Pleasant Grove Baptist Church – The Church Journey
June 29, 2020 http://mynetzone.com/
I had the privilege to visit Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, which has been serving the greater Maryville Tennessee area over 175 years. The church was established in October 1832 during a division of the Crooked Creek Church, which was founded in 1825. One of the original churches in the Chilhowee Baptist Association, it has continued to be a positive point of light. Its members have served our God through frontier conflicts, the Civil War, depression and prosperity. Its sons and daughters have served their county, state and nation through peace and war. 
The Light of the Gospel pierced the darkness of the Crooked Creek wilderness nearly 200 years ago, illuminating the path that would lead to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. As early as 1772 more than two decades before Blount County and the new town of Maryville, Tennessee, were founded settlers began moving into the rough country to carve out new lives for themselves and their families.
In 1832 the size of the congregations and the relatively small number of men licensed or ordained to serve made it necessary for most churches to share preachers. The group still met in its 10-year-old log building above Crooked Creek. The “Pleasant Grove” name probably was chosen because many of its member families had come from the Pleasant Grove community of Orange County in North Carolina.
Around 1847 Pleasant Grove continued to grow. Its little log church was probably feeling a strain. To relieve overcrowding, William Headrick and John Coulter deeded two acres of land to the church for a new building in 1848. The land was still on Crooked Creek, but about a mile north of the old church location on a spot near where Headrick operated a mill.
During the Civil War the church most likely did not meet as a group during the worst of the war years due to fear for their safety. In October 1865, after the Civil War officially ended, the Rev. Samuel L. Sanford, who married Jane Kennedy in Blount County during the war, was shown as minister at Pleasant Grove. The church’s membership had declined to 133. Although the healing from the devastation of war had begun, churches were struggling with how to bind the wounds. This faith was the spirit which was to bring recovery and a new day as Baptists surveyed the ashes of destruction and the cemeteries where slept many of their finest young men. “Many of the finest leaders and pastors were lost. The war had brought deep wounds in personal relationships and enmities that would be long in healing. The war had divided families and homes and had brought hate of a kind that only war knows.
They advised the Churches to cultivate a forgiving spirit towards those that differ with them in politics, and not to deal with a member for his political opinions alone; but that we draw the line to his moral acts, placing every man on his moral worth that we be careful not to introduce politics in the Churches, knowing that the Church of Christ and the kingdom of this world are to be kept distinct. 
Fire destroyed the Pleasant Grove Church in 1892, although minutes of the Chilhowee Association that August nor the next year did not mention the tragedy. The church was listed with 122 members who rebuilt the structure within a year and selected the Rev. D. L. Manly as their minister. The next year a fire claimed the house of Church Clerk W.M. Nuchols, burning all the early church records. The first available church minutes are dated January 6, 1894. 
The present sanctuary was built in 1911. On March 26, 1911, the church building committee reported that $5,000 had been raised. The church building committee reported on December 31 that the new church house was complete with seats and lights at a cost of $5,075.05 and with no bills outstanding. A Maryville Enterprise story of January 5, 1912, reported that the church could seat between 500 and 600 people and was described as “the finest and most complete” building of any country church in the state. 
The frame building on a concrete foundation has excellent room in the basement for a furnace which heats the church. On each side is an entrance into a vestibule, which leads into the main auditorium going forward and to the lady’s parlor that is used as a Sunday School classroom from the side. The floor is amphitheater style leading to the pulpit. In the rear of the pulpit are three. classrooms for the Sunday School, to the right of the pulpit is the baptismal pool. The seats are semicircle and are of the latest and most modern pattern. The interior decoration and windows equal that of any small city church. The men and boys entered the left side door and sat in pews on the left side of the sanctuary; the women and girls entered the right-hand door and sat on the right side. That practice ended in the World War II era. 
Nevertheless, the congregation continued to grow and thrive, surpassing 200 members for the first time while withstanding the travails of World War I, a statewide polio epidemic in 1916, and the harsh winters and flooding of 1917-18. According to the minutes of October 1921, the church and the parsonage were painted for a total of $190. A decision was made in 1923 to improve the lighting within the church building by installing carbide lights for $195 to replace what were probably kerosene lamps and candles. 
The carbide lamps were similar to those used by miners and became most popular in the 1920s. Light was produced by igniting acetylene that was formed when water was dripped onto calcium carbide rocks in the chamber of the lamp’s base. The light of a carbide lamp did not penetrate as far as incandescent bulbs but produced a soft, broad diffuse. By 1925, church members apparently had wearied of the carbide lights and looked for another improvement. July 22, 1928 the committee submitted a proposal to buy a “Delco” lighting system for $350 plus $80 installation; the church agreed. The Delco system consisted of a gas engine with a built-in generator. Sixteen glass encased battery cells lined up on a shelf. behind the generator and supplied 32 volts of DC current. The system was automatic, and the gas engine was supposed to start whenever the batteries needed charging. With wiring from the generator, electricity flowed to light fixtures and wall sockets certainly a step up from the carbide lights. 
The church was beginning to gain members who were forced out of Cades Cove, because it was within the area being converted by the U.S. government into a national park. In the 1930s, because of the Depression, the church struggled to keep and pay a pastor as well as maintain its property. 
December 1935 – Church members voted to convert from its Delco lighting system to electricity through the Rural Electrification Administration program. The REA had been formed in March 1935, and the Norris Dam in Anderson County was nearing completion. 1936 Electric lights were installed in the parsonage and the church. The furnace was converted to coal. 
July 19, 1937 The church’s first “Vacation Bible School” was launched in conjunction with a 10-day revival meeting. “It was well attended and much good was done,” Pleasant Grove celebrated its 160th anniversary on August 9, 1992, with a very memorable service which included music from a visiting Air Force choir. Rev. Millsaps served the church until April 25, 1993. 
After my visit to this country church my research found that the congregation created a book called “Journey of Faith” 175 Years-Plus of History” The book is dedicated to the glory of God, as He has led His people through the ages in the advancement of His Kingdom through Crooked Creek and Pleasant Grove Baptist Churches. Through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, our forefathers and ministers have laid the foundation for what the Pleasant Grove Church Family. I spent time on the church steps in prayer giving thanks for the long history and the multiple people that have been blessed through this church. Located next to the steps on display is the “Upping Rocks” used to mount a horse or buggy in the early 1900’s.
The memories recalled by members of the congregation are indeed a treasure. I enjoyed reading the long history of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Much of the importance of our faith can be found in our heritage, the history that led to life as we know it today.
During the Civil War the church most likely did not meet as a group during the worst of the war years due to fear for their safety. Fast forward to the year 2020 and once again we have churches not meeting leaving a similar void caused by COVID-19 pandemic presenting fear of our safety.
It is difficult watching the news these days. Every bulletin seems to report on the pandemic, natural disaster, or riots. We see earthquakes, hurricanes, infernos and floods. Christians are not exempt from pain and suffering, however, through our faith in Jesus, we have the strength to handle anything that comes our way. Perhaps at no time in the history of our nation has it been more important for us to take a look at our faith. God’s grace is sufficient in all situations. Trusting in God is at the core of being a believer and that means standing in faith.
With the National emergency for the COVID-19 virus many churches are remaining closed to the public. I spent time outside the church in meditation and prayer.
Church Website: https://pgbctn.org/
Date Visited: 2020 April 28.
Location: 3736 Tuckaleechee Pike Maryville, TN
If you would like to learn more about this church, upcoming events, or listen to a sermon I encourage you to visit the church website listed above.
May our Lord continue to bless this church in Jesus name.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” – (2 Thessalonians 3:5 )
Please Pray for all our churches as they continue to face challenges in the year 2020.
May this find you well and happy, God Bless
- Mary Gene Roberts Chairperson & Committee, (May 15, 2007) “The Journey of Faith” Retrieved from https://pgbctn.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/history-book.pdf