928
W. J. Cambron1930 - 1932
P. L. Ramsey1934 - 1938
E. L. Smothers1938 - 1941
Carson Brittian1942 - 1946
U. W. Malcolm1946 - 1948
D. D. Smothers1948 - 1962
Eugene M. Fleming1962 - 1969
D. Lewis White, Interim1969
J. Arnold Porter1969 - 1972
D. Lewis White, Interim1972
Reuben Trussell1973 - 1979
Jonas Stewart, Interim1980 - 1981
Michael G. Davis1981 - 1984
James L. Austin, Interim1984
Harold D. Smith, Interim1984- 1985
M. Emerson Wiles1985 - 1998
Van Johnson, Interim1999
Van Johnson1999 - 2016
Jim Mike Ward, InterimJuly 2016
Tony Rankin, InterimAug-Sep 2016
Jon Hathcock2016 - Present



Johnny Myers1957 - 1962


Paul Robertson1953 - 1955
Temp Sparkman1955
Hoy Fowler1955 - 1956
Parker Holder1958 - 1960
Larry Jefferys1961 - 1962
Wayne Floyd1962 - 1963
Donnie Browning1989 - Pres.

Janet Kemp1995- 1997
Amie O'Neal2006 - Pres.


Chad Hancock2003 - Pres.

Gene Rutledge1963 - 1968
George McKay, Jr., Interim1968 - 1970
Guy Bates1970 - 1971
Walter Shurden, Interim1971 - 1972
David Carter1972 - 1974
Johnny Edmondson, lnterim1974
H. Lawton Neely1974 - 1978
Walter Shurden, Interim1978
Eddie Doblestein1978 - 1979
Michael Anderson1979 - 1982
Johnny Edmondson1982 - 1984
George McKay, Jr., Interim1984 - 1985
Donald Macon1985 - 1988
George McKay, Jr., Interim1988 - 1989
Donnie Browning (youth)1989 - 2003

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Sepember 17, 2017
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Third Worship (10:45am)178
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