337 W. Mount Road;
Kodak, TN - (865) 933-0692
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." - Matthew 4:19
[The information contained in this history was collected by Miss Stella Underwood, Mrs. Juanita Cate, Mrs. Helen Cline, Mrs. Dorothy Henry, and Dr. Debra Cline]
On May 12, 1883, a group of Baptists met to form a church in the old Underwood School that was located on the George Hudson farm in the 12th Civil District. The Presbytery included D.F. Manley, Moderator; William McPherson, Clerk; W.C. Bayless; and J.F. Haggard. The Articles of Faith, Church Covenant, and Rules of Order were the basis of organization. The following members constituted the church:
James A. Maples Sallie V. Maples Tennessee Bales
Noah Atchley Susanna Atchley David W. Atchley
Thany Gilreath Mariah Underwood R.R. Maples
John Vanover Lyle Vanover Alice Vanover
J.G. Bryan W.F. Hodges Elizabeth Hodges
Napoleon B. White
Meetings were to be held once a month with all church business being held on the Saturday before. No business was transacted on Sunday. On the second Saturday in June, 1883, the first sermon was preached in the newly organized church by Rev. Wm. McPherson. Following the sermon, the moderator, Rev. Henry Gossett declared the church in session and James Maples was chosen clerk. J.G. Bryan was chosen treasurer. New members joining on this date and who were received by letter were Elizabeth Huffaker, Albert A. More, and Lizzie More. Frank Pollard, Thomas Hickman, Hattie Atchley, Mary Hodge, and Mary Underwood were received by experience and were approved for baptism. Napoleon White, John G. Bryan, and John Underwood were chosen and ordained as the church’s first deacons on this same date.
In September of 1883, the church asked for admittance and became a member of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Nash Atchley, A.A. More, and John Underwood were sent as the first messengers. In 1884, the building program was initiated with Larkin Gilreath, J.T. Pollard, and N.B. White serving as trustees. The Tennessee Baptist Convention helped the building fund at a rate of $15.00 per year. The rest of the material and work came from the local church group. The logs were hand hewn.
The land on which the church was built was given by Isam Hodges. Mr. Hodges died before the church was constructed so the deed was signed by his heirs. The deed read partially as follows:
“We give Beech Springs Baptist Church, in consideration of the love and reverence we have for God and His cause…”
The deed was dated August 22, 1886, and was signed by Elizabeth Ellis Hodges, William H. Hodges, Mahala Henry, Mary Jane Cowden, Joseph E. Hodges, N.P. Hodges, and Minnie Hodges.
In 1887, the church organized a missionary society designed to promote active and aggressive mission work. The first sisters appointed to carry out the missions work were Elizabeth Hodges, Mrs. H.C. Hampstead, Thany Gilreath, Rebecca More, Mary Hodge, and Mariah Underwood. The current WMU was not organized until 1935 under the direction of Mrs. Blanche Huffaker and her assistant Mrs. Grace Henry. Brother Frank Pollard was first elected Sunday School Superintendent in September of 1890.
Throughout the years, Beech Springs has been led by the following pastors:
Henry Gossett H.C. Hamstead W.L. Cate
J.W.H. Coker W.H. Hodges Samuel Atchley
L.C. Childs J.R. Dykes W.A. Masterson
W.E. Watson Jerome Hicks Lee Reed
Mansel Smith Floyd Langston Charles Crawford
A.C. Wadley Elmer Crawford Ralph Cline
Billy Davenport Creed McCoy Jerry Vittatoe
Gordon Greenwell Barney Evans Leon Mayo
Wayne Stinnett Dallas Gibson Richard Compton
J.W. Coker was pastor before and during the turn of the 20th Century. It was during these years that the Carmichaels, Allens, Snyders, Smiths, Baileys, Johnsons, and many others came into the church. The first church organ was purchased in 1903 at a cost of $50.40. During this same year, the church motto was adopted. The motto was taken from Philippians 1:27 and was emblazoned across the wall above the pulpit in the old white structure. The motto read: “Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Sam Atchley was the pastor who served with evangelistic fervor during this period. A revival was held in September of 1908 in which 75 members were baptized and taken into the church.
L.C. Childs was pastor during WWI. Rev. Childs lived in Mascot and rode on horseback over muddy terrain to reach the church. J.R. Dykes came as our pastor in July of 1918. Under his leadership, the church grew to over 300 members. He was employed at a salary of $500.00 per month and the church’s first half-time pastor. Rev. Dykes led the church toward the organization of a Baptist Young People’s Union and participation in the Southern Baptist Convention 75 Million Campaign in which the church pledged $4,751.00.
The Great Depression brought hard times to everyone. However, Beech Springs continued in the work of the Lord under the leadership of Rev. Watson, Rev. Hicks, Rev. Smith, and Rev. Reed. Floyd Langston served as pastor during 1939-1940. It was interesting to note in the old church records that on September 3, 1939, the church voted to take electric lights at a cost of $1.00 per month.
Charles Crawford became pastor in the early 1940’s and stayed until the latter part of 1946. Rev. Crawford holds a special place in church history as the first full-time pastor at Beech Springs. During WWII, Preacher Charlie called everyone to the altar to pray with great fervor and humility for the servicemen risking their lives in the war against the Japanese and Germans. A flag with all the community’s servicemen hung in the church as a constant reminder of their fight for God and country. During this time, day services were often held during revivals. Farmers would lay down their ploughs and teachers closed school room doors so the attention of the entire community could turn toward spiritual needs of individuals and the church.
Rev. A.C. Wadley came to Beech Springs in 1947. His family was the first to live in the initial church parsonage that was located on Douglas Dam Road beside Beech Springs Cemetery Road. During his pastorate, the church began to discuss building a new church building.
Rev. Elmer Crawford came to Beech Springs in 1956, with his beloved wife Dorothy. Dorothy was well known for her kindness and service to the community. Her death in 1962 greatly saddened the church family. Rev. Elmer Crawford had the distinct honor of being the pastor of the church when the brick sanctuary was constructed. Clyde Henry, A.L. Bailey, Jr., and Clarence Hodges comprised the building program committee. In the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr. Crockett Carmichael and Mr. Bruce Johnson were honored as the two senior members of the church. The first funeral in the new church was that of Mr. Tom Bailey. The last funeral in the old white structure was that of Uncle George Huffaker.
On Easter Sunday of 1964, Rev. Ralph Cline came to Beech Springs aspastor. Rev. Cline served as pastor of the church for 16 years until 1979. This is the longest pastorate on record in the history of the church. Rev. Cline and his wife Helen were well known for their countless hours of visitation and their love for the church and community. A Sunday School addition was added onto the brick structure and the auditorium was remodeled during the Cline years.
Billy Davenport was our pastor from December of 1980 until April of 1984. He and his wife, Viola, were very active in the Sevier County Baptist Association. A campground ministry was initiated during the Davenport years.
Rev. Creed McCoy was our interim pastor from April 8, 1984, until August 2, 1987. The church purchased a concert organ during the McCoy years and celebrated the 100th anniversary of the church. Jerry Vittatoe served as our pastor from August 16, 1987, until May 21, 1989. During the Vittatoe years, the sanctuary in the brick structure was remodeled. Gordan Greenwell served as Interim Pastor from July 16, 1989, until May 19, 1991. Barney Evans pastured our church from May 26, 1991, until October 17, 1993. Leon Mayo served as pastor from October 20, 1993, until March 9, 1997. During his ministry, the youth ministry expanded significantly.
Wayne Stinnett became our pastor on May 18, 1997. At the turn of the 21st Century, a new structure was built which housed Sunday School rooms and a fellowship hall. On November 14, 2001, the church voted to build a new sanctuary and on July 9, 2003, Beech Springs Baptist Church made the journey back up the hill to a new church building. In June of 2006, Rev. Stinnett resigned and Dr. Rich Liner was called as Interim Pastor. On Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, Rev. Dallas Gibson preached his first sermon as our new Pastor. In November of 2009, Rev. Jack Anderson became Interim Pastor. In October 2010, the church called Rev. Richard Compton as pastor.
In conclusion, one must turn to the words of Stella Underwood at the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976 to fully clarify the wonderful work of this church’s members throughout the annals of its history:
“There have been so many devoted Christians in the history of Beech Springs who loved their God and what their church stands for. We wish we could name each one of them. We must call them blessed. Thinking of these people brings to mind so many of the church, who were then and now the silent majority. They are really the backbone of the church and they are no less important to their church and to their God. To name one lady who was ever faithful to her church is Nancy Romines. We would pay tribute to all our good deacons – the ones who have been called away in death, and the ones who are presently serving. We are blessed with this beautiful church and with the help of our Lord and this great membership.”