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In 1885, Grover Cleveland was entering the White House and in Greenbrier, 22 people were meeting in the home of John T. Hinkle, a local general store owner, to organize Greenbrier Baptist Church. With no cash on hand, they worked for over a year to raise money. In 1886, after purchasing a lot on East Main Street for $50, a one-room frame building was constructed for about $700. Preaching services were held one weekend a month. Membership grew to 57 by 1888.
Women's Class - Circa 1921
There are still people in our congregation today who have vivid memories of worshiping at 411 East Main Street. Barry Chism, a member of our church for over 50 years recalls when the church was one of the few buildings in town to have electricity and what a treat it was to come to church and see the lights on. Mrs. Billie Lou Watts (now deceased) recalled baptisms done in the distillery’s pool or in Sulpher Fork Creek. Throughout the years, some things have changed while others remain the same. Sunday School classes were held even before the first building was occupied – they continue today. And early members can’t recall a time when there was no Wednesday evening prayer meeting.
GFBC Building-Circa 1934
In 1945, sixty years later, the church voted to build a new building. A lot at 300 South Broad (our present location) was purchased for $1,000. Although much work remained unfinished, the opening of the new sanctuary was observed by having a Homecoming Day the first Sunday of September in 1946. Our own Evelyn Williams and her late husband Ernest were the second couple to say “I DO” in the new church.
Changes and renovations to our physical facilities keep pace with growth and needs. In 1997 the education/fellowship addition was paid off. In 1999, the current office site on South Street was purchased. And in 2007, the house at 107 Parker Street was purchased and currently houses our food ministry called the Dorcas Room.
Throughout its history, Greenbrier First Baptist Church has pushed forward with the Gospel message. Men have been licensed and ordained to preach the Gospel, missions have been established and maintained to carry that message forward and mission teams have been sent into all the world.
GFBC Building-Circa 1967
The Greenbrier First family gathers for a family photo on September 26, 2010 to commemorate its 125th anniversary of being a church.
Red River Baptist Church in Adams was organized in 1791 and is the oldest church in Robertson County. In 1826, Cave Spring Hardside Baptist Church was in the Hopewell area. That same year, a number of the original members of Cave Spring who were dissatisfied with the church’s attitude towards missions, organized Hopewell Baptist Church.
In 1838, Hopewell assisted in the organization of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Rocky Fork was a mission church under the care of of Bethlehem Baptist for a long time. In 1874 Rocky Fork became Ebenezer Baptist Church and was then located just outside the Greenbrier city limits. There was also a school house at that location that was probably used for worship at the beginning of Ebenezer.
Several of the members of Ebenezer lived in Greenbrier and longed for a church closer to their homes. In 1885, twenty-two of these members, who for the most part were children and relative of Robert and Rebecca Dorris, including Robert and Rebecca, met together to establish a church and discuss ways and plans to raise money to provide a place for worship.
Robert and Rebecca Dorris
While it’s not positively known where this meeting took place, it was probably in the home or on the lawn of John T. and Amanda C. Hinkle. That home was located on the Old Highway between College Street and Main Street. It’s what was known as the Worsham Hotel. (The Hinkle's are shown below)
There ensued a period of real struggles to raise the finances to construct a building. Donations were solicited from anyone that would listen and a “Festival” was advertised county-wide to be held on the Hinkle lawn with proceeds going to the building fund. There were also numerous “ice cream suppers” held, a common way of raising money for church-related causes. There was no thought of building a church without having cash in hand to pay for the construction. To that end they worked more than a year to raise the money.
Worsham Hotel before the fire that destroyed it
Mrs. Hinkle, who was perhaps the driving force in all of this activity, contacted Charles Nelson for a contribution. Mr. Nelson, who owned and operated Nelson’s Distillery, asked her if she would take “whiskey money.” Mrs, Hinkle promptly replied, “I want this church building so much that I would take money from the devil if he offered it.” He responded with a generous donation.
In 1884, Jo C. Stark gave a plot of ground on Nelson Pike at what is now 411 East Main Street “To the Colored people in the vicinity of Greenbrier for the use and benefit of the Colored congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church Colored, at Greenbrier. This location was not suitable for the negro people, since there were none living in this area. They were happy to sell to the white Baptists, and the lot was conveyed to “The Baptist Church at Greenbrier for the consideration of $50.00 paid.” The deed was not made until May 5, 1887, but in those days,” and many careless exchanges of property were made. The Negro people bought a lot which is now 218 Old Highway and later, with the help of their white friend, built St. Johns Tabernacle, a Baptist church.
This organized group from Ebenezer did not move their letters until after their own building was completed — sometime after the meeting of the Cumberland Association on August 13-14, 1886. Minutes of that meeting show that Cave J. Burch, W. R. Burch and R. T. Dorris, who were three charter members of Greenbrier First, were delegates from Ebenezer to that meeting. The minutes of the Cumberland Association annual meeting held at Orlinda in 1887 state that “First Baptist Church of Greenbrier” was one of three churches admitted to the Association during that session.
Mrs. Mallory consulted with the last two surviving charter members of our church, Mrs. Florence Hinkle and Edward Hinkle, prior to their deaths concerning this early history. They remembered the names of thirteen of the original twenty-two members:
Amanda C. Dorris Hinkle John T. Hinkle Robert Dorris Rebecca Dorris Cave Burch Mary Dorris Burch Robert Burch (boy) Edward Hinkle (age 14) Sarah Dorris Carter Mag Pike Mrs. Florence Hinkle S. Cole PinsonNora Pinson
As we recounted last time, in 1885 twenty-two people broke from Ebenezer Baptist Church to organize a church closer to downtown Greenbrier. The church began raising money to buy land and to construct a building. They purchased a lot at 411 East Main Street for $50 and the building began. Before the building was completed the Methodists cooperated with the new church and extended their blessings and assistance. Early services were held at the Methodist Church (which was built in 1883) and in the home of John T. Hinkle.
It’s not known exactly when the building was completed, but in a report to the Cumberland Association in 1887, the only expenditures listed for the church were $1 for Associational minutes and $750 for “all other purposes.” Since the cost of the lot was $50, the total cost of the building including pews and furnishings must have been around $700 for the one-room frame building that was about forty by sixty feet.
Bro. William S. Adams became the first pastor, probably in late 1886. Bro. Adams was born in Adams Station, Tennessee and was ordained to preach by Red River Baptist Church in 1858. He served several churches in Robertson County and in Kentucky, before coming to Ebenezer in 1886, He probably also served Greenbrier during that time, but there is not an official record of his being pastor until the Cumberland Association minutes of 1887. (Unfortunately, we do not have a photograph of Rev. Adams.) By 1888, the membership had grown to 57. Bro. Adams preached the Annual Missionary sermon for the Cumberland Association that year.
The treasurer’s report of the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 1889 shows that Greenbrier contributed $3 for the support of convention objectives. This is the first report of a contribution to state work by GFBC. According to accounts given by Mrs. J. T. Hinkle, Sunday School was held even before the building was completed. In 1891, it was reported that the Sunday School enrollment was seventy-one members. While there is no “official” record of when Wednesday evening prayer meetings began, all accounts indicated it was pretty much when the church was organized or very soon thereafter. Laymen conducted the prayer meetings in the early years, since there was not a pastor on the field until 1919.
Even in these early years, the Baptists and the Methodists met together on Thanksgiving. The Union Service (as it was called then) would be held on Thanksgiving morning. One year the Methodist minister preached at the Baptist church, and the next year the Baptist minister preached at the Baptist church. Other churches were invited to be a part of this service. Ebenezer has participated since 1948.
It is believed that Bro. Adams continued as pastor through 1889. Rev. George W. Featherstone served from 1890 through part of 1893. In 1891 he was paid $75 for that year, and $70 for 1892. Preaching day was changed from the fourth to the third Sunday of each month and the Saturday afternoon before. This continued until 1917.
In 1894, Rev. George W. Willis, a member of the church, was elected pastor. That year it was reported that there were 56 members and total expenditures for the year were $128.
Rev. A. H. Rather was chosen pastor in 1895 with a salary of $100 per year. He served through 1901, at which time the membership had risen to 144.
In 1902, William Wilkes of Enon College, Tennessee, was called as pastor. He served until 1905. (Unfortunately, there is no photograph of Rev. Wilkes.) It was during his tenure that the church became part of the Cumberland Association in 1904. Also, while he served as pastor, the church added the bell tower and porches to each side of the church building.
It was in 1905 that the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) was organized by Miss Gertrude Sprouse (Mrs. W. I. Shannon) This dedicated group of women with limited means, through work and sacrifice, made offerings to missions ranging from $81.60 to $155.82 per year. These figures do not include their gifts to benevolences and for refurbishing the church when necessary.
John T. Oakley of Watertown became pastor in 1906. That year the pastor’s annual salary was $185. Giving to State, Home and Foreign Missions totaled $81.19 that year. It was in 1906 that what was to become Sunbeams was organized. It was first called the Young South Band.
Rev. A. H. Rather, who had previously been pastor from 1895-1901, returned to serve another year through 1907. The first minutes of business meetings that have been preserved were written in April 1907, by Vernon W. Pinson, church clerk.
Rev. John T. Oakley 1906
On November 16, 1907, the church voted to call Rev. Peyton W. Carney of Springfield as pastor. He preached his first sermon as pastor on February 15, 1908. That fall, Rev. Carney held the Protracted Meeting (Revival) and ten new members were added. Throughout his tenure, Rev. Carney’s salary was $200 per year. There are indications that many times, it was difficult to raise money to pay his salary.
For many years the duty of the Finance Committee was to see each member personally and solicit funds for the pastor’s salary, missions, or whatever need arose, the pastor’s salary being given top priority. Much depended on the energy and persistence of this committee. The first Finance Committee of which there is a written record was composed of John V. Sprouse, Monroe L. Pinson, William B. Baggett. They were appointed in January 1908.
In 1914, Bro. Carney organized what was to become Baptist Training Union.
On September 29, 1915, the church voted to asked for a “letter of dismissal” from the Cumberland Association. On October 3, 1915, the church elected delegates to represent the church in the organization of the Robertson County Baptist Association. In June 1916, the first meeting of the Robertson County Baptist Association was held at Williams Chapel. Greenbrier First Baptist member, H. W. England, was elected clerk of the organization, a position he held through 1919.
Bro. Carney submitted his resignation in October of 1916, ending ending his tenure of nine years of continuous service.
Rev. Peyton W. Carney 1908-1916
Meeting at Greenbrier First Baptist, 1909
Rev. W. G. Mahaffey was called as pastor in November 1916 and preached his first sermon at the church on December 17, 1916. His annual salary was $500, with worship services being held on the first and third Sundays and on Sunday evening rather than Saturday afternoons. Bro. Mahaffey submitted his resignation in March 1918, to take effect on April 1.
Rev W G Mahaffey 1916-1918
In September 1918, Rev. T. P. Stanfield was given an indefinite call to pastor our church and to live on the field while preaching two Sundays each month.
The following year extensive improvements were made to the interior of the church. A committee was formed to investigate the possibility of purchasing a home for the pastor. Some effort was made to that end, but nothing was accomplished and the committee was later dismissed.
In 1919, the church gave $4,901,10 toward the Southern Baptist Convention effort to raise 75 million dollars over a five year period for Missions, Education and Benevolence. Rev. Stanfield was also active in promoting the SBC effort to churches in the Robertson County Association.
Sunday School continued to grow during Rev. Stanfield’s leadership and two large classrooms were added to the east side of the church building. They were arranged to also substantially increase the seating capacity of the sanctuary.
Rev. Stanfield resigned as pastor in earlier 1922 and moved to Dunlap, Tennessee, where he took up mission work with the Home Mission Board.
Rev. T. P. Stanfield 1918-1922
1921 Sunday School
Dr. Melvin W. Crump was elected pastor in April 1922. He interrupted his theological training to accept the pastorate. Bro. Crump also served as assistant principal at Greenbrier High School, teaching English and Sociology. Dr. Crump offered his resignation in the spring of 1923.In June 1923, the church showed great interest in a tent revival that was conducted at the church. There were many people saved and many others joined the church.
Following the June revival, Rev. E. H. Greenwell accepted the call to pastor the church. In September 1924, he submitted his resignation for reasons of health. He moved to Des Moines, New Mexico to pastor First Baptist Church of Des Moines. The church contributed $50 to help him purchase a car.
1923 Picnic at Goodlettsville Park