The second church that we will discuss from the early days of Tarrant was the Bethel Methodist Church, established between 1818 and 1820 by Methodist “Circuit Rider”, Rev. Ebenezer Hearn. Between 1817 and 1818, Rev. James Tarrant (a veteran of the American Revolution) traveled from South Carolina to Alabama with his family, including son Benjamin (a veteran of the War of 1812), and Benjamin’s wife, Morning, and their two children. Travelers into the Tarrant area often stopped at a large campground near to what was called the Big Spring on Five Mile Creek. It was popular because there was fresh water to drink and clothes could be washed. Rev. Tarrant had been sent by the Methodist Bishop in Nashville to establish a Methodist church in the area. James eventually moved on and built the Bethlehem Methodist Church, near Hueytown, with his slave, Adam, in 1818. Benjamin and his family, however, purchased property in the Tarrant area and maintained his home there until he died in 1874. Benjamin made his living both through farming and as a local politician. Benjamin also had a well-deserved reputation for hard living and was known to be a heavy drinker and gambler. However, in 1842, Benjamin changed his ways and was ordained as a Methodist minister. He later became active at Bethel Church where he was an evangelist for the next 30 years. Contrary to popular opinion, Tarrant was named for Benjamin Tarrant and NOT for his ancestor, Felix. Virtually all of the Tarrant family trace their lineage from Judge Leonard Tarrant who fought with Andrew Jackson at Horseshoe Bend. (There is a well-known 1814 hand-drawn map of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, drawn for Captain Leonard Tarrant).
Bethlehem United Methodist from Hueytown Historical Society
Northeastern Jefferson County paid a significant role in the Civil War. Bethel Church was used as a gathering spot for rebel soldiers from Tarrant who were members of Company C, 19th Alabama infantry, the Jefferson County unit originating “from Hagood’s Crossroads [Pinson]… and included the sons of all the planters for miles around”. The “Reminiscences of Julius C. Greene” note that the militia mustered once a year at Massey Springs on the Huntsville Trail [Pinson Valley Parkway and Valleycrest Road]. People from all over the county came and stayed a week. The young men would drill; the old men talked crops and politics; the young women cooked and played games; the old women would knit and gossip. There would be a dance every night, an old-fashioned square dance. Some old negro slaves, with wing collar, long-tailed coat, and pants as tight as their skin would call the dance while the negro fiddlers played “Cotton Eye Joe,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “The Devil’s Dream,” and other old time pieces”.
The officers of the militia were: General John Massey, Major Robert H. Green, Captain A. J. Tarrant, Lieutenant John Ayers, Second Lieutenant George Barton, and Top Sergeant Robert N. Martin. Because of its close association with the rebel cause, Bethel Church was burned in 1865 by Wilson’s Raiders during the same sweep in which Hanby’s Forge was destroyed and the University of Alabama was burned.
Union General James H. Wilson
Tarrant had its share of racial strife during the Civil War and Reconstruction. There is a reference to carpetbaggers wanting the blacks to kill all the whites between “Massey’s Springs and Hagood’s Crossroads” and yet another about arresting “every man from Hagood’s Crossroads to Five Mile Creek”. John Massey was one of the largest slave owners in Jefferson County. In the 1860 census he owned over 60 slaves. Greene mentions that “George L. Greene settled at what is now Tarrant and Major Robert H. Greene at what is now the Munger farm, six miles above Tarrant”.(Yankees camped on the farm when they came through the area). It is from this turmoil that the third Tarrant church emerged. Beginning as a prayer group of run-away slaves from Bibb County who joined with and others who worked on the plantation. First meeting in different houses each week, the group organized a brush arbor church [a rough-hewn, open-sided shelter constructed of vertical poles driven into the ground with additional long poles laid across the top as support for a roof of brush, cut branches or hay. Brush arbors were sometimes used by churches to protect worshipers from the weather during revival meetings] in 1891 known as Goins Chapel, for the former slave who eventually became a successful farmer and donated the land where the church would be located. Because “Chapel” was more often used by the Methodist church, the name was changed to Rushing Springs Baptist Church, a reference to a free-flowing spring near the church. Of special note is that the church had an early rule that required its Pastors to be able to read and write.
Rushing Springs Baptist Church, Tarrant, Alabama
This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.
-E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.
Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.