After the destruction of the old First Presbyterian Church on Vine Street in Murfreesboro, many legends grew up around its remains, the Daily News Journal reports. Legends say the church was the birthplace of the Democratic Party, it was used as a hospital and Union encampment during the Civil War, and that Union soldiers destroyed the original building and desecrated the cemetery.
“The best way to experience history is at a place, a place where you can contemplate history or the people who lived there. … We are fortunate in Murfreesboro to have a few of these places left,” said Dr. Kevin Smith as he addressed some of those legends at the regular monthly meeting for the Rutherford County Archaeological Society, held Aug. 20 at the Heritage Center of Rutherford County.
Smith conducted an archaeological field school in June and July 2003 at the old church site as part of the bicentennial of Rutherford County, which was founded in 1803. MTSU archaeological students, under the guidance of Smith, excavated the portion of the 6-acre lot occupied by the church.
Smith said his goal was to confirm where the foundation of church was and test theories about the site, especially the Civil War stories. Built in 1820 and originally named the Murfree Spring Church, the church with a five-story brick bell tower was one of the finest buildings in the county and possibly the state when it was constructed, Smith said.
FOR MORE ON THE CHURCH’S HISTORY: What happened to the old First Presbyterian Church?