|Ward’s Grove Baptist Church on Halls Hill Pike in Milton has reason to celebrate.
Founded in 1912, the congregation will celebrate 100 years during the second weekend in October with preaching, singing and dinner on the grounds.
Church records from back in 1912 show that after a five-day meeting at the Stones River Presbyterian church with M.E. Ward preaching, the subject was broached about organizing a Baptist church. Ten charter members agreed, including Mr. and Mrs. S.T. Wall, O.M. Sanders, Nannie Creason, May Peyton, Hattie Peyton, C.L. Duggin, Lela Duggin, Vesper Duggin and Eda Duggin.
A baptism was observed Oct. 7, 1912, and 12 others were added to the fellowship: Mattie Cox, Willie and Hershel Wall, Mabel Reed, Daisy Duggin, Ethel and Ellis Peyton, Mamye Francis, Walter Travis, Dee Jones, Jessie Wall and Milus Reed.
A site for the building was selected on land donated by S.T. Wall and the name Ward’s Grove Baptist Church was chosen. The first deacons were S.T. Wall, C.L. Duggin and L.D. Bowling.
During the course of 100 years, Ward’s Grove Baptist Church has survived major challenges, including a fire, which totally leveled the building. But their unwavering faith in God and a passion for perpetuating the gospel kept the members focused.
“On Sunday morning, Oct. 11, 1970, a fire totally destroyed our church building,” remembered Johnny Jaco, a deacon since 1969.
“J.H. Harvey was pastor at the time,” he continued. “He pulled us together and said that we should have prayer asking the Lord for direction where nothing would stand in our way. We met for worship services that day at the old Porterfield School house. It was decided soon afterwards that a building program should be started. We met at Kittrell School until the new building was completed.”
Roy Adams began attending Ward’s Grove Baptist Church when he was a toddler. He recalled, “I have fond memories of the ice cream suppers, worship services with preaching and singing, and the spirit-filled revival services.”
Adams became a deacon in 1970.
Allen and Helen Duke were the first couple to be married in the church.
“I really didn’t expect a big crowd,” she recalled, “but people were almost hanging from the rafters to show their love and support for our marriage.”
Her husband, Allen, is one of the deacons while she has been involved in teaching and singing in the choir.
Jacob Boone, age 22, has some interesting reflections on his life through the church.
Now a student at MTSU, he was diagnosed with cancer as an infant. With aggressive medical treatment and many prayers, he has been cancer free for 18 years.
“Many people have told me that during those times of cancer treatment, prayers were being offered every day on my behalf. That kind of extended-family support is important,” he said.
Some people might suspect that Frank Ward is an ancestor of the church’s founder.
Ward is actually a native of Marshal County, Tenn., and came to Rutherford County in 1981 to work for Tridon in Smyrna.
He later moved over to Nissan as a tool and die maker, retiring 10 years ago. When he and his wife, Kathy, were dating, she reminded him that Ward’s Grove Baptist Church is where she intended to worship. He took her at her word and joined the membership.
Ophelia Merritt recalled a memorable event, “As a teenager, I sang in the choir. One morning, Louise Elrod was sitting on the front row of the church. She was a sweet, dignified lady, always well-dressed. While we were singing at the top of our voices, Mrs. Elrod had one of her earrings fall off. She apparently thought that it was a bug because she jumped up and started stomping it. I got tickled. My mother later scolded me and said in no uncertain terms that I must never cause such a commotion in church again.”
During the upcoming homecoming weekend and 100th anniversary celebration, former Pastor Tim Miles will preach on Friday night, Oct. 12; Mike Holloway, a former pastor, Saturday night, and Robert Hammer will return to the pulpit to preach on Sunday.
Steve Atwood is the interim pastor at Ward’s Grove Baptist Church.
Ralph Vaughn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.