Pristine waters, mountain views, historic towns, and scenic drives are just a few things that bring folks to Jefferson County, Tennessee. Majestic trees and mountain peaks aren’t the only thing rising towards the sky, however. Steeples point into the heavens near and far, with over 75 churches in our beautiful county. Thousands of visitors come to see them in person each year for the architecture alone, but many of these churches are deeply rooted in the history of our area. You could spend countless hours visiting each one, but you’d likely need weeks to see them all! For your next visit, these five should definitely be at the top of your list.
Hopewell Presbyterian Church: To Secede, or Not to Secede
812 Hopewell St
Dandridge, TN 37725
Celebrated as the oldest in the county, this church originated as a log cabin built in 1785 by Scots-Irish settlers before the state of Tennessee was even chartered. The steady growth of the congregation led to a proper white frame being built in 1843, which sadly burned in 1868, destroying most of the early church records.
During the conflict of the Civil War, the church members became unsettled as the phrase “brother fighting brother” resonated deeply within the congregation. The church roster was soon categorized by member loyalties, defined as loyalists or secessionists, with the latter being denied communion or the opportunity to worship in peace. In 1872 Rev. William Harris worked diligently to reconcile and reunite the congregation—including freed slaves—with the construction of the current red brick structure, overlooking the mountains. The interior of the church remains simple, with minimalist decorative touches, large windows, and beautiful original wood floors.
Friendship Baptist Church: A Separated Congregation
White Pine, TN 37890
An informal gathering was established 1788 in White Pine, but it wasn’t destined to stand the test of time or a difference of opinion. Shortly after becoming a recognized Baptist Society in 1818 and building the simple white structure in 1819, the congregation became torn over the debate of slavery.
A group of church members believed that missions’ money was being misused to promote the abolition of slavery, causing a rift in the community. The two sides split and shared the church with two separate services. Eventually the missionary baptists withdrew, leaving the primitive baptists to worship at the church until it eventually dissolved in the 1930’s, shortly after they built the current structure. According to White Pine Historian, Dale Snapp, after decades of being abandoned, “a new board of Trustees was voted in last year and are taking steps toward the upkeep and restoration of the church.” This haunt may be harder to find, but worth the effort!
Hebron Presbyterian Church: What’s in A Name?
167 Hebron Church Rd.
Jefferson City, TN 3776
With a turbulent beginning, this church was established 1874 during a split from the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church’s congregation, which formed in 1851. The two groups were constantly at odds with each other, and the church building was purchased for $200 during the split by the new congregation.
The new church changed names numerous times, and numbers dwindled to the point of closing shortly thereafter. The old Mt. Horeb congregation and the newly scattered group made amends and became a single group once again. The white board frame building was eventually bought by a private investor and a series of extensive repairs began in 1986. The Hebron Presbyterian Church is famed to be one of the most beautiful churches in the entire county for its arched windows and shutters, so bring your camera!
French Broad Baptist Church: The Great Flood Returns
2117 Oak Grove Rd
Dandridge, TN 37725
Located in one of the most beautiful settings in Jefferson County, French Broad Baptist Church was founded in 1887 with only 39 members. The church property, purchased for only $75, was in the village of Dandridge along the bank of the French Broad River. With a growing congregation in a flourishing community, a pastorium and additional land was later added. The present brick much larger church building was built in 1919 but was soon in danger of perishing.
The present brick much larger church building was built in 1919 but was soon in danger of perishing. The building of the Douglas Dam and it’s accompanying floodwaters nearly destroyed the church, much to the dismay of the town and its churchgoers. Much of the congregation lost valuable farmland that was flooded, and families were driven from their farmsteads and homes. Fannie Burnett Swan was a church member that wrote numerous letters to state senators, President Roosevelt, and his wife pleading for TVA to build dykes to save the church, which she is credited for accomplishing. The French Broad Baptist Church resides atop a hill, with both water and mountain views. One of the most beautiful and unique features of this church are the stained-glass windows imported from Czechoslovakia.
Mossy Creek Baptist/Carson-Newman University
1646 Russell Ave
Jefferson City, TN 37760
This prestigious university and former baptist seminary was founded on what is claimed to be the most central part of East Tennessee, on a hilltop above the banks of it’s church’s former namesake, Mossy Creek. A school was first started at the church in 1831, which quickly grew into a seminary and college, which was officially founded in 1851. In 1880 it was named Carson College after James Harvey Carson, who left $15,000 to the institution after his passing.
A separate women’s college—Newman College— existed alongside, named after William Cate Newman. The schools joined in 1889 to become one of the first co-ed institutions in the South, renamed Carson-Newman College. It was later recognized as a university in 2012, and with students represent 32 different nations, has been named one of the top fifty Christian colleges in the country. The campus sprawls across ninety acres, only ten minutes from Cherokee Lake, and forty minutes from the Smokies.
Whether it’s just a day trip, or a week’s worth of exploring Jefferson County’s beautiful churches along our scenic drives, there are great places to take a break and grab a bite, explore the lakes and wildlife areas, or browse quaint storefronts in our historic towns. To enjoy it all in style, find a cabin that offers mountain views, eclectic bed and breakfasts off historic streets, convenient hotels, or a resort setting that has all the comforts of home! Start planning your adventure today at https://visitjeffersoncountytn.com.
*Correction: This article has been updated to include new information on the current status of Friendship Primitive Baptist Church.
“A Brief History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church.” https://www.hopewelldandridge.com/history/. References Cited: Images of America: Dandridge, Lisa Whillock Ellis, 2011; Heritage Jefferson County, Bicentennial Committee of Jefferson County, 1976; Historic Dandridge Yesterday and Today, The Dandridge Homecoming ’86 Festival Committee (Jean Bible, Jewell Hodge, Mary Jo Henry); Hopewell 2009 Directory, Rev. Mark Knisley; Hopewell Presbyterian Church documents; Hopewell Presbyterian Church 1785-1985 Celebrating the 200th, Jean Bible and Jewell Hodge; AnniversaryStructures of Faith: Historical Churches of Jefferson County, Writing Across the Curriculum Project, Jefferson County High School, 1989-90.
“Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church.” http://jefferson.tngenealogy.net/research-aids/25-religion/542-mt-horeb-presbyterian-church. Cited as an Excerpt from Ranking Roots in East Tennessee by Hazel Timblin Townsend
PDF – Media File Link – Friendship Baptist Church
“Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church.” http://jefferson.tngenealogy.net/research-aids/25-religion/542-mt-horeb-presbyterian-church. Cited as an Excerpt from Ranking Roots in East Tennessee by Hazel Timblin Townsend.
“C-N History.” https://www.cn.edu/about-c-n/c-n-history.