Historic Rutledge Baptist Church, Rutledge Tennessee

Historic Rutledge Baptist Church was organized April 30, 1892 in the Presbyterian Church.

The organization of the church was effected by the selection of J.G. Waller as clerk, with C.J. Morgan, Isaac M. Lowe and John Brewer as deacons. Reverend W. L. Winfrey was elected as pastor for an indefinite period.

The first monthly meeting held thereafter was on Sunday, June 4, 1892, when Eliza Sellers and Millie Sellers joined the church by letter. This meeting was held in the Presbyterian church house.

At the November monthly meeting of the church it was decided to undertake the erection of a suitable edifice of worship and Mrs. Minnie L. Sellers, C.J. Morgan, J.G. Waller, John Brewer and Mrs. Laura Phillips were appointed as a building committee.

G. McHenderson, through J.G. Waller and E.T. Sellers, submitted a proposal to sell the church a lot on First North Street -- Huffmeister addition -- for $200, and contribute $100 of the purchase price. Allen S. Tate, through C.J. Morgan, presented a proposal to give two acres of land, east of what is now the Morgan residence and to the road leading from the gate on main road to his barn, opposite the school building, for the church and cemetery. The proposal was accepted, and G. McHenderson afterward contributed $50 in cash to Mrs. Sellers for the erection of the church, which reduced the actual cost of the lot to $50.

In March or April of 1893, a contract was made with Jethero Murph, who lived in the Shiloh neighborhood, to build the church, the contract price being $200 per day for each day worked; the committee to furnish all material and pay the contractor's board.

Mr. Murph finally decided that owing to his inability to be employed regularly it would be best for him to move to Rutledge, and engage in some other form of employment when he was not engaged on the building of the church edifice, owing to want of material. He therefore rented what was known a the Central Hotel property, moved his family there, and conducted a hotel and boarding house in connection with his work on the church. He resided there, and was thus employed for a period of 13 months, during which time he completed the church, making a turnkey job of it, according to his claim, but the building committee claimed that the contract, which was never reduced to writing had not been fully complied with. This resulted in the beginning of litigation, which was happily averted by a compromise settlement. The Methodist and Presbyterians joined in with the struggling band of Baptists at this time in a united effort to pay the debt and stop the litigation.

This church history's author remembers to have contributed $50 to the project; quite a sum of money in those days. The author also remembers that Col. Walter P. Brownlow, who was at one time a candidate for congress, made a $25 contribution to Mrs. Sellers with the request that she say nothing about it, as he feared his motive might be misconstrued. But as most of Mrs. Seller's kinfolk and friends became ardent supporters of Mr. Brownlow in his race for congress, the writer always entertained a doubt as to whether Mr. Sellers kept the matter a secret.

During the darkest days of the struggling new church, Dr. Holt, secretary of the church extension board, came to Rutledge and made a heroic effort to lift the debt. As a result of his visit a contribution of $300 was received from the church extension board. This contribution likely saved Rutledge Baptist Church.

All of that did not include the church painting and seating. However, at that juncture the Methodist church seats, which was not in use at the time, were borrowed, and the church began holding services in the new edifice.

Funds were finally raised to paint and seat the church, purchase an organ, and the church building was dedicated by Dr. Shelby E. jones on the 3rd Sunday in June, 1896. Dr. Jones preached from Matthew 16-18, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church." He preached a doctrinal sermon, defining the Baptist Church's beliefs, and his sermon was well received by the large congregation composed of all denominations. At the time it was widely regarded as one of the "ablest sermons ever preached in Rutledge."

An old list of the membership was found showing the total number to be 137. (It is supposed to be the list reconstructed and arranged after the burning of the Waller home in July, 1905).

The original structure was accidentally destroyed by fire on Sunday evening, December 11, 1921. Steps were immediately taken to erect a new church, with a contract price of $10,500. It's completion in the fall of 1924 at cost of $15,000 was an order of magnitude greater than the original $1,500 building, but -- according to the history's author -- the new church was "built with more ease and likely less prayers than was required to build the old church." It stands on the same lot as the old, with the exception of the purchase of 12 1/2 feet of additional ground.