LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) – For nearly two centuries, the bell atop Pickett Chapel called to worship two United Methodist congregations in Lebanon. One black and one white.
“When it was built, the white members worshiped here and up above, their slaves worshipped with them,” said Rebecca Gwynn Dixon.
The white Methodist congregation moved to a new church in 1857. African- Americans purchased the old one in 1866 and worshipped in Pickett Chapel for more than a century.
But like the white methodists, the black congregation outgrew the space and moved to their new church, Rucker Chapel, in 1973.
Eighty-one-year-old Marry Harris was raised in Pickett Chapel. She showed how time and years of neglect have taken a toll on the building. Since 2007, she has led an effort by the Wilson County Black History Committee to restore it.
“I’ve always had a love for the people and for this building. Now I have children and grandchildren. I want them to know the story of this building which has been an asset to the community,” said Mary McAdoo Harris.
“The civil rights activists that protested segregation here in Lebanon and Wilson County they organized themselves here and practiced nonviolent demonstration techniques here at Pickett Chapel,” said Archeologist Phillip Hodge.
The exterior renovation is complete, but there is plenty to do inside. And that will require additional funding. Commissioner Annette Stafford wants the county to do more.
“The County has a lot more than just Lebanon. There’s Mt. Juliet. We got Watertown, so the resources need to come together and complete this and finish the project like it should be,” said Stafford.
It’s been 12 years since Harris and a handful of congregants mortgaged their homes to save Pickett Chapel from the wrecking ball. Support from the community gives her hope that one day Pickett Chapel will have a new beginning.
“That inspires me to stay motivated and see it to the end.”