HISTORY OF ROARING RIVER BAPTIST CHURCH

(Overton County, Tennessee)

This was one of the oldest churches constituted in the Upper Cumberland Region of Tennessee. We are not able to ascertain the exact date of the constitution of this old church. In the records of the Green River Association we find that it was in working order July 25, 1801. Everything seems to indicate that it was constituted about 1800 from members of the Holston Baptist Association of East Tennessee.

Elijah Chism was a messenger in 1798 from the Powels Valley Baptist Church to the Holston Association. This same church dismissed 23 members by letter between 1799 and 1800. At least part of these members came to the Roaring River Church. Elijah Chism appears with the Roaring River Church in 1803.

Joseph Stewart, father of Elder Jesse Stewart, left Jefferson County, in the Holston Valley, sometime after August 1796. He appears as one of the first messengers from the Roaring River Church.

Other early members included:

Col. Stephen Copeland, who commanded the Third Tennessee Reg't. in the War of 1812; John Raney who married Elizabeth Stewart, sister to Elder Jesse Stewart; Benjamin and Samuel Stewart, brothers of Elder Jesse Stewart; Benjamin K. and Rev. J. G. Stewart, sons of Samuel Stewart; and Stephen Mayfield, an early settler from South Carolina whose daughter, Mary, claimed to be the first female child born in the Livingston area.

Roaring River Church remained a member of the Green River Association until 1804. In 1805, when the Stockton Valley Association was constituted, Roaring River fell within the boundary of the latter and remained a member of that fraternity for many years.

About 1827, Elder Jesse Stewart moved his membership to the Caney Ridge Church in Overton County. He remained a member of this church for a few years and then moved back to Roaring River.

J. H. Grime in his History of Middle Tennessee Baptists, said of Elder Stewart:

"I remember him as a feeble old man and very badly palsied. He is perhaps the first minister I remember to have seen, though I have no recollection of hearing him preach. It seems that I can now feel his trembling hand on my head and hear his faltering voice as he pronounces his blessings upon a white-haired boy. It is said he was a good, old-fashioned preacher."

About 1841, many of the churches in the Upper Cumberland area of Tennessee divided over "predestination." Those who were predestinarian in belief changed their names from "United Baptists" to "Regular Baptists."

In the records of the Spring Creek Baptist Church in April 1841 we find this entry: "Renounce United - become Regular," and in July 1842 this same church excluded several members for adhering to the "principles" of the Stockton Valley United Baptist Association.

  Every effort made to bring about reconciliation failed. The membership wrangled and disputed, getting farther apart all the time. Elder Jesse Stewart, with the minority of the Roaring River Church took a stand for the United Baptists. Consequently, Elder Stewart was excluded from the church.

The general procedure, for that day, was for the name of any excluded minister to be published in the next minutes of the association. Roaring River hadn't pulled away from the Stockton Valley Association yet, and Elder Stewart's name appeared in the 1843 minutes, under the 6th order of business:

"Roaring River Church informs this Association that Elder Jesse Stewart is excluded from the fellowship of said church and that his credentials have been legally demanded and he refused to give them up."

The year following Elder Stewart's exclusion, this entry was made in the minutes of the Stockton Valley Association:

1844 - "This Association drops Roaring River Church out of her body she having refused to represent herself with us."

This was the beginning of sorrows for the old church. It divided into three parts. The majority of the church went to the "Caney Fork Association of Old Baptists," better known as the Primitive or Regular Baptists. A second faction joined the Freedom Association about 1847, and dissolved after a few years. The third party organized the Jirah Baptist Church near Okalonia, Tennessee and united with the Stockton Valley United Baptist Association in 1851. They changed the name of the church to Okalonia Baptist Church in 1867 and to West Union Baptist Church in 1886.

Associational Table of Roaring River Baptist Church

YEAR

MESSENGERS NAMES

Membr

(Green River Association)

1801

Thos. M'Bride, Joseph Stewart

27

1802

Jacob Coons, Stephen Copland, Stephen Mayfield

47

1803

Elijah Chism, Jacob Coons

1804

Jacob Coons, William Allen, John Raney

47

(Stocktons Valley Association)

1806

Stephen Copland, John Raney

47

1807

C. Stone, Wm. Allen, John Raney

42

1808

Corden Stone, Levi Roden, Steph. Copland

40

1812

Benj. Stewart, Samuel Stewart, Jesse Stewart

57

1813

John Raney, Samuel Stewart

53

1815

Rev. John Raney, Benj. Stewart, Samuel Stewart

45

1816

Benj. Stewart, Sam'l Stewart

43

1817

S. Stewart, Benton Bilberry, John Raney

46

1818

Benj. Stewart, Benton Bilberry, John Raney

58

1820

Benj. Stewart, John Raney, S. Copeland

40

1822

John Raney, Frederick Hartsow

64

1823

George Hurns, John Wells, William Cooper

64

1825

George Hirn, John Raney, John S. Copeland

66

1826

Goerge Hern, John Raney, G. Eli

85

1827

George Hern, J. Stewart, F. Harsons (?), S. F. Davis

70

1828

George Hern, Jno. Raney, Fred Hartsow

61

1829

George Hern, Nath. Williams

57

1830

X. Rufus, W. Langford, John S. Copeland

50

1831

Frederick Hartsow, John S. Copeland

49

1832

Nathan Williams, Fred'k Hartsaw, R. W. Langdford

50

1833

John S. Copeland, N. Williams, R. W. Langdford

50

1834

John S. Copeland

44

1835

J. Step, M. W. Copeland, John Copeland

45

1836

Frederick Hartsan, J. S. Copeland, Benj. K. Stewart

60

1838

B. Stewart, J. R. Copeland, J. S. Copeland

64

1839

Rev. J. S. Copeland, Benj. Stewart, Wm. G. Roberts

125

1840

John S. Copeland, Ben. K. Stewart, J. R. Copeland

128

1841

J. S. Copeland, Benton Billary, Jas. R. Copeland

120

1842

Rev. J. G. Stewart, R. W. Langford, Stephen West

90

Dismissed by letter 34

1843

Rev. J. G. Stewart, R. W. Langford, Stephen West

80

1844

"12. This Association drops Roaring River Church out of her body, she having refused to represent herself with us."

Jirah (Okalonia) (West Union) formerly Roaring River

(Stocktons Valley Association)

1851

Wm. Bilberry, John C. Jackson, R. M. Fitte

31

1852

John M. Jackson, Carter Bilbery, R. M. Fite

35

1853

J. C. Jackson, Carter Bilberry

38

1854

R. M. Fite, C. Bilberry

40

1855

W. Bilberry, G. L. West, Carter Bilberry

40

1856

J. Matthews, Wm. Bilberry, J. C. Jackson

42

1857

Josiah C. Jackson

43

1858

Carter Bilbery, J. C. Jackson, G. L. West

41

1859

Josiah Jackson, J. Matthews, Wm. Bilberry

42

1860

Josiah C. Jackson, George L. West, J. M. Jackson

38

1866

G, L. West, Dawson Jackson

34

(Changed name to Okalonia)

1868

G. L. West, D. Jackson, W. P. Bilbry

45

1869

G. L. West, D. Jackson, W. P. Bilbry

47

1871

G. L. West, W. P. Bilbry, W. Harris

51

1872

Rev. G. L. West, L. Billery, J. E. Copeland

37

1873

G. L. West, J. E. Copeland, L. Bilbrey

51

1874

G. L. West, Joseph Deck

54

1875

G. L. West, Carroll Bilbry

61

1877

G. L. West, James Bilbry, Erasmus West

1884

G. L. West, G. S. Matthews, L. Bilbry

58

1885

G. L. West, M. E. West, L. Bilbry

62

1886

(Changed name to West Union)

1889

Lili Bilbry (Pastor: G. L. West, Clerk: G. S. Matthews)

53

Roaring River

(Caney Fork Association)

1849

Rev. Wm. B. Gordon, Rev. John G. Stuart, Stephen West

68

1851

R. W. Langford, L. Billberry

58

1852

Eld. W. Gordon

56

1853

1854

W. B. Gordon, Land Billberry

W. B. Gordon, R. W. Langford

53

53

1856

W. B. Gordon, L. Billberry, B. West

50