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Yesterday's Tennessee

History, First Baptist Church, Parsons, Tennessee


Soon after the railroad came to what is now Parsons, Tennessee, some of the people who had followed the construction and some of the native people of the section began to feel the need for a church. So sometime in the year 1890, perhaps late summer or early fall, a group met in the home of Mrs. Mary L. Coggins Buckner on a Sunday afternoon.

This home was located in the northern section of the small community. The house seems to have been built for a Dr. Parsons, who had lived there. It was in the possession of the Buckner family at this time. Meeting that afternoon in the Spirit of the Lord, after singing and praying, the group consisting of 14 people, namely — Rev. N.C. Duke, Mr. J.J. Coggins, Mrs. J.J. Coggins, Miss Clim Coggins, Mrs. Mary Riggs, Mrs. Mary Burke, Mr. W.C. Fonville, Mrs. W.G. Fonville, Mr. B.F. Parlow, and Mrs. B.F. Parlow.

All reports agree that Rev. Nick C. Duke was the guiding light and the founder of the work. He was elected Moderator of the group and was in charge of the organization of the church. He was also the first pastor.

N.C. Duke

The only printed reference is in the minutes of Beech River Association, which indicates that the church was constituted in 1890, and it was received into the association on September 27, 1890.

The next year in 1891 Parsons First asked for the associational meeting and W.H. Carrington of the Mt. Ararat Church was elected as treasurer. We find that Mr. Carrington, his wife Mrs. Martha E. Carrington and son Esco moved their letters from Mt. Ararat to Parsons First on September 14, 1904.

In 1892 the Beech River Association met again with Parsons First. This meeting was held in a school building which stood on the corner lot where the G.L. Colwick home now stands. The report to this showed Elder Penix as pastor, and B.F. Parlow, N.C. Duke, S.L. Coggins as messengers. The church had baptized one and had received three by letter. By this time one dollar was sent for minutes of the association and two dollars for missions.

A building committee composed of Bro. N.B. Williams, S.J. Buckner, and C.L. Wilkins was to build the first church building.

In the ~ a weekly newspaper published under the date of Friday, August 18, 1893, an announcement was made that the First Baptist Church building was near completion.

Oldest Church Building In Town Torn Down
Jan. 1951

The oldest building in Parsons ever used regularly for a church was torn down last week. The building's small frame structure next to the present Church of Christ was originally built by the Baptists in Parsons. It was used for both church and school for several years. Later it had moor commercial uses. It was badly demaged by fire more than a year ago. The Lexington Electric System has purchased the lot where the building stood.

In the September 1, 1893 issue the announcement was printed that the first sermon was preached in the new building by E.R. Deason. Records are missing on the early happenings of the church. There must have been some stormy sessions back in the early growing days for part of the church minutes have been cut from the book. Bro.'s B.F. Parlow and B.F. Bartles seem to have led some of the battles in their day.

P.F. Parlow

On September 19, 1915 another building committee was appointed by the church. It was composed of Joe Jennings, Frank Houston, and W.R. Carrington. They were to make plans for building a new building. The new brick building was erected on the present site and completed in 1917. It was the first building in Parsons wired for electricity, even though the nearest current was miles away.

Ollie E. Buckner was the building contractor. As he began construction World War I broke out and material costs went sky high. He had to build the church alone. His only son, Norris, was not big enough to be of much help but, he was needed. When the brick was being put on, Norris carried one brick at a time in a tin syrup bucket up the ladder to his Dad. They finished the building, but were years getting the materials paid off. Pastors C.B. Thomas and T.M. Boyd were the pastors during the planning, building, and dedication of the building.

In 1915 the church went from quarter-time to half-time preaching service and raised the pastor's salary from $200 to $350 per year.

In 1923 the church moved forward to full time with Bro. T.F. Lowery as pastor with a salary of $1500 per year.

T.F. Lowery

On May 6, 1951 the church broke ground in order to build an educational building.

Lester H. Carrington; J.A. Tinker; Loy Rains

This building was completed in 1952. It was an addition to the building of 1917, and it provided much needed space for Sunday School rooms. The building committee was composed of:

H.L. Townsend, Sr. Chairman
A.L. Bowman
Douglas Hayes
K.K. Houston
Thomas Jennings
James Lawler.
Ulon Smith
A.F. Tolley
John Tinker

Total church membership was 382.

In 1949 the idea to build was introduced to the church and a building fund was started with $100. From this beginning several building programs were introduced: the Educational building in 1951; the Pastor's Home in 1952; re-modeling of the Fellowship Hall and a new Sanctuary in 1973. When the vote was taken to build a new Sanctuary on Sunday, August 22, 1971 ninety people voted for the building and none opposed.

Monies raised and spent on the new Sanctuary, repairs, and remodeling of certain portions of the present property as it stands now:

$80,000 Monies in Savings
$187,549 Together We Build & Donations
$22,935 Organ Donation
$145,000 Bond Issue
S46.400 Interest Paid
$481,884 Total Monies Raised and Spent

The Bond Issue of $145,000 was to be paid in fifteen years, but the Lord allowed the church to retire the bonds in eight years and four months.

The building committee for the present Sanctuary, which was completed and dedicated on June 16, 1974, were as follows:

H.L. Townsend, Sr., Chairman
Maxie Doyle
James L. Tinker
Ralph Smith
J.T. Morgan
Hugh Laseter

Quinn and Quinn were the builders. Tinker Lumber Co. furnished the materials. As of today the total church membership is 673.

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