FIRST METHODIST CHURCH IN AREA ESTABLISHED BEFORE 1840, BUT 1842 REVIVAL SPURRED GROWTH
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
For many years the Methodist Church affiliates reigned high in the religious community, as they still do. The formal opening of the LaFollette Methodist Church was June 27, 1965, with H. Ellis Finger as Bishop; Mark M. Moore as District Superintendent, and Mitchell O. Petus as Minister.
Origination of plans for building was established in 1955. Rev. E. C. Berwanger and the Board of Directors decided to start a building fund campaign, which was initiated on April 26, 1960, under the supervision of the Pastor, Rev. Kyle Kregger; the amount being set at $125,000.
On June 10, 1964, groundbreaking ceremonies were held on the building site, with the Pastor, Rev. Mitchell O. Pettus, leading the ceremony. The site was purchased during these years with roughly $90,000 in cash on hand to start the new Church. Over the years, the building committee changed, with the final committee consisting of Dr. L.J. Seargeant, Chairman; Russell Claiborne, Hugh Crowder, Clifford McCarty, V.R. Davis, along with the Pastor, Rev. Pettus and Carlock Myers being added as business managers.
At this time we shall review a short history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in LaFollette. Located in a deep hollow about one mile east of LaFollette, the Church site was organized some time before 1840. It was located in Walker's School House, named for William Walker. The Church at that time was connected to the Tazewell Circuit, which comprised all of Claiborne County. The members were few with Walker being named Class Leader. The Circuit preacher completed his rounds to the Church about once a month.
Many folks resided in the neighborhood, and nearly all the population was nonreligious. The community was not a sinful group, but were pleasure seekers, subjects being hunting, fishing and shooting matches.
Rev. E.K. Hutsell, in June of 1842, received an appointment at S.H. Walker's, and with him came Dr. Jackson Buckley, a local preacher and physician, who resided in the Fincastle community.
The first meeting was comprised of twelve people, with Dr. Frank Richardson's mother being the only Christian. At the end of the service, Rev. Hutsell made an altar call and the eleven remaining folks came forward and knelt for prayer. There were hundreds who were converted before the six-day meeting was over.
Another revival started in a few weeks which continued for years and spread into all the surrounding communities, the result being the conversion of thousands, many becoming preachers. In the community which was later to become LaFollette, most every person was converted and ultimately joined the Methodist Church.
One revelation of the revival in the small community was that most all people of wealth, ages and races were converted. Since the School House revival was so well received, a large camp ground east of LaFollette was established where camp meetings were held annually for years. This campground came under Confederate control during the Civil War, and was destroyed by the soldiers.
The first brick church was erected in honor of Bishop Soule and called Soules Chapel, and was also affected by the war. The close of the War between the States found the Church much weakened and depressed, and was soon taken over by the Methodist Episcopal Church, with many of its members merging.
During the latter part of the years of 1889-90 services were held in a frame structure in Douglas Town, it being on the Jacksboro Circuit. In 1902 a Church was built on Nevada Avenue, which was devastated by fire in 1913. Immediately, plans for a new church on East Central Avenue were established and called Central Methodist Church. Going through many changes, it continued its organizations and did its work efficiently, thus entering into unification in 1939, merging with First Methodist in 1946 and becoming the LaFollette Methodist Church.
A Short History of the First Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Hazen Oaks, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a part of Holston Conference, located in 1901 to LaFollette to establish a church. Just two years later, in 1903, a splendid brick and masonry structure was constructed at the corner of Indiana and Central Avenue. This stood until May 10, 1939, when the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church united to become the Methodist Church.
The church was razed in the late 40's, with some interesting items being found between the rocks in the corner stone. Among these bits and pieces were some slightly faded legible records, which gave a brief history of the Church, and a message to future generations.
History of Women's Missionary Society, M.E. South, 1900-41.
Mrs. Sullins and Mrs. Nora Chapman organized the Women's Missionary Society in 1900 at the home of Mary Newton on Nevada Avenue. It was called the Woman's Home Missionary Society, with Mrs. Sam Smith being elected President and serving for 15 years.
A new church was constructed on Nevada Avenue in 1902, the Society contributing to a great extent to this building by raising funds, they spending their time and energies having suppers and socials.
The guidelines of the Conference Society were changed in 1911; the name of Home Society was changed to Home and Foreign Missionary Society.
The church building burned on Palm Sunday, March 16, 1913. Mrs. Smith called a meeting and plans were discussed concerning the rebuilding of the church. Consequently, the Society raised enough funds to pay for the windows and carpet for the new church building, which was constructed on Central Avenue.
On Good Friday, April 10, 1914, a meeting was held in the home of Mrs. Smith to discuss plans for paying for the upkeep on the parsonage. The plan was to hold a meeting on each Good Friday with a free will offering going toward the parsonage upkeep. This setting became a permanent event of the Society, even after Mrs. Smith's death.
In 1940 the Society was changed to the Woman's Society of Christian Service, with the following having served as President. Mrs. Sam Smith, Mrs. Walter Brown, Mrs. C.S. Jacobs, Mrs. T.E. Satterfield, Mrs. R.L. Sharp, Mrs. L.I. Mauny, Mrs. Robert Sharp, and Mrs. E.C. Sharp.
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