The establishment of our church grew out of a concern of “colored” Christians in the Franklin community about not having a permanent place to worship in proximity to where they lived. They had been worshiping from place to place, traveling as far as Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
There were no black primitive Baptist churches in this area. Elder Peter Starnes, who would later become the organizer, founder, and first pastor of our church, was instrumental in starting the first black primitive Baptists in the area. Before black primitive Baptist churches were set up, the Negro primitive Baptists were worshiping with the Caucasian primitive Baptists in Rutherford County. The Caucasian primitive Baptists began to observe that there were several Negro ministers. They ordained them and urged them to start their own churches. By 1872 there were five Negro primitive Baptist churches.
In 1869, Elder Peter Starnes founded and organized our church. Meetings were held on the grounds of Parry Station (the train depot) which was within a mile of where our church building stands today. The church worship place was called “Perry” because of its meeting location. The front of the Roster Tails Store located about a half mile north of our church building is said to be the original Parry Station building. Allegedly, a team of horses pulled the building from its original location down by the railroad track to its current location.
Elder Starnes was our pastor until the late 1800s or early 1900s. Under his pastorate, land located on Columbia Pike at Coleman Road (current site of our church building) was purchased from James Johnson for $173.38. Our first church building was erected. The church called “Perry” now had a worship center. It would no longer be called “Perry” but became known as the West Harpeth Primitive Baptist Church because of its new location—near Old West Harpeth Lane.
Our church has stood the test of time since 1869 and still remains a beacon in the community today despite some of the challenges experienced over the years. This is not by accident, but by God’s design. He has blessed West Harpeth with six pastors of great leadership and vision, each building on the successes of the other. Meet our pastors:
Elder Peter Starnes
1869 – Late 1800s or Early 1900s
Elder Zack Bostic
Early 1900s – 1942
Elder R. A. Wright
1943 – 1966
Elder Walter Rodgers
1967 – January 1973
Elder James Coure
1973 – 1982
Elder Hewitt C. Sawyers
1983 – Present