woodlawn

Hardin Smith – Woodlawn Baptist Church and Cemetery
State Route 19 – Tina Turner Highway – Toward Nutbush

Hardin Smith was born a slave in Virginia in 1829.  He, his siblings and his mother were sold to the slave market in St. Louis in 1840 and then to Memphis where he and his sister Elizabeth were bought by General William H. Loving, a lawyer, minister, and substantial landowner in Haywood County.  Ruth Loving, the wife of his new master, and her children secretly taught Smith to read, and he, in turn, secretly taught other slaves.  In 1846, at age sixteen, Smith received permission to minister to a select group of slaves at evening services at the white Woodlawn Baptist Church in Nutbush. As well, he preached and taught a slave congregation near Brownsville.  While a slave, Smith also helped black musicians and singers by providing an opportunity for them to perform spirituals sung in the cotton fields of Haywood County.

After the Civil War, Smith trained at the Baptist Home Mission Board of New York City. Smith, along with white residents in the nearby community of Nutbush, founded Woodlawn Colored Baptist Church. Smith was the first minister and remained at Woodlawn for fifty-six years.  Along with the Brownsville Freedman’s Bureau, he also founded the first school for freed slaves, Dunbar.  The school later became Carver High School.  A number of musicians and singers emerged from the slave and free congregations of churches founded by Smith, including Sleepy John Estes, gospel-recording artist Reverend Clay Evans, and singer/entertainer Tina Turner.  He died in 1929 at age 100 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.  The church and cemetery are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jefferson Street Commercial District