An inside look at the oldest church in Tennessee

Published: Mar. 31, 2016 at 2:27 PM EDT
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With its original hewn logs and old headstones scattered nearby, this old country church has a history like no other.

"Today it's recognized as the oldest standing church in the state of Tennessee," said Ken Coffey, a historian.

It was first called Big Springs Meeting House, now it's known as Big Springs Primitive Baptist Church.

The church and the Volunteer State have something in common, their birth year in 1796.

The church was originally in a part of Grainger County, now Claiborne, right along the original Daniel Boone Trail.

During the Civil War, it served as a hospital for both Confederate and Union troops.

A memorial to Drew Harrell is in the small cemetery. He hewed the logs and helped Reverend Tidence Lance build it.

Church minutes from the early 1800's say, "November Friday before Second Saturday 1839...that Bro. John Bartlet is in error for retaining an unfavourable opinion of Bro. Rose and holding a bar against him. The said Rose for refusing to pay him the full weight of hogs... Therefore we say he is no more of us."

Back then this was backwoods country. These structures were built not just for comfort but for safety.

"The reason the windows are so high, the church stationed somebody in the windows to watch for the Indians as the preacher conducted his service," said Coffey.

Through the years, time and weather have made the names and dates on these headstones barely visible and although there are window air conditioners, a covered picnic area and a front deck, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Services are every Sunday morning at 10 am and every Wednesday night at 7:00 pm.