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Text from a letter to the Sevier County Genealogy Library. This is no longer available at the Library's Web site and was found in an Internet Archive.

We do have a copy of the book entitled History of the Lutheran Church in Virginia and East Tennessee edited by C.W. Cassell, W.J. Finck and Elon O. Henkel and published by the Shenandoah Publishing House in 1930. Our copy does not circulate, but it is cataloged on OCLC as #1492160 with 96 holdings and again as a microfiche version as #7893909 with 18 holdings. Checking the volume, however, I was not able to find any information about an early Sevier Co. congregation. The congregations profiled in the volume are just those that were operating in 1930.

I did find some information in The Lutheran Church in Virginia, 1717-1962, including an Account of the Lutheran Church in East Tennessee, by William Edward Eisenberg, 1967. Under Sevier Co. it states "An early congregation of Lutherans existed in Sevier County named St. Jacob's. It was represented at the 1822 and 1823 conventions of the Tennessee Synod by Michael Brenner."

The Tennessee Synod was organized in 1820 out of the North Carolina Synod. It had several splits over the years, including those forming the Tennessee Synod (Reorganized) in 1848 and the Holston Synod in 1860. After the Holston Synod was organized the Tennessee Synod had no congregations in the state of Tennessee. In 1921 it merged into the North Carolina Synod of the United Lutheran Church in America.

The earliest minutes we have from the Tennessee Synod is from 1827. In that volume Mr. Casper Reader from Severe Co., Tenn. represented his congregation. No mention of the congregation or its representatives appear in the 1829, 1830, 1831 or 1835. Most of the early congregations in this area were served by traveling ministers, who had a home congregation or set of congregations, but made their way occasionally to other parishes. Those that were unable to get regular service often faded away. It appears that this may have been the case with St. Jacob's. Those records that were kept were probably recorded in a personal record book of the pastor, though the congregation may have had one. Possible pastors include Philip Henkel of Greene Co., Adam Miller of Knox Co. and Henry Zink or C.Z.H. Schmidt, of Sullivan Co. Paul Henkel's diary has been translated by Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, as Tagebuch and Day Book, a 1948 M.A. thesis for the University of Virginia. I do not know of any records from the other pastors.

Under the entry for Zion Lutheran in Knoxville, it states "Germans had settled in Washington Co., Va., and in Sullivan Co., Tenn., during the 1780s. Some of them continued their westward move after a few years to new homes in Washington and Greene Counties of Tennessee. Toward the turn of the century others pushed on to Knox Co., or clung to the mountain counties that form the western border of the Great Smokies, particularly Cocke, Sevier, and Blount. Schools were few, education meager, and the keeping of records a practice no longer preserved. Congregations, however, were organized and log churches erected, and traveling preachers made their visits four, eight or a dozen times a year, more or less."

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Joel Thoreson
Asst. Archivist
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 W. Higgins Rd.
Chicago, IL 60631

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