Soldier Creek Church Seeks to Preserve Church Building | News
With only $52.50 remaining in the congregation’s operating fund, members of Soldier Creek Old School Primitive Baptist Church are seeking help from the community for some much-needed repairs to the church building.
The congregation was formed as Clark’s River Church over 200 years ago in 1820, changing its current name in 1838. The first building was constructed near the natural springs that feed nearby Soldier Creek. It was the first church formed west of the Tennessee River in Kentucky and the oldest of the Jackson Purchase.
Until 1819, the land was the territory of the Chickasaw tribe before being taken over by the government. Shortly after its formation, the church received a seven-acre land grant from the Kentucky Legislature and Governor Thomas Metcalfe.
The current building was constructed of hewn logs on a rock foundation in 1874 after a fire destroyed the original. Church member Alan Adams says the rock type is not native to the area and was most likely brought by horse and buggy from Arkansas.
Current elder Kenneth Adams has many memories of attending Solider Creek Church as a child. “I remember when I was 15, we would all gather under the big shady tree out front and talk about the scriptures. At 10 a.m. Paul Poyner would announce that it was time to enter the meeting house,” said Kenneth Adams. “He always called it the meeting house.”
Poyner served the church as an elder for more than 30 years and occasionally preached as acting pastor.
The large shade tree is no longer well after being toppled by a storm several years ago. Only the tree trunk remains with 265 rings that mark the age of the old oak.
The aging building had a metal roof fitted a few years ago, but still needs more exterior rehabilitation. The first priorities are to ensure the building is structurally sound and to add a fresh coat of paint. Chipped paint on the clapboard siding will need to be cleaned before the new paint job is applied. The congregation would like to leave the windows intact if possible because they are original to the building.
Inside the building, most of the flooring is original wood and the ceiling boards have been planed by hand. The nails are the old square nails handcrafted by a blacksmith.
Kenneth Adams remembers when he was growing up that the women sat on the left side of the chapel and the men sat on the right, with the deacons and elders near the front in pews. Nails are also visible on each of the walls for the men to hang their hats on.
“When I was growing up there was also a house full of people. It was hard to find a seat with people standing outside,” said Alan Adams.
Adjacent to the church is Soldier Creek Cemetery where several historic residents of Marshall County are buried, including three Revolutionary War veterans. One such veteran is Jesse Henson who fought with the Kings Mountain Boys on the South Carolina/North Carolina border.
Local historian Justin Lamb said Henson settled in the area in the 1820s with his wife Mary “Polly” Goodbread. Soon after, their daughter Jane Henson Darnall joined them along with her husband Henry Darnall, founding member and longtime pastor of Soldier Creek Church. Darnall was also credited with arranging the first wedding ceremony in Marshall County.
“I think the culture and character of Marshall County has been defined by what happened on those seven acres,” said Kenneth Adams. “The community has a vested interest in this building.”
Members are seeking donations for the historic preservation of the church building. Donations are accepted by the Community Foundation of Marshall County and can be mailed to 41 Wedge Dr., Benton, KY 42025 with Soldier Creek Church on the memo line.
Soldier Creek Church is affiliated with four other Primitive Baptist churches – Boaz Chapel, Fulton; Cane Creek, Martin, TN; Memphis Church, Memphis, Tennessee; and Bordeaux Church, Nashville, Tennessee.
The church meets on the first Sunday of every month from March to October due to the lack of heating in the building. Singing begins at 10:30 a.m. followed by worship at 11 a.m.
The donations are led by Lamb, who also serves as county commissioner for District 1 and Carolyn Pace Johnson, a member of the Hardin City Council. Johnson is also a member of the Clarks River Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution which supports the preservation efforts of Soldier Creek Old School Primitive Baptist Church.