Nashville news: 1890-1899

22 May 1894: As reported in the Nashville Banner, a schism within Nashville’s leading African-American Baptist congregation, First Colored Baptist Church, allegedly drove its pastor to murderous intentions:

[O]ne night, after an especially stormy session of the church, Purdy called a council of his close friends and stated to them that this thing had gone far enough, and that certain of the leaders on the other side, naming Crosthwait, Ewing and Jones, must be killed. He then, according to Neeley’s statement, unfolded a plan by which this could be accomplished, without getting the perpetrators into trouble.

One of the intended victims was attorney Taylor G. Ewing, kinsman of 21st-century Nashville lawyer and man-about-town David Ewing. David reports he lived on until 1922, while the available public record suggests that Rev. Purdy’s indictment for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder did not prevent him from founding Spruce Street Baptist Church the following year and leading it for some time afterward. Perhaps the prosecution ultimately fizzled.

First Colored Baptist Church came to be known as First Baptist Church-Capitol Hill, playing a key role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-’60s.

2 Responses to Nashville news: 1890-1899

  1. Tom says:


    I appreciate your note because it led me to learn more about Bolivar Houston Cooke, who turns out to be my great-great-great-uncle. Bolivar’s sister, Attaline Layne Cooke Dowell, eldest child of Richard Fielding Cooke, was my great-great-great-great-grandmother. A little info is below.


    On Bolivar’s Mexican War service:
    Letter dated June 5 1848 from Richard F. Cooke: ” I will also inform you that in October last – Bolivar and Col. John Scantland raised a volunteer company in Gainsborough and about the 17th started to Mexico about the 20th of Nobember and forged immediately on to the City of mexico where where they have continued the most of the winter. Scantland was taken sick soon after they got there and the command devolved on Bolivar ever since. I rec’d a letter from Scantland the other day. He informed me that he would join his company again in a day or two. Bolivar has wrote many letters to us, His health has been good and if peace is made writes he will be home in June if he lives. If peace is not made he will not come till next April(?)”

    Bolivar’s business on Nashville’s Public Square: in 1880 City Directory

    On Bolivar and his family:
    Major Richard Fielding Cooke was a native of Culpepper County, Virginia. He was born July 3, 1787. He was therefore almost 67 years old when he secured the passage of his bill to re-establish Putnam County. Although a native of Virginia, most of his youth was spent in South Carolina. He was 29 years old and married when he located in what is now Putnam County, his home having been about three miles South of the present town of Double Springs and about nine miles southwest of Cookeville. He owned a plantation of several hundred acres and his entire landed estate contained several thousand acres. He was a large slave owner. He was a officer under General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. Two of his sons, Bolivar H. Cooke and Watson M. Cooke, became leading business men of Nashville. Bolivar H. Cooke was a Lieutenant in the Mexican War. He was the founder and for many years the manager of the Nashville wholesale clothing firm of Bolivar H. Cooke and Company, for many years one of the leading wholesale firms of the South.

    Cooke, Richard Fielding (1787-1870)
    SENATE, 29th and 30th General Assemblies, 1851-55; representing counties of White, Fentress, Jackson, Overton, and Van Buren in 29th; White, Jackson, and Macon in 30th; Whig. Born in Culpeper County, Virginia, July 8, 1787; son of Robert and Susanna (Watson) Cooke. Attended elementary schools in Virginia and North Carolina. Married in Edgefield District, South Carolina, March 31, 1813, to Margaret Cox; children — Adaline, Minerva, Watson McSwain, Louisa, Dorinda, Zenira, Calvin Whitley, Bolivar Houston, and Harriett Cooke. Brought up in Greenville, South Carolina; emigrated to Maury County, 1810; in 1816 opened farm in Putnam County on Gainesboro-Sparta Road; was living at Double Springs, White County, while in legislature; moved later to Big Woods, Putnam County; large landholder. In War of 1812; enlisted September 20, 1814; sergeant in Captain Abraham Dulaney’s Company, Major Woodfolk’s 3rd Regiment, promoted to 3rd lieutenant, October 1, 1814; to 2nd lieutenant, December 3, 1814. Died in Putnam County October 15, 1870; buried in Cooke family graveyard eight miles west of Cookeville on Buffalo Valley Road. Cookeville named in his honor. Brother of William Henry Cooke; uncle of James Burch Cooke; great-great-great grandfather of Bailey Bockman, sometime members Tennessee General Assembly.

    Sources: Information supplied by great-great-great-grandson, Bailey Bockman, Sparta; “Putnam Cuonty Bible, Family, and Tombstone Records,” 15; McClain, History of Putnam County, 14; McCown and Burns, Soldiers of the War of 1812 Burried in Tennessee; War of 1812 files, Tennessee Archives.

    Bolivar’s grave at Nashville’s Mt. Olivet

  2. Paul Roberts says:

    I have a small leather bound catalog and Memo Book issued by B.H. Cooke & Co dated 1877. A traveling salesman used it to keep up with his expenses during his travels. The front section portrays clothing of that date for sale by the company. Can you give me any more information on it.

Leave a Reply to Paul Roberts Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s