The Methodist Church on the corner of Spring Street (7th Avenue) and Oak Street in Springfield burned to the ground on Feb. 28, 1882.
Stories in the church’s history tell of neighbors rushing to help move furnishings out of the building. It tells of trustees meeting immediately to plan the rebuilding.
The stories of a haunted house, an unhappy couple, and a murder are not so visible at first.
Henry H. Kirk had built the house at the top of Pulltight, Fifth Avenue East. The house, which still stands, is made of poplar and was put together with wooden pegs. The construction began in 1855.
It is not strange that some of the women of Springfield met at the Kirk home to sew blankets and uniforms for the Confederate army.
It is strange that they did this within sight of a Federal fort. The fort was located in the same neighborhood. County offices now are located in the area.
But that is not the strangest story.
In 1878, Arthur Woodard purchased the house. He rented it to Dr. John Nuckolls and his wife, Laura Hopkins Jones Nuckolls.
Although they had not been married very long, the couple could not stop fussing. Laura (said) that the house was haunted. Neighbors were invited in to hear the strange tapping.
Nuckolls was doubtful and hired a carpenter to find the source of the sound. The man found that it was coming from the room where Laura was walking.
She supposedly had attached a small ball to a cord and hung it from her waist. As she walked, the ball bounced and tapped the floor.
Laura took their baby and went home to her parents, who lived on North Main Street.
Later, Dr. Nuckolls arrived at the home of his in-laws. He asked to see his child but was refused. In anger, he threatened to shoot Laura’s father.
Laura’s brother, Bunch Hopkins, was summoned from Nashville and came with friends to help.
On Feb. 28, 1882, the Methodist church was set on fire. As attention was drawn to the fire from downtown, Bunch Hopkins hid in the old jail building. (That corner is now the location of Burdett’s.)
As Dr. Nuckolls walked by, Hopkins shot and killed him from an upstairs window.
Bunch Hopkins was tried in Nashville. He was acquitted.
Amazingly, he had previously been charged in the death of E.C. (Ned) Kirk. During the trial that followed, the Nashville lawyer prosecuting Hopkins fell down the Courthouse steps and was killed.
The trial ended. No further action was taken against Hopkins.
The Methodist Church was rebuilt by the end of 1882 – a beautiful red brick church facing Oak Street. The Kirk family was largely responsible for the bricks and for the construction of the building.
Bunch Hopkins went to live in Texas.
And the Kirk home? Despite published explanations of Laura Nuckolls’ trickery, it is often referred to as being haunted even today.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.