[Note: Since I first wrote this post, I’ve learned that the Lookout Club of Chattanooga was established in the fall of 1865.]
Even though the Nashville Hickory Club had at least contemplated a game of baseball in 1857, and even though a group of people looked to have been playing baseball in Edgefield (not yet a part of Nashville) in July of 1860, by the end of the Civil War there was still no documented tradition of baseball in the city, much less the state.
All that changed in the spring and summer of 1866, when baseball clubs in the state began sprouting up and challenging each other to matches. As far as I know, the very first of these clubs to form was the Rock City* Base Ball Club of Nashville, which was established in April of that year. As the Nashville Daily Gazette reported on April 14:
“The following gentlemen have organized the Rock City Base Ball Club: Julius C. Hart, Martin H. Miller, Casper Miller, A.L. Emuson, Wm. Augutine, C.H. Albes, Capt. Metcalf, T.H. Albes, Wm. H. Wright, Messrs. Ley and Darr, and invite any similar organization to meet them to play a social game on any day that may be chosen. We are glad to see this evidence in Nashville of an appreciation of athletic sports. Good grounds have been chosen in the Edgefield bottom, near the Suspension bridge.”
Many of these men were not Nashville natives. Julius Hart (37 in 1866) had served as a private in the 68th Ohio Infantry during the war, and had fought in the Battle of Shiloh, (where, incidentally, this baseball was found). Capt. Edward Metcalf (38) was originally from Ohio, and had served in the 129th Indiana Infantry, which fought in the Battles of Franklin and Nashville in 1864. Conrad Elbes (31) was born in Germany, became a grocer in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved to Nashville after the war. William H. Darr (23) was a native of Pennsylvania. TH Albes is presumably related to Conrad, and so is likely not originally from Tennessee. The other men have not been positively identified, but few of their names appear in Davidson County census records for either 1860 or 1870.
In any event, the Rock City club’s challenge was accepted less than a week later by the Cumberland Club, which was formed on April 20, and the two clubs played their historic match the following day.
* Nashville was known in the 1800s as the “Rock City.” The nickname is unrelated to the tourist attraction near Chattanooga.