This article is from a Web document that was formerly available at the Sevier County Library's Web site. The document is no longer on-line, but it was located in an Internet Archive. The actual source and transcriber were not identified in the document, nor was there any indication of whether the extraction was complete.
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Prepared by Mary Ruth Reed, Church Historian, in 1976
Boyd's Creek Baptist Church is located on the Old Sevierville - Knoxville Highway (Boyds Creek Highway), nine miles west of Sevierville.
A historical marker erected across the highway from Boyd's Creek Baptist Church by the Tennessee Society, Sons of the Revolution, says: This shaft marks the site of the battle of Boyd's Creek, December 16, 1780. Governor John Sevier and his command of East Tennessee pioneers defeated, with heavy loss to the enemy, a large force of Cherokee Indians who had attacked the settlers while he and his soldiers were away engaged in the King's Mountain campaign. This opened the way for further settlement of the region.
From records and papers of the National John Huskey Memorial Society, given by Clyde Huskey, was an old document dated May 12, 1884, signed by John Myers, Shook's Gap postmaster, in which he stated He notified all the Presbyterians, Baptist, and Methodists whose forefathers had used the Rock House Cave as a meeting place of a centennial celebration that was to be held there. he said that in the late 1700s the Presbyterians met there the first Saturday of the month for worship; all the settlers met on the second Saturday (more or less for the discussion of protection); the Baptists met on the third Saturday, and Methodists on the fourth Saturday.
From the same source, there are reports that Jonathan Mulkey and Lewis Rice (another place called Luther Rice), two pioneer Baptist preachers and evangelists, held a revival meeting there in 1784. Rock House Cave is a large cave in a rock bluff on the French Broad River, not far below the place where Boyd's Creek flows into the French Broad.
It is believed that Boyd's Creek Baptist Church was organized in the late 1700s, but there is no exact record before 1802. The date on the cornerstone of the church building is 1810; the first recorded minutes are for July, 1814. It is know that the history goes farther back than that although the exact date of organization is not known.
Miss Polly Creekmore, while on the staff of Lawson-McGhee Library in Knoxville, found records stating that in 1802, the pastor of Boyd's Creek helped to ordain a man to become pastor of PawPaw Hollow Baptist Church. Holston and Tennessee Baptist Associations also list Boyd's Creek as belonging in 1802.
Boyd's Creek has always been Baptist, as witness its long affiliation with Baptist associations, but often the oldest minutes say, The Church of Christ met at Boyd's Creek the fourth Saturday.... Later they say, The Baptist Church of Christ met at Boyd's Creek and Boyd's Creek Baptist Church met....
Boyd's Creek has been affiliated with four Baptist associations. It was one of thirty-seven churches lettered and seated at Holston Baptist Association (the first Baptist association in the state) held at Lick Creek the second Friday in August 1802. William Johnson, John Ammsnet, and James Randels represented the church. They reported 15 baptisms that year with two deaths. This information comes from the minutes of the Holston Baptist Association, through James Harris, Director of Missions for that association.
O. W. Taylor, in his book Early Tennessee Baptists, says that in December, 1892, Boyd's Creek was one of sixteen churches that came out of the Holston Association, in a peaceable division, to form the Tennessee Baptist Association (the second Baptist association in the state), which met at Beaver Dam in Knox County. In 1917 the name was changed from Tennessee Association to Knox County Association. William Johnson, who was pastor of the Boyd's Creek Church at that time, and Richard Davis were the messengers to that associational meeting. William Johnson was elected moderator.
October 4, 1873, Little River Association was organized at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Maryville. Boyd's Creek was one of the twenty churches at this organizational meeting and remained a member of this association until 1946, when it joined the Sevier Baptist Association. The Little River Association became the Chilhowee Association.
Elijah Rogers served Boyd's Creek, Alder Branch, and Sevierville as pastor the greater part of his ministerial life. Of Boyd's Creek he was pastor for over thirty years, beginning in 1810. He, with Rise Levy and Joel Haggard, were messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention in August 1814. The early 1800s were dark days with the shadows of war looming over the country. In October 1814 and January 1815, we find the people of Boyd's Creek observing a day a fasting and prayer because of the calamity a war.
O. R. Ownby, long a faithful member and deacon of Boyd's Creek, said in the early history of the church that he gave at the dedication of the first parsonage in 1941. In July, 1825, Elijah Rogers baptized John Hillman in the Tennessee River at Knoxville, before a crowd of three thousand spectators. This was the first baptism in the city of Knoxville. He also stated, These old pioneer preachers all wore homespun clothes and got very little or no pay, and farmed for a living. On Saturday and Sunday they rode the same horse they had plowed with through the week.
There is no mention in the minutes of the amount paid these early pastors, but it regularly mentions a committee being appointed to take up a subscription for the pastors salary. Amounts may be guessed by the facts that in February, 1851, the janitors salary was set at $1.50 per year, and in May, 1852, we find that on motion by Mr. William Chandler, it was resolved that each male member be required to pay annually twenty-five cents into the treasury for the purpose of defraying the church expenses.
James Langford was the pastor of Boyds Creek from 1841-1844. Mr. Ownby said that he was known as a combination of a preacher, singer, and prayer. A member of the Dumplin church made the remark that he had heard him sing for one mile. Heretofore, the church had been meeting one Saturday each month. With the calling of Mr. Langford, they began to meet two days each month, a consecutive Friday and Saturday. During his ministry, in May, 1838, the churchs delegates to the Baptist State Convention, which was to meet in Knox County in July of that year, were instructed to invite the State Convention to hold its 1839 meeting at Boyd's Creek.
William Billew was pastor from 1844-1847. It was during his pastorate at Boyd's Creek that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, and in this time of great need for the denomination, we find this record in the minutes of November, 1846: On motion of Elder William Hodges, it was ordered by the church that on Saturday of our next meeting, we set it apart as a day of fasting and prayer for the progress of the cause of religion.
William Burnette was elected pastor of Boyd's Creek in 1847, and served the church for three separate periods of time, a total of twenty-five years. During Mr. Burnette's pastorate here, he had a four-day debate with Mr. Sewell, a Methodist preacher, on the doctrine of the two churches. In October, 1855, the record says, "The church endorses Mr. Burnette as the true exponent of our faith."
It was during his pastorate, and that of Rev. John Russell, that the Civil War was fought. O. R. Ownby reported that he was told by good authority that during the Civil War, as in Indian times, the men took their guns to church with them. The church had Negro members at that time, for the records state that in October, 1850, they received by experience, Peggy, a colored woman. In August, 1853, they received Eliza and Jane, women of color, and Caleb, a man of color, was charged with fellowshipping other societies and excluded from the fellowship of the church.
It was also during the pastorate of Mr. Burnette that a new church building was erected.
The first meeting house at Boyd's Creek was a log building. According to records and papers of Clyde Huskey, this log church was burned by the Indians in 1803.
The second building was made of brick. In 1848, this brick structure fell down, and until another was built, the church met in different places. Either the building was in bad state of repair even before this, or the road in to the building was bad, for in the winter months of 1844 through 1847, meetings were held at the homes of E. Hodges, William Hodges, Rufus Criswell, and David McCroskey. In March, April, and May of 1848, they met at the school house near Brabsons. and in September 1848, they agreed to hold meetings until the meeting house is finished at the school house near Calvin Chandlers.
The first services held in the new building were in September 1849. This was the frame building that stood until 1947, a period of 98 years. As first built, the house had large center posts or columns through the center, and also two doors, one on each side of the front - the men entering by one door and the women entering by the other. Later the center columns were removed, rods put through the house to support the roof, and one door placed in the center at the front and one at the rear. As times changed, it was modernized. In December, 1921, a motion was made and carried to put in a carbon light plant and purchase a coal stove. Then in 1937 a committee (Theron Hodges, Mrs. Reece Rogers (now Mrs. Charles Smith), O. R. Ownby, and Virgin Allen) was appointed to hire an electrician to wire the church and select fixtures for the lights.
Early Church Discipline
Since the time of Rev. Burnette, Boyd's Creek has had over thirty pastors, serving from a few months to several years. The pastor serving the longest in this time was Rev. David Manly, who served for three different periods ending in 1903. Mr. Ownby said that, he was noted for his good revivals, strict discipline, and good order in the church house. He evidently was not the only strict disciplinarian, for all down through the records of the church are references to action being taken by the church on charges brought against members. Some of these charges were unchristian conduct, intoxication, living in disorder, profanity, partaking with the world in a dance, immoral conduct, making and vending ardent spirits to the injury of his fellowman, engaging in idle mirth, delinquency, and covenant breaking. The last time anyone was excluded was in 1921 for departing from the Baptist faith. Today, when informed that one our members has joined a church of another faith, his name is dropped from the roll, which is another way of doing the same thing.
However, their strictness and charging of members was the earlier way of endeavoring to keep the members of the church in line with the church covenant and in fellowship with each other. Records of the early 1800s often say, after divine services, the church set for business. There being no business and all being found in fellowship, we adjourned. In July, 1867, a committee was appointed to endeavor to restore delinquent members to duty. And in 1869 it was resolved that the church clerk call the roll of its members at each church meeting, making each delinquent, and that any of its members being absent for one quarter without a reasonable excuse will be considered covenant breakers and dealt with accordingly. The churches were sincerely concerned when there was any difficulty or discord within the membership, for the minutes occasionally record that a certain church petitions this church to send a committee to help in settling a difficulty or dispute existing in that church. Some of the churches that sent such petitions were Sevierville, Stock Creek, New Hopewell, Alder Branch. A committee was always sent to help them.
First Sunday School
In August 1903 the delegates to the Chilhowee Association were J. R. Dykes, W. Householder, J. J. Wade, J. C. Linegurger. In October that year, the church called Rev. Sam Atchley as pastor. On April 9, 1904 "motion carried that the church organize a Sunday School." The following day, Sunday, April 10, the Sunday School was organized. The following officers were elected: T. J. Sawyer, superintendent; D. A. Gossett, assistant superintendent; Annie Householder, secretary; Maude Norton, assistant secretary; A. W. Mise, chorister. Thereafter, the church met each Sunday morning for Sunday School, although they still had preaching only one week-end a month.
The Boyd's Creek Baptist young people met and organized a Baptist Young People's Union on May 8, 1921. In 1924, it was reorganized, and Pauline Hodges was appointed as leader to organize a Junior BYPU. Several years later, it was realized that all church members nee training, and a fully graded Baptist Training Union was organized.
In April, 1928, with the calling of Rev. T. T. Lewis, the church began having preaching twice a month, then went back to once a month for the next three years. In July 1931 Rev. George Hinchey was called to be pastor, and in 1932 the church returned to half-time preaching. It was in 1931 that "a motion was made and carried that we send our money to the Cooperative Program instead of home missions." Before that time separate offerings were taken and each designated for home missions, foreign missions, etc. It was late 1933 before the minutes said, "regular morning offering taken." The church now gives 11% of all regular offerings through the Cooperative Program and 5% to Sevier County associational missions.
Vacation Bible School was begun in 1940 while the church was in Chilhowee Association. Rev. Charles D. Martin, from that association, helped to organize and direct the first one. May Smothers, daughter of the pastor, and Mrs. C. A. Tipton were leaders. The church has had VBS every year since. During pastorate of Rev. Grover Splawn, three mission Bible schools were held, one at Blowing Cave near what is now Forbidden Caverns.
In September, 1940, the church voted to build a pastor's home. A building committee was appointed: J. S. Gilbert, C. A. Tipton, and H. G. Hodges. In February, 1941, plans were approved. The pastor's home was built. Rev. J. H. Smothers, the pastor, and his family moved in and in November, 1941, an all-day dedication service was held. Having their pastor living in the community, in March, 1943, Boyd's Creek became a full-time church, having worship services each Sunday morning and evening. The house was remodeled and two rooms added in 1956.
In 1943, the church began its building program for a new church building, voting to invest $518 in government bonds and to use each fifth Sunday offering for the building fund. A building committee was appointed, which was also to serve as a soliciting committee, composed of Charles H. Smith, chairman, Edd Hodges, C. A. Tipton, J. F. Snyder, O. R. Ownby, and Clifford Widner.
Construction of the present building was started in 1947. The church bought the timber. The members went to the woods, but the timber, logged and sawed it. The lumber was hauled to the grounds, planed and sized by a machine the church bought. All of this was done mostly by the cooperative effort of the community giving their time and use of tractors. Mr. Charles Smith was given the contract to build the building, using local labor and free help. Mr. Smith says that as much as possible of the old building was used in building the new one. Practically all the wood work in the educational building, except the doors, was re-worked from the old frame building. The window frames in the auditorium are made from some of the old yellow poplar benches, and the window sashes are all, except the curved piece at the top, made from sills in the old church. These sills were about 10 inches by 14 inches, some fifty feet long, sound yellow poplar, much better than anything they could buy. Due to free labor, gifts of materials, and their cooperative effort, the actual cost of the building was only $31,357.50, but its value is many times that today.
The educational part of the building was completed first, and services were held in it beginning August 24, 1947, while the 98 year old frame building was being torn down and the present sanctuary built. The first worship service was held in the new sanctuary May 2, 1948. It was dedicated, debt free, in May, 1951. Earlier that year, an electric organ and carpet for the sanctuary were purchased. From the minutes: "The church observed the ordinance of baptism for the first time in the new church building on Sunday night, September 5, 1948, and the pastor, Rev. A. A. Carlton, baptized the following: Mrs. Mamie Hodges, Nancy Ingle, Jacqueline Greene, Edna Hodges, Patsy Douglas, Shirley Gossett, and James Hardin."
In 1972 the need for a new pastorium was seen. The old one was sold and a building committee, composed of Jack Hicks, Mrs. Jackie McCarter, and Kenneth Gibson, was appointed. A lot was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Theron Hodges on the old Knoxville-Sevierville Highway about one mile from the church. Carroll Trentham was selected as the builder. The new home was ready for the present pastor and his wife, Rev. and Mrs. S. Ralph Clevenger, to move in when he accepted the church's call in November, 1973.
This year, 1976, the church is at work renovating the sanctuary with new ceiling, paint, carpeting, and pews. It is planned to have the work completed by September when all-day special services will be held.
Outgrowth of the Church
All the growth of the church has not been material. Several preachers have come from the ranks of Boyd's Creek Church to go out and bless other churches and communities. In June 1815 Bro. Levy was ordained to the ministry. The October minutes read Agreed that Bro. Joel Haggard be licensed to preach the gospel where the Lord in His providence may fix his lot. Some of the others ordained by the Boyd's Creek Church were H. L. Houk, N. B. Goforth, H. G. Gossett, P. M. Atchley, and J. H. Martan. Rev. J. R. (Bob) Dykes, who had a long and fruitful ministry in many churches in Sevier, Blount, and Knox Counties, was ordained here. Rev. William (Bill) Norton, who was vice president of the first BYPU organized in 1921, was ordained here on March 15, 1925, and did a great work as pastor and evangelist in several southern states.
Many great revivals are recorded, some with as many a thirty conversions and baptisms. Nearly all the revivals in the 1800s lasted two weeks, with meetings in the mornings at ten o'clock, and in the evenings at candle-lighting. Brother Ownby said that from 1810 to 1941 about 1000 people have been saved and baptized through the influence of this church. and of course, there have been more since then.
An active Women's Missionary Union has kept the people informed on mission activities, contributing in prayer and financial support to the Lord's work around the world.
The present membership of the church is about 240.
Baptists have a noble heritage. May we pass it on to our descendants as faithfully as it has been handed down to us.