top of page

History of First United Methodist Church of Mountain City. 

All of the information about the 1st Methodist Church of Mountain City, was loaned courtesy of  

Mary Tom Donnelly Smith of Mountain City.



Methodist Advocate-Journal, August 10, 1905

     The elegant new Methodist Episcopal Church at Mountain City, Tenn. was dedicated by Bishop LUTHER B. WILSON, Sunday August 6, a day and an occasion never to be forgotten by the people of that delightful little city, set like a jewel in the bosom of a most charming landscape--a fertile valley on what is almost a mountain elevation and that still encircled with mountains.

In company with Bishop WILSON we reached the city late Saturday evening and were met at the depot by the pastor, Rev. GEORGE S. BALES, the presiding elder, Rev. HAZEN OAKS, and a shumber of the prominent laymen of the church.

     The church built according to one of our Church Extension plans, is located in the heart of the town, constructed of brick, substantial, commodious, and a gem of beauty without and especially within, nothing extravagant or redundant, and nothing wanting.

     The series of services began with a sermon on Saturday morning by Presiding Elder OAKS, of which discriminating hearers spoke in terms of high praise. The editor of the Acvocate-Journal, occupied the pulpit Saturday night and also Sunday afternoon.

The house was packed to hear Bishop WILSON at 10:30 on Sunday. The Rev. J.I. GRIFFITTS, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, had suspended his services for the day and took a part in the service, as did also the presiding elder and pastor. The music by the choir was appropriate and excellent, the congregation also joining in the hymns.

     The sermon by Bishop WILSON was not lengthy, but is was broad and deep and puluminous, pulsating with vital and spiritual force. It held the audience with an easy, steady, uplifting grip from the announcement of the text to the final word, and made a profound impression. The sermon prepared the way for the collection, to which the official board had been looking with great anxiety. From the inception of the enterprise about $3,800 hd been raised and paid in by the people, and it was announced that $1,100 more was needed to cancel unpaid accounts. For that amount the bishop called upon the congregation. It seemed a little staggering, but the bishop skillfully directed the canvass, the atmosphere was electric, the pastor and presiding elder and the collectors, Brothers SMYTHE, BERRY, WILLS and DONNELLY, tactfully moved about among the people, apparently drawn like magnets to where the money was, and when the footing was made it was found that $1,383 had been paid or pledged.

Then the dedictory service was performed by Bishop WILSON in a most impressive manner, the ministers present assisting.

     The announcement was then made that every person present was invited to a basket dinner in the grove near by. No exhortation to this part of the day's excercises was necessary, for the people hungry with waiting, and having performed their duty nobly and well, were soon "all with one accord in one place," and evidently felt that it was "good to be there." What a dinner it was, ideal in quality and super abundant in quanity, and graciously served!

The church was again crowded at the night service, when Bishop WILSON stirred the hearts of the people with a strong temperance sermon, fully sustaining the fine impression produced by his sermon in the morning. At the close of the bishop's sermon the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered to a large number of communicants.

     Presiding Elder Oaks then, thinking that the people might still be in the mood for giving, and wishing to bring the amount of the day's contributions up to even $1,400, proceeded in his own inimitable way to "gather up the fragments," but when he got the people fairly started they did not stop until they had made the sum total for the day $1,405!

     It was a most blessed and joyful day, and registered a noble victory for the Mountain City Church. The honors were about even between Bishop WILSON in the splendid service he rendered, and the royal people in their generous response to the demands of the occasion, and the joy of all was in proportion to the service rendered, and to the consummation achieved.




     We subjoin the following account of early Methodism in and about Mountain City, prepared by the pastor, Rev. GEORGE S. BALES: The Methodist Episcopal Church was established in what was then Carter, but now Johnson County, about the year 1818. It was organized in a barn, owned by LOUIS WILLS, about four miles north of Mountain City, by Rev. HENLEY. LOUIS WILLS was the grandfther of Mrs. CATHERINE WILLS MURPHY, who died in 1903, at the age of 92. She was six yaers old when Methodism made its start in her grandfather's barn. The farm is still in the hands of the WILLS family, being owned by H.J. and BAXTER WILLS. LOUIS WILLS was from Frederick County, VA and settled here about 1800, bringing the Methodist spirit and enthusiasm with him. Through the Watuaga gorge in the mountains above Elizabethton came once in a while a Methodist preacher and held services in the WILLS barn. The first church building in the county was on the farm then owned by RICHARD DONNELLY, now by Capt. ALFRED DONNELLY, and about a mile north of Mountain City. A camp ground was at the same place. The next church was built at what was then known as Deep Spring Camp Ground, now known as Silver Lake, one mile from the "Methodist Barn". The beautiful Clinton Chapel now marks the site. Among those who belonged to the first Class was PETER WILLS, son of LOUIS WILLS and father of CAROLINE WILLS MURPHY, of whom mention has already been made; also ROBERT DORAN and family, MAJOR WARD and wife, RICHARD DONNELLY and wife, EZEKIEL SMITH and wife, CALEB SMITH and family, WILLIAM WILSON's family, JAMES KEYES and family, the McQUEENS and others. These all raised large families, whose descendants make up our Methodism here today. WILLIAM McQUEEN and wife, grandparents of Col. DONNELLY, KINDRICK DONNELLY and JAMES DONNELLY, of Mountain City, and MAJOR DONNELLY of Elizabethton, were among the founders of Methodism here. The beginnings were small, but we now have on this charge the best church property in the county, four splendid church buildings, and seven preaching places, and many of the best and most representative people in Johnson County. The interests of our cause demand that this charge be divided into two, and the people are abundantly able to support two pastoral charges and pay each pastor a larger salary than they are now paying one. Among the early preachers in this region were JOSEPH HASKEW, WM. KINDRICK, for whom KINDRICK DONNELLY was named; JOHN E. HARRIS, father of JACOB HARRIS, of Montezuma, NC, and grandfather of W. KEMP HARRIS, pastor of Jones' Chapel and Asbury Charge, Holston Conference; AARON SHELL,and ABRAHAM MURPHY, husband of CATHERINE WILLS MURPHY, before mentioned; also W.G. BROWNLOW, WM. MILBURN, father of Capt. W.E.F. MILBURN, was pastor in 1851, and W.C. DALY a little later. (This is continued on another page, but that page is missing.)



Some of the Highlights of First United Methodist Church History


  • 1818 -- The Methodist Church was established in Johnson County, organized in a barn owned by Lewis Wills (four miles north of present church building).

  • Date Unknown - The first Methodist building was constructed on the farm of Richard Donnelly (one mile north of Mountain City).

  • 1833 - the second Methodist church, a log structure, was built in the Silver Lake area (one mile north of the Methodist barn).

  • 1844 - The question of slavery, cesession and states' rights divided not only the nation, but the Methodist Church as well. In 1844, by vote of the general conference, the church was split into the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the M.E. Church North. The building on North Church Street became the home of the M.E. Church North, while the Southern Methodists erected a building on South Church Street.

  • 1858 - The first Methodist Church in Mountain City (then called Taylorsville) was erected on land donated by Abraham Murphy (site of present building). It was a small brick structure.

  • 1881 - Lemuel Milburn Cartwright was appointed to the Taylorsville Mission. There being no parsonage, the minister built one himself on land donated by Rev. Robert Rhea, a cousin of his wife's.

  • 1894 - R.R. Butler and his wife, Emeline Donnelly Butler, deeded to the church's trustees a tract of land for building a parsonage "for the minister of the M.E. Church". The present parsonage is located on this deeded property.

  • 1904 - The original brick church building was torn down and rebuilt at the same location. The new church was dedicated on August 6, 1905.

  • 1939 - The Methodist Church was reunited. The M.E. Church South, the M.E. Church North and the Methodist Protestant Church united to form the Methodist Church. The present church building became the home of united Mountain City Methodist, and the Southern Methodist building was sold to the Presbyterian congregation in 1943.

  • 1968 - The First United Methodist Church and Johnson's Chapel Methodist were united, making this an integrated church.

  • 1968 - By vote of the general conferences of both churches, the Evangelical United Brethern Church united with the Methodist Church to become the United Methodist Church.

  • (The above information was excerpted, in part, from the "History of the First United Methodist Church", researched and written by Louise Jones and John Butler in 1980.)


Please CLICK HERE for more

bottom of page