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Home North Carolina Nash County City of Rocky Mount Historical Markers Falls Of The Tar Church

Falls Of The Tar Church

Falls Road at Hunter Hill Road, Rocky Mount, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Constituted as Particular Baptist, 1757; Rev. John Moore & Joshua Lawrence among early ministers. Now Primitive Baptist."
     While the exact founding year for the church known as Falls of the Tar is unknown, there is evidence that it was constituted, or possibly reconstituted, as a Particular Baptist church in 1757. It was during the decade of the 1750s that a division took place within the Baptist church. To describe the split simply, some of the General Baptists aligned themselves with rigid Calvinist theology to become Particular Baptists, and some Baptists who wished to develop a more evangelical worship style became Separate Baptists.

     The first known building constructed for the Falls of the Tar was erected in 1764 and was twenty feet by thirty feet. This church was located on a one acre plot that was the gift of William Horn. At the point of constitution as a Particular Baptist Church, the minister was Rev. John Moore. One of the more remarkable ministers to serve the Falls of the Tar congregation was Joshua Lawrence, a leader in the Primitive Baptist movement. Lawrence was sent as the Falls of the Tar delegate to the Kehukee (Baptist) Association in 1803, at which time dissension between factions began. It was Lawrence who would write the “Declaration of Principles” in 1826 which was a document rejecting missionary activities and seminaries. It became the foundation for the Primitive Baptist movement. The Falls of the Tar became, and remains, a Primitive Baptist Church.

On November 13, 1836 the church grounds were the site of a forty-five “soul searching testimony” by P. T. Barnum. Barnum had requested to speak to the congregation during the regular service but was not permitted, he not being Primitive Baptist. His message was well received. The appearance marked the first recorded stop of P. T. Barnum’s circus troupe.

George Washington Paschal, History of North Carolina Baptists, I (1930)
David Benedict, General History of the Baptist Denomination in American and Other Parts of the World, II (1813)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 30-31—sketch by Hugh Buckner Johnston