The subject of this sketch illustrates how much good can be done by one faithful energetic servant of the Lord in one community. Many have been perplexed over the problem of doing the greatest good. How can it be done? Can one do the greatest good by evangelizing from Maine to California or from the Lakes to the Gulf, or can one do the greatest good by locating in a community and living one's life there and not go beyond the boundaries of his own locality? We are to see that at least one man has built up dozens of churches within his own county.
Wade Barrett was born on January 29, 1800, in North Carolina. His father emigrated to Tennessee in 1818 and settled in Giles County. He died soon after moving to Tennessee. Young Wade Barrett was the oldest of several children, and on him fell the heavy burden of providing for the family. Never did a son or brother discharge his duty more faithfully than did Wade Barrett. In 1824 he married a Miss Jones in Giles County. She was a woman worthy and well qualified to assist and cheer her husband while he preached the glad tidings
of salvation to perishing sinners.
Wade Barrett's parents were members of the Baptist Church, and while quite a youth he united with that church. Soon after uniting with the Baptist Church he began to take an active part in the public exercises of that church. His education was very limited. He did not have advantages of obtaining even the best education that could be given in that country at that time. However, he inherited a very strong intellect and large powers of heart and soul. He had good judgment and withal a well developed mind and body. His rugged native ability enabled him to push forward and make a success where many others with better advantages have failed.
He was reared on the farm. When he became a man, he
was not only a good farmer, but was also a good blacksmith and sawmill manager. His farm was on Elk Ridge, near old Lynnville, Tenn., about two and one half miles east of that town. His neighbors learned to look to him for help because of his largeness of heart and sound judgment in counseling them in the common affairs of life.
By nature he was pious and gave much attention to
the subject of religion as it was taught in that section during his day. The only churches in his country were the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church. As he had turned his attention to public speaking, he gave much thought to the study of the New Testament. He worshiped with the Robertson Fork Baptist Church, in Giles County. There was no preacher among the Baptists in that section who could preach the tenets of the Baptist Church better than could Wade Barrett. He did not study the "Confession of Faith" of the Baptist Church to learn what his church could do, but had gathered from conversation with Baptists and from what he had heard them preach the principles of the Baptist Church; but as he now studied the New Testament and preached what he found contained therein, he soon found himself at variance in some points with Baptist doctrine generally. The church to which he belonged, as did all others of like faith, belonged to the Baptist Association. Wade Barrett, by his superior intelligence and self gained education, led the Robertson Fork
Baptist Church closer to the New Testament teaching than were the sister
Baptist churches of the association, Wade Barrett preached for other Baptist churches near him.
The writer now has before him the minutes of the
Robertson Fork Church. The minutes of this church begin in January, 1820, and give in detail the minutes to the close of the year 1867. These minutes show the gradual steps taken from the confusion and error of the Baptist Church at that place and in neighboring communities to the full light of freedom and truth in Christ Jesus. During this time Wade Barrett was the principal leader in all of its activities. In 1830 the association of Baptist churches to which
Robertson Fork belonged pronounced the Robertson Fork Church, together with two others namely, Liberty and Hobb Creek Church out of harmony with the teachings of the Baptist faith. Wade Barrett had been preaching for all three of these congregations. This was before he had heard anything about Alexander Campbell or Barton W. Stone. Wade Barrett had taught these Baptist churches what he found revealed in the New Testament. These minutes record that the church at Robertson Fork meetinghouse, Giles County, Tenn., stated that "
the disciples of Jesus Christ, called the church of God at that place . . . a
number of brethren from other churches being present. . . . with one consent do set apart James P. Deans, one of our members of good standing among us, to exercise fully his gift in teaching the word of the Lord and attending to all
things in the house of the Lord as his word directs. . . . the Friday before the fourth Lord's day in May, 1832, and recorded among us on our church book." This shows that the Robertson Fork Baptist Church ceased to call itself a "Baptist Church" in May, 1832, and that it called itself the "church of God" in that same year. Again, the minutes of this church book record the following: " Met in conference, Saturday before the fourth Lord's day in June, 1832. After worship opened a door for the reception of members and received for baptism the following–viz., Miss East and Mr. Trent. Motioned and seconded that we, the disciples of Christ located at Robertson Fork, from henceforth take the word of God alone contained in the Old and New Testaments to be our rule of faith and practice, and particularly the latter as our rule for practice; which was unanimously agreed to."
Another interesting quotation is given from the
minutes of the Robertson Fork church of Christ. It reads as follows: " Met Saturday before the fourth Lord's day in October, 1836. After divine services Brother Wade Barrett suggested that we reexamine the proceedings of our last meeting so far as it relates to setting deacons apart by casting lots. He said upon a close examination of the Scriptures that he could not find any example for such a course. Some of the brethren insisted that we had examples in God's word, but a majority of the brethren being of a contrary opinion, it was ordered that so much of the proceedings of our last meeting as relates to setting apart James Powell, Presley Beal, and Joseph East to the office of deacon by casting lots be rescinded." These minutes are signed by Wade Barrett as moderator and Joseph Nance as clerk. We see in the year 1836 that they had not extricated themselves from all of the errors of the Baptist Church. Another point to be noted here is that Wade Barrett was studying the New Testament and was anxious to have all things done as they were in the New
Brother Barrett became a large landowner. He
possessed six hundred acres of land in Giles County. He ran a blacksmith shop and managed a sawmill in addition to operating his farm. However, he found time to do much preaching. He established churches at Old Lynnville, Elk
Ridge, and Robertson Fork, in Giles County; also he established churches at Wilson Hill, in Marshall County, and Antioch and Rattling Springs (now Campbell Station), in Maury County. He gave much time to these churches. The
most money that he ever received at, one time for preaching was ten dollars in gold. This was given him by Robert Lard, a distant relative of Moses E. Lard.
Brother Barrett owned a number of slaves. He was a
kind and considerate master. Though a very busy man, yet it was his custom in the morning before going to work to gather all of his slaves and hired hands. about him and read a chapter in the Bible to them and kneel in prayer. The
minutes of the church from which quotations have been taken show that the greatest amount he received for preaching during one year was forty dollars.
Brother Barrett preached
for more than forty years to the churches that he had established. It was his joy to point hundreds to the Lamb of God and to baptize them into Christ Jesus. He preached his first sermon as a Baptist at Robertson Fork, and he preached his last sermon at the same place as a Christian enjoying the blessings of God as a faithful member of his body. He died on December 10, 1870, at his home about two miles east of Lynnville. Brother S.
P. Deans, a lifelong friend and co laborer, preached his funeral sermon. This servant of God built up the cause of Christ in Giles County and strengthened the cause in Marshall and Maury counties.
From Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo Boles