Church plans 200th birthday celebration

A small country church in Wilson County that has about 75 in attendance on a good Sunday morning will celebrate 200 years of both triumph and tribulation Sunday. Cedar Grove Baptist Church deacon chairman Elliott Graves said it is the fourth oldest Baptist church in Wilson County. &...
May 16, 2013
 Photo: Submitted Photo by Jim Carr

The Cedar Grove Baptist Church congregation stands in front of the fourth oldest Baptist church in Wilson County in 1893.
 Photo: Submitted to The Democrat

Cedar Grove Baptist Church is pictured as it looks currently in Wilson County.

A small country church in Wilson County that has about 75 in attendance on a good Sunday morning will celebrate 200 years of both triumph and tribulation Sunday.

Cedar Grove Baptist Church deacon chairman Elliott Graves said it is the fourth oldest Baptist church in Wilson County.

“All my church life has been with that church,” said Graves, who will turn 76 three days after the celebration. 

Throughout 200 years of history, Cedar Grove has had 45 preachers, a handful of them twice. That includes current pastor Terry Fesler, who celebrated his own 10th anniversary with the church in December.

“We’ve done a whole lot of firming up and expanding,” Graves said. “I guess you’d say they didn’t have a whole lot of money to do that kind of stuff early on. I would imagine a whole lot of preachers have preached in that church without getting any money because there wasn’t a whole lot of money to give.”

According to “History of Middle Tennessee Baptist,” the church was constituted May 15, 1813 by elders Josiah Rucks, John Wiseman, John Jones and Thomas Durham.

The first pastor, Elijah Maddox, was born sometime around 1772 in Virginia. According to history Graves provided, “It is said [Maddox] was a preacher before he came to Tennessee, and he helped found the Cedar Grove Church.

Records show, “Since 1865 was during the time of slavery, blacks were also members of the church. Cedar Grove showed that there was no room for prejudice, having 99 white members and 85 black members. They worshipped together and worked together.”

According to Tom B. Chapman’s diary written August 1877, work continued on the church. Chapman said in his diary he made a contract for “8,000 good cedar shingles to be 5/8 of an inch thick and average 3 1/2-inch broad, and he is to deliver them at Cedar Grove at $4.50 for a thousand.”

Chapman said he paid 10 cents to pay for publishing minutes of the Baptist Association.

Later Chapman said he bought 2,230 feet of weatherboarding in Nashville, 10 pains of glass and 1 pound of putty. In March 1878, Chapman said he bought 50 pounds of white lead paint for $4.50, and the church was painted for another $8.

In 1880, the church bought a large brown leather-bound Bible to be used by all who held services there. The Bible currently rests on the Remembrance Table.

The church established a Sunday school in May 1883, which was the same year lamps were bought.

In 1902, a new church house had been built, and there were 157 members. A pump organ was bought in 1909, and Hattie Mabry became the first organist. In 1921, Cedar Grove joined the Wilson County Association.

The church started a bus ministry in 1944, as well as adding five new Sunday school rooms. In 1947, a new program called training union was introduced on Sunday nights.

The church received electricity in 1950, as well as another addition. The sanctuary was remodeled in 1969, and a new educational wing added in 1973.

The baptistery was installed in 1975, and up until then, baptisms took place at Spring Creek or Cumberland River. That same year, the jail ministry began.

During the early 1980s, even more additions were built.

In 1993, the Tennessee House of Representatives honored the church with a resolution. Last year, the church had its “almost home” celebration of 199 years.

“For me, I’ve been looking forward to this 200th anniversary for 30-40 years,” Graves said. “For the past three or four years, I’ve known it’s coming. Every week in the bulletin, we have a countdown to our 200th, and now it’s only a few weeks.”

Graves hopes everyone, who has a connection with the church or just wants to witness history, can attend the Sunday service.

“It’s been a long time since that church has seen 200 people,” Graves said. “It really dawned on my this past week that we will have a lot of people that Sunday. We know there will be some people who will want to be at their home church that Sunday, and we respect that. We want to invite as many people who will come out and celebrate with us.”

Graves said the church plans to have an old timer’s day Sunday in looking forward to the Sunday anniversary celebration.

Tennessee Baptist Convention executive director and treasurer Randy Davis will preach Sunday. Lunch will be served after the anniversary service followed by an afternoon singing.

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