The First Baptist Church of Knoxville was organized January 15, 1843, in the upper room of the court house, the organization being completed on the 22nd of that month. The ministers present on the latter occasion were as follows: Rev. Mr. Kennon, Duke Kimbrough, Mr. Milliken, Mr. Bellue, Mr. Coram and Mr. Ray. The membership at first was quite small, being composed of twenty-six white persons and twenty colored. During the first few months of the existence of this church the membership grew quite rapidly and by August the enrollment reached eighty-five. Thirty had been added by experience and seventeen by letter, seven had been dismissed and one had been excommunicated. This large increase in the membership was due to two revivals, one in the spring and one in the summer, the first having been conducted in the First Presbyterian Church by Rev. Dr.
Baker of Texas, and the other by Rev. Israel Robards, who remained for several successive days and nights, arousing a deep religious interest in the community.
The first pastor of the church was Rev. Joseph A. Bullard, who remained one year. Those most prominent among his successors were the Revs. G. W. Griffin, Matthew Hillsman, L. B. Woolfolk, S. H. Smith, Dr. Brenker. D. D., J. L. Lloyd, J. B. F. Mays, George B. Eager, C. H. Strickland and E. A. Taylor. Rev. E. A. Taylor at the end of a three years' pastorate, lasting from 1885 to 1888, had one of the strongest congregations in the state of Tennessee, and a large, handsome brick church building, with his congregation out of debt. His labors in Knoxville are remembered with pleasure by his former parishioners. The membership at that time amounted to about 650, and the Sunday-school had a membership of more than 500 scholars.
The new brick church above mentioned is 72x88 feet in size, its audience room being 62x65 feet in size, and its spire 176 feet high. The corner stone was laid July 1, 1886. and it was dedicated April 8, 1886. The audience room and the gallery have a seating capacity of from 850 to 1,000 people.
After the retirement of Rev. E. A. Taylor toward the latter part of 1888, a call was extended January 23, 1889, to Rev. Carter Helm Jones, who began his labors here about February 1, 1889, remaining until April 30, 1893, upon which day he preached his farewell sermon, having accepted a call from the McFerrin Memorial Baptist Church of Louisville, Ky. During the four years of his pastorate in Knoxville he baptized 243 persons and admitted to the church 435. On May 14, 1893, Rev. R. R. Acree of Roanoke, Va., preached a sermon for the congregation, was afterward called to the church, and arrived to take charge on September 8, that year. The present pastor is Rev. M. W. Egerton. The membership of this church at the present time is 748, and of the Sunday-school, of which John McCoy is superintendent,
500. The value of the church property now is $40,000.
In November, 1873, a second congregation of Baptists was organized in Knoxville, their church building being erected on McGhee street, but the location did not prove satisfactory, and in November, 1880, the congregation was disbanded. Some time afterward a mission was established in the northern portion of the city and at this mission, in November, 1885, a church was organized which was named Calvary Baptist Church. This church was incorporated March 8, 1886, by W. C. McCoy. G. W. Peters, Lafayette Huddleston, James A. Galyon, John J. Martin, W. A. J. Moore and J. R. Dew. The first pastor of the church was Rev. O. L. Hailey. The church was highly prosperous during the first years of its existence, the membership increasing in one year from fifty-three to 115. On February 6, 1890, the charter of this church, upon the petition of W. C. McCoy, L. Huddleston, J. B. Williams. W. A. J. Moore, W. R. Cooper and J. A. Galyon, was so amended as to permit the change of name of this church to the Second Baptist Church of Knoxville, and the name was changed in accordance therewith. Since Rev. Mr. Hailey's time the Rev. M. D. Jeffries has been the only pastor, he commencing his pastorate March 1, 1893. The church edifice is a two-story pressed brick structure, of the Romanesque style of architecture, having an auditorium capable of seating 700 persons, and ample class rooms, ladies' parlor, etc., and cost $31,000. The membership of the church at the present time is 534, and of the Sunday-school, of which W. A. J. Moore is superintendent, 360. The property of the church is now worth $25,000.
The Third Baptist Church, located south of the Tennessee river, was organized February 17, 1889, with eighteen members, the first pastor being Rev. W. R. Grace, who remained from June, 1889, to June, 1891. Rev. S. E. Jones became pastor in July, 1891, and remained until July, 1893, after which the church was without a pastor six months, during
which time Dr. C. C. DeArmond acted as moderator at all business meetings. In January. 1894, Rev. Mr. Lightfoot became pastor, remaining until the following July, from which time until September, 1894, Rev. John M. Anderson acted as supply pastor. Then followed Rev. W. C. McPherson, who remained from October, 1894, until January 1, 1898, on which date the present pastor, Rev. R. M. Murrell, began his labors. On June 11. 1893, when the church building was dedicated by Rev. T. T. Eaton, the membership of the church was 175, while at the present time it is 200. The Sunday school, organized February 24, 1889, has continued without interruption. It had at first forty scholars, while now it has 200. The superintendents have been Dr. C. C. DeArmond and served eight years; W. B. Ford served six months; J. C. Ford, six months; J. G. Johnson, one year, and Dr. T. O. McCallie is now superintendent. The church property is worth about $7,000.
The Centennial Baptist Church was the outgrowth of a mission Sunday-school organized April 6, 1890, at the home of Alexander Meek at 1200 Asylum street, and on the 13th of the same month a meeting was held at a store room on Asylum street at which seventy-seven persons were present and Rev. J. Pike Powers elected superintendent, and served as both superintendent of the Sunday-school and pastor for the people until July 12, 1891. The First Baptist Church took charge of the mission July 15, 1891, and elected Thomas L. Moses superintendent, and engaged Rev. J. K. Pace as pastor. The Sunday-school about this time moved to a store room on Asylum and Clinton streets, and W. W. Woodruff presented to the mission a lot on Deaderick street, upon which a church building was erected by the First Baptist Church, which building is 34x80 feet in size and cost $5,800, and was dedicated free from debt on June 5, 1892. It has a seating capacity of 500 persons, and is a very handsome church edifice, somewhat on the Moorish order of architecture, nicely situated on a fine street. The pastor at
the time of dedication was Rev. J. K. Pace, he remaining until October, 1892, when he was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. J. H. Snow, who has had a very successful pastorate. The value of the church property is about $6,500.
Mount Zion Baptist Church (colored) was organized in 1864, in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church, with three members, by Rev. T. Embry. Soon afterward they removed to M. E. Zion Church, remaining there for some time, and then removed to the colored school house in East Knoxville, remaining there until 1866. Rev. William Howell about this time came down from Ohio, was invited to become pastor of the church, accepted and remained until 1869. In 1873 there were about 150 members in this church, which had previously purchased a lot on Patton street in East Knoxville, and erected thereon a church building at a cost of about $2,000.
The Second (Colored) Baptist Church was organized by Rev. William Howell with eight members from the First Colored Baptist Church, and with Rev. J. P. Jay as pastor. After about four months a lot was purchased on an alley leading off from Cumberland street in East Knoxville, upon which lot a church building was erected at a cost of about $900, in which the congregation still worships. After a one year's pastorate, Rev. Mr. Jay was succeeded by Rev. A. B. Cross, and in 1873 there were 173 members in the church. Succeeding pastors so far as could be ascertained have been as follows: Revs. Bigbee, Robert Howard, Robert Mills, Allen Nickerson, Brown, Bain, John Richardson, Shields, C. J. Reed, W. M. Maskerson. Martin Jones, James Barney, John Richardson, R. P. Rumney, John G. L. Crippins and William Armstrong, the present pastor. The church membership now is 157. This church is now called the Mount Carmel Baptist Church.
In 1897 a division in the church occurred, 76 members withdrawing and forming the Guilfield Baptist Church, purchasing the old Clinton A. M. E. chapel, and worshiping
therein. The first pastor of this church was Rev. R. P. Rumney, the second and present pastor being Rev. Mr. Clark, from Kentucky. The membership is about the same as that with which the church was organized.
Other colored Baptist churches are the Central, at 1019 Payne street, and the Second Baptist at 616 Central avenue, North.
[From William Rule, G. F Mellon & John Wooldridge, Standard History of Knoxville, Tennessee: with . . . , 1900, pp. 435-440. The document is from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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