Rev. Hardin Smith
During the early 1800’s, a group of slaves living on neighboring plantations in the vicinity of the
Nutbush community, band together under the leadership of a young man named Hardin Smith.
It has been handed down from generation to generation that some years before the slaves were
freed; a special worship service was conducted on Sunday evenings in the same building that was
used by the white congregation in Nutbush. Hardin also held secret prayer meetings in the
swamps near the Hatchie River where he would minister to a large group of people.
In 1866, immediately after the Civil War, when the slaves were freed, that group left the Nutbush
Woodlawn Church and the banks of the Hatchie River and moved further east on the Old Ripley
Road, very near where the present church is located now. Here they built a bush arbor as their
new meeting place. The number in attendance increased rapidly.
Hardin Smith was secretly taught to read by Ruth Loving, widow of General William H. Loving, his
slave master. Smith, who was taught to write by his eldest daughter, Sarah Smith, was capable of
organizing and leading the newly freed people.
Shortly after the Civil War, the Baptist Home Mission Board of New York sent missionaries to the
South to set up institutions to train for the ministry. Hardin Smith, R. McMichael, and Martin
Winfield were the first to be trained and ordained. Shortly after Hardin had been ordained for the
ministry, a revival was held in the bush arbor. God blessed that evangelistic effort, increasing the
number of believers to 4000. Rev. Smith and the congregation made plans for a permanent
building. The members accepted the challenge. A special rally day was held where each
member was assessed one dollar. This was a major financial effort for people who had no
experience of handling or spending money. With God’s miraculous power, the money was raised.
With money in hand, they were able to move forward.
Isaac Read, whose former slaves were members of this new organization, offered to sell two and
one half acres of land for “the purpose of building a church, schoolhouse, and a burying ground.”
The bush arbor was already on this land.
January 1, 1870, the following trustees and deacons were assigned to act as agents for the
church to purchase the land from Isaac Read for the sum of $100.00 cash. They were (as named
on the deed) Dublin Shaw, William Evans, Isham Lankford, James Owens, Allen Peebles, Alford
Baucom, and Thomas Reed.
After the land was cleared of trees, bushes, and vines, a frame church was constructed. Later in
1880, a brick structure was erected. Each brick was handmade by the members with the help of
land owner Isaac Read, who taught them how to fire bricks. Will Wallace Brink (African Born),
father of Charlie L. Mann, was the master brick mason. When the building was completed, revivals
were held and new souls were added to the church. Rev. Smith baptized those believers in the
waters of the Hatchie River.
By 1880, Smith, with his congregation, established both Elam Baptist Church in
Nutbush/Durhamville and Springhill Baptist Church in Nutbush/Springhill. Reverend Highton
Young became Springhill’s first pastor. Martin Winfield joined Smith, and together, they organized
First Baptist Church in Brownsville. Smith also founded several other churches in Stanton after
the Civil War, including Fredonia Baptist Church, Good Hope Baptist Church, and Mount Zion
Twenty years of praying, Biblical preaching, teaching, and continued growth necessitated the
acquiring of additional land. Deacons William Evans, Sr., Isham Lankford, and Newton Russell
were assigned the task of purchasing two and one half acres of land from James D. Read and
wife Lucy E. Read on March 2 nd , 1891 for the sum of $200.00. This land now serves as the
present site of the church.
During this era, Rev. Smith and others were compelled to provide a means of educating ambitious
young people who were eager and willing to learn. They were responsible for several institutions
of learning such as, Freedman’s School, then Dunbar, Haywood County Training School, and now
the extinct Carver High School. Rev. Smith was also one of the organizers of the Owen Institute
(LeMoyne College) in Memphis, Roger Williams University in Nashville, and the original Negro
National Baptist Convention.
Hardin Smith labored untiringly for fifty-six years over the flock, which God had given him charge.
In 1922, even though his spirit was willing, his body was weak, causing him to terminate his
pastoral duties at Woodlawn. He moved to Saint Louis to live with his youngest son, Edward, until
his death by an accident in 1929 at the age of 100 years.