PINE GROVE CHURCH HISTORY
Submitted by: Mary McBride
[Typewritten copy of Minnie McBride Shoun, written for the Centennial Celebration of Pine Grove Church, June 12, 1938.]
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
If I had heeded this very good advise ten years ago, it would have saved one much trouble, patient research and running 'hither and thither." There were several people then living who could have told me all about the beginning of Pine Grove Church. Today there are so pitifully few who know anything at all about it.
Mrs. Sarah Baker and William Butler McBride who have removed to other churches; and Mrs. Martha Brown Wills who is our oldest living member.
Unfortunately the records of the organization and of the first twenty four years of the church were lost sometime during the confusion of the Civil War.
Due to the courtesy of Brother John A. Lowe, who has the records of old Roans Creek Church, afterwards Taylorsville, now Mountain City, the mother of the churches in Johnson City (TN), I find that Pine Grove was organized in the "year of our Lord 1837" so says the old minute and a most interesting document I find it to be.
On March 26, 1837, a petition was presented by the people who lived in the settlement near Pine Grove, which at that time meant within a radius of ten miles or more.
They asked Roans Creek Church that permission be granted to "set up' an arm of the church at Pine Grove.
The matter was taken up by the church and on April 22, 1837 the petition was granted. Rufus Moore was clerk of Roans Creek Church at that time and helped to organize the new church which was immediately 'set up at Pine Grove school house in a pine thicket just across the road from Walter H. Farthing's present home.
The ruins of the old logs and "mud and stick' chimney were there within my memory.
There have been two buildings since then. One just across the creek from the present house and this house which has been occupied since 1900.
I would very much like to know who presided as moderator of that first meeting and to have a record of the proceedings in the quaint and very expressive language of that day.
William Hays, who joined Roans Creek April 1836 and Peggy Dougherty Hays his wife were charter members. Other known charter members were John S. Vaught and his wife Rebecca Shoun Vaught and Wiley Baker from Roans Creek and Esther Dougherty from old Sinking Creek Church in Carter County. Other probable members were William Gambill, Michael Schlemp (Slemph), Nicholas Stout. If these were not actual charter members they joined soon after.
The next mention of Pine Grove in the old records is that Roans Creek Church appointed Brother Rufus Moore to invite "Pine Grove Arm' to commune with her parent church June 23, 1838 which is exactly one hundred years ago this month. The minute says that Elder Bowers preached on that occasion. So he was probably pastor of Roans Creek Church at that time.
March 1838 we find that Brother Reuben Farthing preached from Ez. 5-52** On Dec 23, 1843 Brother Nicholas Stout of Pine Grove was invited by Roans Creek to mediate in a row between Brothers Blevins and Lowe. July 4, 1845 Brazilla McBride preached from the text Mat. 28, 19~20.** [There are no 52 verses in either Ezekiel or Ezra.]
On May 1849 Pine Grove was again invited to conmiune and on both May 1850 and 1851 Pine Grove and also Pleasant Grove were invited. So this seems to have been a custom in those days, and a nice and neighborly custom it was.
I have heard from tradition (word of mouth" our forebears would say that the church continued without break until January 1861 (twenty-four year when we have the first recorded minute.
I wish I knew more about the early pastors. Leonard and Valentine Bowers were certainly prominent in establishing the church but whether they were ever pastors I do not know.
Abler C. and Reuben P. Farthing were pastors jointly Jan. 1861; but how long they had been pastors or why elected jointly, I cannot say, unless in those turbulent secession days men chose to ride the mountain trails in pairs rather than alone. Even within my memory those mountain roads resembled nothing so much as the bed of a mountain torrent. Quite as rocky and almost as steep.
The Farthing brothers' homes were in North Carolina as was also the home of Brazilla McBnde whom tradition says was the first pastor of Pine Grove Church. Brazilla McBride was a most devout man and "full of the spirit". He served the church many years. Nevertheless being an Irishman he had the proverbial Irish temper.
Perhaps because he was my great-grandfather and they have been handed down in the family, I have heard many amusing stories about that same temper, one of which my father (now in his 90th year) told me last week.
One Saturday Grandsire Brazilla was on his (way) from Cove Creek settlement in N.C., where he lived, to preach at Pine Grove.
There had been a freshet and Cove Creek was out of its banks. As he rode he came to a clearing on the creek bank where he had cut some wood to burn a coal-pit. Rev. McBride was not given to mincing his words in the pulpit especially in the cause of temperance. He had thus offended a dram drinking neighbor of his who for spite was now busy throwing the cord wood into the stream and watching it float away.
In the language of that time, Rev. McBnde let off his horse" and gave the man the beating of his life. It seems to one at this day and time rather like righteous indignation; but Grandfather Brazilla evidently did not think so; for when he reached the church he told the brethren how he had sinned and they spent the entire service, which in those days often continued until the moon rose up through the pine trees, in prayer for his transgression.
The first written record of Pine Grove Church that has been preserved is the minute of January 12, 1861. I give it exactly as written.
"Pine Grove now in session. Called for business, Pastors A. C. and R. P. Farthing being present. 1st-opened her doors for the reception of members, rec. T. J. Eller by letter.
James Brown, Clk."
It is interesting and sorrowful to note in connection with this minute that on June 1863 a committee (James Brown, William Hays and Hiram McBnde) was appointed to make suitable record of the death of this good brother and much loved schoolmaster who fell in the battle of Chancellorsville.
Since Jan. 1861(77 years) Pine Grove Church has not been without a pastor for as long as one year and never without meeting for business and prayer for more than three consecutive months; except for two years 1868-1870 there are no minutes.
But old members have told me that various preachers held services during that time. L.L. Maples and Valentine Bowers preached several times and there was a negro man who preached once or twice and other ministers held services.
So Pine Grove has had practically continuous service for 101 years with the same name in the same locality. The oldest in Johnson County (TN).
Two churches have been organized from Pine Grove. Pleasant Grove and Mountain View, now Baker's Gap Church. We are glad to have them join in our celebration today. Also we are glad to have Mountain City our parent church.
Sometime about the year 1869 there came into this country one Alexander Campbell preaching a new doctrine and wanting to set up a church in the vacant meeting house. All the male members had moved way on account of political differences after the Civil War. So sister Naomi Baker, one of the two resident members and a Mrs. Sammons who lived with Mrs. Baker nailed up the door and put a stop to the services thus saving the church to the Baptist people to whom it belonged.
A most resolute lady was this same Naomi Bradley Baker and with a grand old fighting spirit, perhaps because she was born during the War of 1812.
Sometime about the year 1867 the church had only two resident members (Naomi Baker and Polly Triplett) and the clerk Hiram McBride who had moved his family to N.C. but had not taken his church letter. So Elder L. L. Maples met with the church to consider disbanding. He asked the three members to name the church which they wished to join. Brother McBride of course would go to Cove Creek where he lived. Sister Triplett to Pleasant Grove; but Sister Baker sat for some time in deep thought. Then she shook her head, I believe I will stay right here. Sister Polly said, "well Oamie, I'll stay with you". Brother Hiram could not but admire such resolution so he offered to continue riding the fourteen miles from his home to act as clerk Elder Maples said he would preach for them Friday night before the fourth Sunday, his regular meeting time at Pleasant Grove. So owing to this staunch old Lady Pine Grove still continued to "cany on". However, they had to call in Brothers Jesse Gambill of Pleasant Grove and Stephen Farthing of Bethel, N.C. to aid them in council when any important business came up. The sisters were not thought to be intelligent enough to transact business. Besides, 'it was a shame for a woman to speak in church'.
One very interesting business is recorded in the minutes of, "Friday before the fourth Saturday," 1868. Brother Maples appointed Bro. W. McBride with Bro. J. Gambill of Pleasant Grove to assist him as delegate to a convention to be held at Cobbs Creek Church for the purpose of organizing the Watauga Association. Also the church asked the North Fork Association (N.C.) for a letter of dismission to join the Watauga Association.
The next minute we have is Dec. 1870 when the church "convened to hold a union meeting and continued from day to day".
The first members to join the church during these services were four colored people, Ann Whittington, James Council by experience and Warren Ward and wife Emmaline by letter. A year later Minerva Vaught colored was also admitted by letter. A very devout woman who lived to be a hundred years old.
All honor to these good negroes, ex-slaves who chose to cast in their lot with their former masters and so helped to keep alive the flickering flame of Pine Grove Ch. There were also baptized at this meeting, Elisabeth Dougherty, Rufus Millsaps, Leander Stout and Daniel Baker, his Brother-in-law John Snider was baptized a short time after this and he and Daniel Baker were ordained deacons. Their wives Sarah Vaught Baker and Rachel Vaught Snider were received by letter in 1871.
By 1874 a number of people had joined the church among whom were Thomas J. Dougherty and James F. Ward by baptism and their wives Polly and Nancy by letter.
The church being thus strengthened, H. McBride asked for his letter to join Cove Creek Church and his son, W. B, McBride was elected Clerk. He served the church many years. When he moved away from the community George T. Ward was elected and is clerk at the present time.
In 1874, James Brown and family came back to their house on Roans Creek and brought back their letters to the church. The youngest daughter Martha is our oldest member. We are delighted to have her with us today.
Eve Mast Dougherty and family also came back from North Carolina with their letters. All these were good loyal members of Pine Grove until the time of their deaths or removal to other places.
In this brief gleaning here and there from the 101 years of Pine Grove Church history I find some very exciting events.
One minute of 1864 says; "no meeting on this day because of the Hartley Raid' and again-- "The church met and had to disperse to collect the Home Guard to repel a band of raiders who were coming up the creek."
I wonder if we of the present time would have the hardihood to "carry on" amid such hardships. I wonder if we have the zeal to plant a church in a wilderness and ride horse-back ten or more miles on Sunday morning to worship God. I wonder if our preachers would ride twenty miles through summer floods and winter drifts for a mere pittance in pay. Sometimes nothing at all. I can remember some of them very well. A. C. Farthing, David Kitzmiller, Frank Jones, James Sherwood. Later the Hicks's, father and son.
I can hear their great voices boom out over the people;"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles,"And to the discouraged;- "Fear not little flock. It is your Father's good pleasure (sic) to give you the kingdoms"-"Let us thank God and take courage."
Fighters they were, those grand old soldiers of the cross. Satan was a real devil, not an intangible spirit of evil. Sin was sin. Their very songs were battle hymns-"Am I a soldier of the Cross," "Hark listen to the trumpeter," "A mighty fortress is our God.'
Somehow I do not believe that zeal and courage are dead. If the emergency should arise we would respond. We are still Tennessee Mountaineers at heart and Baptists.
We of the present day may not have so militant a spirit as our ancestors. Paul says;-"Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men." Perhaps for this generation, it is the better way.
I read in the minute of March, 1868, that the Church set aside Friday, 27th, as a day of fasting and prayer to God-That his judgments upon us might be taken away.'
When I picked up the newspaper this morning my thoughts went back to that minute written 75 years ago amid the terrors of the Civil War, and I thought--Oh that God would remove his judgments from our Baptists in China and from all the stricken people, our brethren who are today suffering terrors of which the people of 1863 never dreamed.
Like our forefathers we need fasting and prayer.
Pine Grove Church has sent sons and daughters to many lands, I hope, like Paul of old, they have kept the faith. Some are lying at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and some on Flanders Fields. Our Father knows where they are. Some day he will call them and us together before the great white throne. When that day comes may each and every one receive the welcome word, "Enter those into the joy of they Lord."
May the angel of the Church of Pine Grove forever stand guard over it and may its golden candlestick never be removed.
May its light continue to shine brighter in the future than it has in the past hundred years. A light to guide the wayfarer amid the darkness of these hills even unto the dawn of the everlasting day.
[Note: Located in the Roans Creek area of Johnson County, TN near Neva School--Dawn Peters.I
JOHN WILLETT VANCE
Submitted by Margaret Vance Webb
John Willet Vance's birthday was 27 November 1892. When he was about five years old, he was a member of the Maize Missionary Society of the Leesburg Presbyterian Church whose motto was "All for Jesus."
The children of surrounding community of Leesburg in Washington County, Tennessee celebrated the long expect Missionary Corn Gathering.
Rev. J.P. Doggett, Minister and Church Elders had given a small package of twenty five grains of corn to the children of the fellowship. Every child receiving a package was to plant and devote the proceeds to the cause of Foreign Missions.
JOHN WILLETT VANCE PLANTS HIS CORN
Three Bibles were also to be awarded to each of the three most successful in cultivating. With the help of his father, Montgomery "Gum" Blair Vance, young John W. Vance planted his kernels in the small hills at the corner of the garden. Each contestant gave great care in hoeing and working their small plot of corn during the long summer. And perhaps not one thought for a moment that they were slowly growing themselves into a Society to be called the Maize Missionary Society.