Big Fork Baptist Church

The Earliest Baptist Church in White County, TN

How to find a church (that has been gone for 150+ years)? Hoyte Cook knows how. And, it actually works!

The Big Fork Baptist Church was hidden from local historians for many years.  Most people who visit the Big Fork Cemetery in what is now Cummingsville, TN have no idea that there was a church there in the early 1800s.  Only a few local families have lingering stories of its existence.  It once was lost, but now is found!

There is talk that sometimes on a cold clear night the sounds of group singing can be heard coming from the hill where Big Fork Church stood. I personally have never heard it, but then I haven't done any coon hunting in that neighborhood.

Now, when we think of the “Big Fork” area of Van Buren County, TN (formerly a part of White County), we think of the old cemetery by that name.  The early settlers of that area would have thought of the Baptist Church from which the cemetery received its name and which was located at the Big Fork Cemetery site.  This Primitive Baptist church was probably constituted in 1808 and may have dissolved by 1856.

In his History of White County, Tennessee, author Rev. Monroe Seals wrote: “The first Baptist Church organized in our section was the old Cane Creek Church organized in 1821 in what was then White County, but now Putnam.”   Seals (who was born in nearby Hickory Valley in 1867) was incorrect, the Big Fork Baptist Church preceded the church he mentioned by more than a dozen years.  In fact, the Big Fork Church was probably one of the three (or so) earliest churches of any denomination in White County.  Yet, it has never gotten the attention by local historians that it deserves.

We don’t even know for sure if the Hastons were ever associated with the Big Fork Church, although evidence seems to point to some involvement by them in the church:

  1. The church was established just shortly after they arrived in the area.
  2. They certainly lived very close to the Big Fork Church, a mile or a bit less.
  3. Daniel, David, and Joseph (and their spouses, we assume) were buried in the church’s cemetery.
  4. Several of the Haston “kids” married into Big Fork Baptist Church families.

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