Oldest Knox County Baptist Church?

Oldest Knox County Baptist Church?

By Mike Steely

steelym@knoxfocus.com

Just off Emory Road in Corryton stands a grand country church and, just behind that house of worship, is a small log structure that might be the oldest Baptist church in Knox County. Little Flat Creek Baptist Church, at 9132 West Emory road, is an active community church with Rev. Jerry Baltimore as pastor.

Originally founded in 1797 the Little Flat Creek Baptist Church was one of seven original churches to form the Holston Baptist Association in 1786. In 1802 the church sent Robert Newport, Eli Skaggs and George Hallmark to meet at Beaver Creek and organize the Tennessee Baptist Association.

In later years Peter Graves represented the church in that association. The historic church is now a member of the Knoxville Association of Baptist Churches. Next to the building is the church’s current cemetery.

The pastor told The Focus that the original site of the log church was off Grave’s Lane and the congregation holds Sun Rise Services there every Easter. There’s an older graveyard near the original site and Rev. Baltimore said a tree there has totally grown around one of the old tombstones.

He said there’s a letter from members of a black family who were slaves and members of the first church about the early history. He added that the Old Walnut Grove Academy was associated with the original church.

The original church was formed with Jim Parker as Moderator and George Hallmark as Clerk. Jerrell Willingham and John Higgins were appointed Deacons and ordained soon after. The log building was located on a Joseph Baird land grant near where the present railroad crosses Emory Road at Graves Lane. The pews were lots slit in halves and pegs inserted as legs. The original building had portholes in the logs to repel Indian attacks. A cemetery was created nearby and contains the graves of the Gibbs and Skaggs family.

John Parker was the first pastor and was followed by Robert Frito, who served there for 39 years.

The log church was used until 1857 when a wooden church was built at the current location. In 1962 the current church was constructed to seat 300 people. Other churches in the area have been organized by members from the Little Flat Creek Church including Corryton Baptist Church.

The logs from the original church were in a barn or corn crib on the Sam Harrell property and his family donated them to the church to be moved about a mile to the current church property. Each log was measured and numbered. Some logs measured more than 32-feet long. The church members found similar logs and the church was reconstructed at its present site. The old building has a sliding latch lock on the sturdy door and inside is a dirt floor with pews. Various church members, neighbors and friends help to reconstruct the log building and in August 1996 it was completed and dedicated, with more than 300 people attending. Twenty-nine churches were represented at the ceremony.

More information about the original Little Flat Creek Baptist Church can be found on Facebook or by emailing Rev. Jerry Baltimore at rgwejb@comcast.net. The church telephone number is 865-688-7950.

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