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Church vandalized on Old Nashville Highway

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Barely a month after a local group erected a marker at Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church recognizing its historical significance, someone vandalized the building overnight this week.

Vandals broke out the glass in the small church building, sprayed fire extinguishers inside, broke its van windows and wrote cuss words on the back of the van, according to George Smith, treasurer for the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County. The damage was discovered June 8.

The group doesn't know whether its efforts to bring attention to the church had anything to do with the vandalism, but no racial slurs were written on the property, according to Smith.

Authorities are investigating to try to find the culprits and told church officials the Old Nashville Highway area had been through a series of break-ins, Smith said.

The historically black church dates back to the 1880s, and the society group recently posted a marker there to let people know it was part of the Cemetery community, which was started by freed slaves and soldiers of the U.S. Colored Troops who were hired to reinter bodies after the Civil War, according to Smith.

Located on Old Nashville Highway not far from the Stones River National Battlefield visitors' center, the church also survived an effort by the federal government to get rid of it, according to Smith.

When the federal government started buying land to establish the battlefield park, it threatened to burn down the church and take its land, Smith said.

"The founding members of that church, rather than see it be burned down, put it on logs and rolled that church to its current location," Smith said. "Of course, it's not the original building there. But there's a story there, what they went through to preserve their church."

Historic Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church was vandalized overnight this week. CAT MURPHY
Several of the church van's windows were shattered or smashed in, and profanity scratched into the paint. CAT MURPHY
Vandals broke two windows in the fellowship hall of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church. CAT MURPHY
Vandals forced the door of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church. CAT MURPHY
Film from the spray of a fire extinguisher covers most of the building's interior, and according to church members, will have to be cleaned up by a professional. CAT MURPHY
From left to right are Anthony Woods Jr., Deacon Anthony Woods Sr., Pastor Jerry Weeden and Deacon Frank Gaines outside their recently vandalized church building. CAT MURPHY
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