History of the West Station Camp Primitive Baptist Church

History of the West Station Camp Primitive Baptist Church

The News-Examiner, Gallatin, Sumner County, TN Special Edition: Celebrating Sumner County's Bicentennial and Tennessee Homecoming '86, "Religion" section, p. 4-C.Saturday, March 29, 1986.

Thanks to The News-Examiner for permission to reprint this article!

Note: All spelling, punctuation, and omissions are as they appeared in the article in the newspaper.

West Station Camp Primitive Baptist Church was organized sometime prior to November of 1796. For in November of 1796, it entered into the constituency of the Mero Baptist Association. Some sources say it constituted as early as 1790.

This Mero was the first Baptist association of Middle Tennessee. West Station Camp was the first Baptist church organized in Sumner County and one of the first five churches organized in Middle Tennessee. It was located on West Station Camp Creek near or halfway between Cottontown and Shackle Island northwest of Gallatin.

Elder Patrick Mooney had moved to this area sometime before 1796. Not much is known about this eminent man of God, but we do find that he was very active in the ministry, helping in the organizing and constituting of several of the earliest churches in Sumner, Wilson and Robertson counties.

It is believed by most historians that it was through his tireless efforts that the church at West Station Camp was constituted. In the infancy of this church, it is often referred to as Mooney's Meetinghouse. This was a common thing in those days for a church to be known by the names of it's first pastor.

According to the records of this old church (which began in 1823), the first clerk appears to be a Brother James Brigance. He remained clerk until 1824.

He was followed by Slayton Hunter (1824-1826), Joseph Direman (1826), David Combs (1826-1837), Milton Handy Brigance (1837-1843), George Garrett (1843-1849), Elder M. Hodges (1849-1878), M. H. Brigance (1878-1880), A. G. Brigance (1880-1887), W. W. Douglas (1887), William Lewis (1888-1902), J. E. Cron (1902-1908), Spencer Palmer (1908-1921).

As mentioned before, Elder Patrick Mooney appears to be the first pastor according to "Grimes History of Middle Tennessee Baptist". Elder William Phipps was probably the second pastor. (He was also the first pastor of East Station Camp Church, which was probably an arm of West Station Camp Church).

It is believed that Elder Phipps served the church until his death in 1809. He was from North Carolina and a member of the Kehukee Association. The records do not show the pastor's name until January, 1827, when it calls Elder Fuqua to serve the church.

Elder James T. Tompkins, also from North Carolina, served the church from 1829 to 1836, when the church was called Elder Joseph Pitt to serve it. Elder Pitt had been ordained by West Station Camp Church in October of 1834. He is the first minister to be ordained by this church that we have any record of Elder Pitt served the church well from 1836-1849. He was the moderator at the organizing of the Stones River Association of Primitive Baptist (1837), and was sent as a messenger every year until his death in 1884.

After Eldre Pitt gave up the pastorate in 1849, the church called upon Elder M. H. Hodges of East Station Camp Church to serve as co-pastor with Elder Phillip Ball. These two worked together as pastor until 1854, when Elder Ball resigned. Elder Hodges continued to serve the church until 1879, when the church called Elder J. W. Reddick, again of East Station Camp Church. He served 10 years and was followed by (licentiate) Brother D. J. Kincade of Gallatin, who served one year, 1888.

In 1889, old West Station Camp called Elder H. G. Agee of Hickman Creek Church, Smith County. He served until 1902 when he became too old to travel. Elder David Phillips was next to serve this church. He lived at Watertown in Wilson County and was a member of Round Lick Church. Elder Phillips was a noted preacher in his day. His untimely death in March, 1912 was keenly felt by the Old School Baptist of Middle Tennessee.

Elder L. F. Evans of Cedar Creek Church, Wilson County, agreed to take the care of the church until they could get someone else. In 1913, Elder S. T. Reddick, again of East Station Camp, agreed to serve the church as best he could, being and older man. Elder Reddick filled his regular appointments as well as his health and the weather would allow until 1920.

The church then destitute of a pastor tried to continue on, but interest soon declined. Elder Shutt of Nashville visited a time or two but the church soon faded away. It seems that the few faithful member left, lettered to Friendship Church near White House.

West Station Camp Church, as earlier mentioned, was a founding member of the Mero Association, the first association of Middle Tennessee. Due to internal problems the Mero Assiciation was dissolved. This left Middle Tennessee without a Baptist Association. So on March 26, 1803, a letter was sent from Martin's Meetinghouse (Dixon Creek Baptist Church, Smith County) asking that the orderly churches which had composed the Mero Association to meet at Mooney's Meetinghouse (West Station Camp) for the purpose of organizing a new association.

At this meeting the Cumberland Association was formed. The Cumberland Association is the oldest Baptist Association in Middle Tennessee still in existence and belongs to the faith and order of the Primitive Baptist.

In 1806, the Cumberland Association agreed to divide for the sake of convenience. The line of division was between the Cumberland and Red Rivers. The churches to the south and southeast of this line retained the name Cumberland Association, the third earliest association in Middle Tennessee.

In that same year (1806) the Elk River Association was formed by churches of the southern part of the Cumberland Association. On Sept. 14, 1814, the Flint River Baptist Association of Alabama and Tennessee was organized from churches of the Elk River Association.

The Flint River Association is the oldest Baptist association in the state of Alabama. All of these associations stood firm upon the doctrine of election during the division of the Baptist family in the 1830's and identified themselves with the old order of the Baptist.

West Station Camp Church remained a member of the Cumberland Association until 1810, when by another friendly division it became a constituting member of the Concord Association had met at old Spring Creek Church, a few miles east of Lebanon and agreed to this division. The articles of faith of this newly formed Concord Association were the same as Primitive Baptist believe and practice today. But during the controversy of the 1830's, the Concord Association would suffer from the inventions of men as did other associations in that day.

In March of 1835 the church at West Station Camp received a letter from Overall's Meetinghouse, Rutherford County, asking to meet them at Bethleham Meetinghouse, also of Rutherford County, to form a better plan than the proposed State Convention.

The church decided to respond to the letter and chose to send Elder Joseph Pitt and Thomas Edwards. Trouble continued to rage within the Concord Association for two years with Elders and members taking sides.

Finally in 1837 West Station Camp Church along with the majority of the churches forming the Concord Association agreed to declare the association dissolved. That same year West Station Camp sent delegates to help in organizing a new association. This association took the name of the Stones' River Association of Primitive Baptist and continued to adhere to the original articles of faith of the dissolved Concord West Station Camp Church continued to be a member of this association until the church went out of existence.

Again because of the lack of records, the early years (1796 to 1823) of West Station Camp are left a mystery except for other records we have found. It is believed by most historians to be the mother church of East Station Camp Church (El Bethel). East Station Camp was organized in the year 1800 on the east fork of Station Camp Creek (now known as Town Creek) near Gallatin.

It is almost certain it sent out other churches, possibly Drakes' Creek (Hendersonville) Caney Fork (Sulphuria), and New Hope. These being some of the older churches in Sumner County. The records do indicate that in June 1836 she extended an arm to friendship Church near White House. This church is still in existence and is the only Primitive Baptist Church in Sumner County.

West Station Camp Church also extended an arm in 1848 to Hickory Grove. Nothing else is known of this church except that she received fix additional members and it is believed to have been located near Castalian Springs.

Through the years it has had a membership as large as 78 in 1837, with a large percentage of these being slaves. After the Civil War it was greatly reduced in numbers. In 1871, it's membership had drop down to nine.

Through the years it has provided a home for around 300 believers of grace. A few of the names of the families who made up this old church were Bell, Pitt, Douglas, Jackson, Brigance, Minor, Corbet, Palmer, Hollis, Wilks, Garrison, Garrett, Watkins, Cheek, Honeycutt, Killbuck, Edwards, Griffin, Hunter, Dempsey and many others.

Thus the history of West Station Camp Primitive Baptist Church of Christ came to an end. For 125 years the saints of God had gathered at this place to sing His praises and listen to the old, old story of salvation by grace. The saints who once gathered here have long been gone to their reward but the great doctrinal truths which they believed and practiced remain, as their God, unchanged.

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