BY CHELSEA BURNETTThe Wilson Post
With the recent discussion of renovating Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church, one probably becomes curious of the exact history of such an amazingly historical building.
Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church, the oldest brick building in Wilson County, was birthed from the original Pickett Chapel. Built in 1827, the church, which was the first in Wilson County, began as a predominantly white place of worship. The property that would eventually house the church was bought in 1802 by John Irwin, who paid a combined total of $98 for it and seven other properties. Irwin then sold the empty lot to a Joseph Johnson.
In 1812 the Methodists purchased the vacant site for $75 with the plans to erect a church. As a racially mixed church, the enslaved African American worshipers were seated in the balcony. Eventually, in 1866, the ex-slaves were given the opportunity to purchase the church building, then called Seay Chapel, and make it their own. The exact transaction relating to this switch is dated July 18, 1866.
A group of about 30 African American Methodists rallied together and supported the Rev. Calvin Pickett as their first pastor, changing the name to Pickett Chapel.
However, by 1938 the building was already in need of extensive repairs. A letter requesting monetary assistance to help rebuild the church was solicited by the congregation, most of which were families still reeling from the hardships of the Great Depression.
“The seats, the stand and railings that were used then are still in use, but they as well as all inside walls and ceilings are very much in need of repair,” the letter pleaded.
The next several years resulted in many small repairs for Pickett Chapel. An annex was constructed under the pastorate of J.T. Patillo, and in 1962 restrooms and gas were added under the pastorate of the Rev. Simmons.
However, the building was becoming unmanageable with its much needed repairs, and a lot on Glover Street was purchased with the intent to relocate the congregation. Until the completion of the new church building, worship services continued in Pickett Chapel. In June 1969, the Rev. T.G. Rucker came from Nashville to Lebanon to act as the new pastor. Construction of the Glover Street church was finished 1973.
The last worship service of the original Picket Chapel was held on March 11, 1973, with the last communion taking place on March 18, 1973. Rev. Rucker delivered his sermon to more than 300 members and visitors that morning, and at 10:30 a.m. led the congregation to the newly erected church.
On April 18, 1977, Pickett Chapel was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places. Then in 2007 the Wilson County Black History Committee (WCBHC) purchased the building with hopes of restoring it and housing the Roy Bailey African-American Museum and History Center.
In 2009, the committee was able to obtain a Historic Preservation Grant from the State of Tennessee to aid them in their mission. A banquet to raise funds will be held at 6 p.m., Friday, June 11 in the East-West Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center/Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon. Members of the WCBHC encourage anyone who is interested in preserving Pickett Chapel to attend.
Renovations at the Pickett Chapel are expected to begin soon, as citizens are sure to protect this gem of Wilson County’s history and culture.
If you have any questions regarding the restoration project or want to assist, contact the Roy Bailey Africa American History Museum at 449-2911 or send an email to email@example.com.
Staff Writer Chelsea Burnett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.