The evening included music, dancing, heavy hors d’oeuvres , sweet treats, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. Disc jockey Buddy T provided the tunes, and Lebanon Democrat staff writer Xavier Smith served as master of ceremonies.
But amidst the fun, there were a few items of business, the most important of which included a mortgage payoff ceremony and a big check presentation.
The Wilson County Black History Committee members joined president Mary Harris to “burn” the mortgage note on Pickett Chapel. Since the ceremony was inside the more than century-old Baird Chapel, Harris instead ripped the note into shreds.
Shiri Anderson with the Black Caucus of State Legislators then presented a $40,000 donation to Pickett Chapel. State Rep. Mark Pody helped deliver the oversized check on behalf of the caucus.
Ifeoma Nwankwo with Vanderbilt University then explained the Wisdom of the Elders program, which seeks to tell the stories of older residents through turning interviews into published books, as well as support for the Pickett Chapel restoration efforts. She also introduced prominent area and state members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Local archeologist and Wilson County Black History Committee member Phillip Hodge wrapped up the evening’s presentations with an update on Pickett Chapel restoration.
The first Methodist church in Lebanon and the oldest brick building still standing in the county, Pickett Chapel was built around 1829 at what is now 209 E. Market St. in Lebanon. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, the walls are made of hand-pressed bricks, three bricks thick. Every person interested in the history of Wilson County should be aware of the value of preservation of this building.
Age, weather, fire, and until recently, lack of maintenance have taken a heavy toll on the structure. The chapel has received a new roof, and the cupola was restored. With the help of a grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission, Wilson County and Lebanon governments, along with individual donations, provided funding for new gutters and downspouts, and a French drain was installed to prevent further damage to the foundation. Work was also done inside to stabilize several elements of the structure. A new front door was designed, ordered and will be installed soon. The State Farm Good Neighbor Citizenship Program and Middle Tennessee Community Foundation have made contributions to the restoration fund.
Under the direction of Phillip and Shannon Hodge, several exploratory digs were made on the grounds of Pickett Chapel, and the foundation of a building was discovered.
The Wilson County Black History Committee has pursued restoration of Pickett Chapel, and all proceeds from the event will go toward that effort. The committee’s intention is for the building to house an African-American museum and also be a place for educational and community events.
As funds are available, preservation of the historic structure will continue. The Harvest Wine & Cheese Event is the largest fundraiser of the year for Pickett Chapel restoration.
The Wilson County Black History Committee members are Harris, Mary Copeland, Jo Pride, Annie Watkins, Maggie Benson, Billy Taylor, Karla McAdoo, Harry Harris, Martha McClenon, JoAnn Brown, Jesse McLevain, Thomas Partlow, Thelma Shockley, Keith Alexander, John House, Annette Stafford, Catherine White, Patricia Bates, Fred Burton, Linda Barber, Brandon and Freda Davis, Kristi Galligan, Phillip and Shannon Hodge, Bob and Patricia O’Brien, Pam Scott, Resa Draper and Diana Griffith.