“…a very small village hardly worth notice…”: Beginnings of the Restoration Movement in Nashville?

     “After itinerating for some weeks with varied success, he arrived at Knoxville.  travelling, through the wilderness, was yet considered dangerous, because of Indians. Two persons were waiting at the public house for company, and with them he joined, to cross the wilderness.  They left Knoxville August 14, 1796, and pursued their way, surrounded with many dangers.  The indians gave them much trouble, and on one occasion, their lives were in great danger.  While in the midst of the wilderness, and surrounded with the savages and wild beasts, his horse lost a shoe, and became so lame, that he was compelled to walk and drive his hose over the mountains.  His companions, not willing to aid him, pushed ahead and left him by himself.  For several days he traveled alone on foot, and drove his horse before him.  under te protection of that God who careth for his children, was he spared, and safely arrived in the frontier settlements of West Tennessee, where he met many of his friends and brethren, who met him, with great cordiality and affection.  their meeting was reciprocal & joyful, as he had been exposed to great fatigue and danger on his journey. 

     Here he was joined by John Andersen, who agreed to travel with him and preach in the settlements of Cumberland.  They soon proceeded to Nashville, then a very small village hardly worth notice.  They attracted much attention in the community.  At this time, society was light in its character, and paid but little attention to religion and divine things.  In his discourses he opposed the wickedness of the people, and on one occasion, a dancing master threatened to chastise him for presuming to interfere with [302] his profession.  Nothing daunted, he made a direct attack upon the occupation of the dancing master, and had the satisfaction to see him and his adherents, sneak off, one by one, till all disappeared.

     Having spent a considerable length of time preaching in Tennessee, he determined to visit Kentucky, and accordingly he, and his fellow laborer, started and soon arrived in that state…”

–excerpted from “A DISCOURSE on the death of Eld. Barton W. Stone, who died in Hannibal, Mo., on the 9th day of November, 1844, aged 71 years, 10 months, and 16 days; delivered at Concord, Ill., by Elder D. P. Henderson on Lord’s day, the 8th of December, and in Jacksonville on the last Lord’s day of December, 1844, by Elder John T. Jones [sic, Johnson?].” The Christian Messenger, February 1845, pages 301-302.

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Now, B. W. Stone in early autumn 1796 was not yet a Stoneite, if you know what I mean.  He was a Presbyterian, albeit perhaps with some reservations about Presbyterian theology and practice, but he was a Presbyterian.  He was not yet what he was to become, and neither was the little cliff-top village of Nashville what it was to become.  But, by the time elders Henderson and Jones/ (Johnson?) eulogized him, Stone had long since left Presbyterianism and there was in Nashville arguably the largest congregation of the Reformation.  Things had come a long way in fifty years.  But, back to the title of this post: is this the beginning of the movement in Nashville?  No.  But a river begins somewhere, and though a hillside stream isn’t the Cumberland River, it and others like it will be soon enough.  In this way Barton Stone’s 1796 visit to “a very small village hardly worth notice”, is, ironically, worth noticing.   There were Baptists in the area when Stone came through in 1796, and they are worth noticing, too.  More on them in time.

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