Sunday, October 5, 2014

Did you know the author of the best-selling book of the 19th Century once spent the night in Stanton?

My dad has a new gig as the pastor of the Stanton Baptist Church. This historic church is located in Stanton, Tennessee, a small town in Haywood County. As a fan of old churches, I was anxious to check it out. A few weeks ago when I was back home, we took a little detour on our way to the Lovelace Family Reunion and I got a personal tour from the new pastor himself.

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Pastor Bob Williams in front of
the First Baptist Church of Stanton, Tennessee

In the mid-1850s, Joseph B. Stanton purchased the land that is now the town of Stanton. After he used his considerable influence to make certain the Memphis and Ohio railroad came through Stanton, the town began to grow and prosper. According to the Heart of the Tennessee Delta, A Historical Guidebook to Haywood County, Stanton's daughter was the one who subdivided the lots and really developed the town.

One of Stanton's early claims to fame occurred during the Civil War. A few days before the famous battle of Shiloh was fought, Union General Lew Wallace stopped in Stanton with his army and spent the night. Sporting a killer goatee, he was on his way to reinforce General Grant at Pittsburgh Landing, on the bank of the Tennessee River.

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General Lew Wallace

After the war, Wallace was appointed Governor of the New Mexico Territory and U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire. He was the author of several novels including Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ which was one of the best-selling novels of the 19th century. When it was published in 1880, it knocked Uncle Tom's Cabin off the top of the chart of best-selling American novels and it stayed there until 1936 when Gone with the Wind took its place.

(For a really interesting article about Wallace, check out "The Passion of Lew Wallace" on

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A little Stanton history from the 1887 "History of Tennessee"

As more families continued to move to Stanton, a small Baptist church in the town of Wesley also decided to settle in the new community. As Stanton grew, Wesley fell so they moved where the action was. In 1868, they built a church on the spot where the current one stands today.  

My dad gave me some information that some of the members had written for the 150th anniversary of the church in 2002. It included the fact that the original building had two front doors--one for men and one for women. They also sat on different sides of the church.

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Historic photo of First Baptist Church of Stanton, built in 1912 

In 1912, the original Stanton Baptist Church building was torn down and the current church was built. The new building includes Doric columns and some really nice Gothic windows. Grant Wood would be right at home.

Next door to the large church building is the Stanton Masonic Lodge and School.

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The Greek Revival building was built in 1871 by the local Masons as the school for the local children.

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Stanton Historic Marker

Stepping into the church really is like going back to the 1950s. From the original vintage pews to the light fixtures and ceiling fans, it's one of the most well-maintained old churches I've been in. 

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Very little has been changed since it was built in 1911. The old stoves that heated the church with coal have been replaced with gas heaters and the old kerosene lamps that were mounted to the walls were replaced with electric light fixtures.

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Originally, a large Gothic arch framed an alcove in which the preacher would delivery his sermon each Sunday. In 1954, it was made into the baptistry and a pulpit was installed for the preacher.

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If you live near the town of Stanton, you should go check it out one Sunday. Yes, the building is amazing but I can also highly recommend the preacher!

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

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