Tradition fixes the origin of this church in the latter part of the eighteenth century. United States Senator Hon. W. B. Bate, who is a member of this church, tells the story thus: The church was organized some time between the dates of 1700 A.D. and 1800, by his great-grandfather, Elder Frank Weathered, and that the said Weathered was the first pastor. He takes great pleasure in pointing our one of the cornerstones of the house in which this early church worshiped. The stone is still intact, situated in the yard of the Senator's summer home one mile north of Castalian Springs.
Owing to the fact that the records of this church prior to 1841 were burned, this has been accepted as the early history of this church. This author does not question the above facts and would do all possible honor to this father of Israel. The mistake however, occurs in connecting this ancient body with the present Hopewell Church. As this was in the time when Indian outbreaks were still disturbing our civilization and matters were unsettled, it is probable this early interest was dissolved.
In A.D. 1835, Salem Association, while in session with Spring Creek Church, some four miles east of Lebanon, requested the clerks of the various churches to write up their history for publication in Allen's (Baptist) Register for 1836. The history of this church was written by their clerk, Raymond Head, and can be found on page 228 of this work. This was written before the records were burned, and while many of the constituent members were still living. From this sketch, we gather the following facts:
The church was gathered through the labors of Elders William Phipps, Patrick Mooney and George Tillman. They were constituted into an independent church May 24, 1806, Elders William Phipps and Patrick Mooney acting as constituting presbytery. It was constituted nine miles east of Gallatin on Bledsoe's Creek was given the name of Bledsoe's Creek Church, afterward taking the name of Hopewell. There were nineteen members in the constitution. This church was probably an offspring of West Station Camp Church, of which Elder Phipps was at this time pastor. Soon after the constituted of this church, Elder Daniel Parker, a young minister at that time, but who afterwards became the famous founder of the Two-seed Baptist, moved into the community. The said Elder Daniel Parker was chosen pastor of this church July 25, 1807, and continued as such until November 22, 1817, when he resigned and moved to Illinois. (See Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. I, p. 576). He soon rose to be one of the leading lights among the ministry of Concord Association and the church was very prosperous under his ministry (See sketch of his life in another place.) From the time of his resignation until April 1820, they seem to have been without any regular pastor. At this time they extended a call to Elder John Wiseman, who at that time lived near Dixon's Springs, Smith County., At this same meeting, they sent out a colony of fifteen members to form a new church. In December following, they sent out another colony of eighteen to form anther new church. Unfortunately, the author fails to tell what new churches were constituted. This church numbered 113 members in 1835. They also had preached twice each month and had continuously kept up a prayer meeting for twelve years, or since 1823. They also fostered a Sunday school. Remember that this was prior to the division on the mission question.
PASTORS: Elder Daniel Parker, 1807-17; Elder John Wiseman, 1820-48, Elder Jonathan Wiseman, 1849-69, when death closed his labors; Elder Josiah J. Wiseman, 1869-71, when death also closed his labors; Elder J. M. Phillips, 1872-74; Elder R. S. Blankenship, 1874-76; Elder J. H. Jackson, 1876-78; Elder J. M. Walters, 1878; Elder John S. Pardue, 1879-80; Elder A. H. Rather, 1880-83; Elder W. M. Kuykendall, 1883-85; Elder J. H. Piland, 1885 --; Elder W. M. S. Wilks, 1887 - present.
CLERKS: John Weathered was the first clerk; Raymond Head was clerk in 1835. The next is Pascal Head, who closed his labors 1849; Wm. Crim, 1849-71; Jno W. Wiseman, 1871-87; Jno .W. Jones 1892-96; Thos. S. Jones 1896- to the present.
DEACONS: The first deacon of whom we have any record was John Weathered, 1807, and John Wilks, Sr. They were among the best known and most active deacons of their day. They were often called many miles to aid in church matters. Richard Winn, 1845; William Crim, 1845; John G. Pardue, 1872; John W. Wiseman, 1872, W. M. S. Wilks, 1877; John W. Jones, 1881; Thos. D. Johnson, 1889; J. M. Wilks, _.
Besides the two colonies mentioned above, this church has send out Second Creek Church, 1815; Friendship, 1855; Corum Hill, 1857
They have sent out the following ministers: Elder Jonathan Wiseman, ordained 1836, by Elders John Borum, Robert Rutherford and Thos. Watts; Elders Jno. S. Rice and Josiah J. Wiseman, ordained November 22, 1856, by Elders Wm. Henry Haile and Jonathan Wiseman; Elder Thos. E. Kiser, ordained October 1866, by Elders D. B. Hale, Jonathan Wiseman and J. J. Wiseman; Elder Jno. S. Pardue, ordained December 1877, by Elders J. H. Jackson and R. S. Blankenship; Elder W. M. S. Wilks, ordained May, 1881, by Elders A. H. Rather, J. F. Lambert, J.P. Gilliam, and J. S. Pardue; Elder Jno. W. McQueen, ordained December 1897, by Elders W. M. S. Wilks and John S. Pardue.
This is certainly a fine record, to send our seven ministers, and especially men of so much ability. It is perhaps the only country church which can claim a United States Senator as a member.
When this church was first constituted in 1806, they united with Stockton's Valley Association, while in session at Mill Creek, Monroe County, Kentucky. In 1807 they took letter and united with Cumberland Association. In 1810 they went into the constitution of Concord Association; in 1822 they went into the constitution of Salem Association; in 1850 they became a constituent member of Enoch Association; and in 1891 they went into the constitution of Wiseman Association where they still continue to represent.
This church worshiped near the spot where they were constituted until 1897, when they moved to the present location, building in all, four houses of worship. They retained the name of Bledsoe's Creek as last as 1870, when they took the name of Hopewell.
A good many years ago the church became weakened on account of deaths, removals, and other causes until, unable to keep up their house of worship, they consented for the sake of financial help, to share it with the Campbellites. In the eighties, the Baptists became so weakened that the Campbellites thought it their time to strike. So they assumed a dominate attitude, and instead of contenting themselves with their interest in the house, they assumed full control, occupying every Sunday, with their Sunday school and communion service, and if a Baptist wanted to preach on Sunday he could not get a hearing until they were through, even though it ran over the regular preaching hour, and, even though, they would go away and refuse to hear him preach. After dragging along in this ways for some time a good per cent gave up in despair and cast their membership with other churches. The few left wandered aimlessly along, having no meetings, while the sanctuary where the fathers had preached and prayed and wept resounded with the harangue of baptismal remission of sins. In July 1887, Elder George Hildry Dorris, a traveling evangelist (not the modern type), who stand for Baptist doctrine against all comers, and especially against Campbellism, came to their rescue. In a meeting of about two weeks, he wielded the sword of truth against the Campbellism with unmerciful vigor. God blessed it; new converts were made; the scattered hosts of Israel rallied and routed the hosts of the Philistines. They called Elder W. M. S. Wilks as pastor, and recruits of the Gideon type came thick and fast, and under Brother Wilks' ministry, since 1887, they have grown from 14 to 123. It is to-day one of our best churches-worshiping in a neat, new house. It is but justice to say that Elder J. S. Pardue, who was a member there, stood through all these years of struggle, like the "boy on the burning deck." He prayed and preached and struggled, and "against hope, believe in hope" till relief came, and he mounted the parapet and shouted victory. If you would know where the Campbellites are, ask the winds. I suppose it would be safe to say that this church, since the beginning, has furnished a Christian home for more than four hundred people.
NOTE: Several Pastors, Deacons, and Clerks mentioned in the History of Middle Tennessee Baptists can be found in the Sumner County Family Album.
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