In East Hawkins County, Tennessee, "on September 12, 1869 at Oak Grove School House, God began a work in the community that has touched the lives of many people. The work struggled, even sometimes seeming to be stamped out, but with a persistent longing in the hearts of some of God’s people and with the hand of God upon the area, the church today is a flourishing witness." Today that community is in the town of Mount Camel, Tenn.
"With a desire to serve God and to reach the community for Christ, a group of seven charter members began Oak Grove Baptist Church. These charter members were Andrew W. Thompson, Sallie Thompson, Mary B. Thompson, Susan Hubbard, Dolly Milburn, I.D. Hamilton, and Elizabeth Hamilton. A presbytery, consisting of Eli Ratliff, Solomon Bachman, and Nathan Baxter, officiated in the organization. The Articles of Faith of the McPheeters Bend Baptist Church were adopted for the new church. The doors of the church were then opened and the following were received as fit subjects for baptism: Lydia Walters, Frances Sanders, Martha Sanders, Tilda Lee, Nancy Arnold and William Ketron. The church minutes note that on Sunday, September 13, 1869 thirty-six baptisms were administered. On November 13, 1869 I.S. Hamilton was elected first clerk and on November 13, 1869 Brother George Walters was elected as the first deacon."
"Before the year ended the new church had its first pastor and had a witness revival. In November, 1869 Brother Eli Ratliff was elected as pastor, and in December the Church experienced a revival which lasted for eight days with the conversion of thirteen souls and eight persons received into the church."
"In May 1870 the first deacon, Brother Walters, was ordained. Also in May a building committee was appointed to build a church to be located near Pump Springs on the Old Alexander Farm. The building was to be thirty feet wide, 40 feel long, and 19 feet high. In July of 1870 the church petitioned the Holston Valley Baptist Church Association to become a member of the body."
"The young, struggling church did not realize the dream of this new church building; nevertheless, it accepted its responsibility to take the gospel to all people. In July, 1871, Oak Grove made its first pledge of $7.00 to Home Missions."
"The early Church took membership seriously. They believed that members should live a separated life and be faithful to the church. The minutes report that members were removed for swearing, living immorally, and being under the influence of liquor. Some were called in to give account of their stewardship. At one time a committee was appointed "to investigate certain members in regard to their covenant relation." Church attendance was important. In 1871 the minutes state that a committee was appointed "to notify a number of male members of this church who have failed to attend meetings for a year or over to attend the next meeting and share the cause of their absence."
"In 1874 the Holston Valley Baptist Association had a revival in the Liberty Hill School for "14 days and nights" resulting in eight conversions. Sporadic revivals such as this kept new life fed into the fledgling church, yet there was no church building. For more than 20 years the members would worship in the corner house at the Pump Springs, in the Liberty Hill School and in Oak Grove School before the first church was erected."
"In the 1880’s and 1890’s the church saw a new vision and new growth. In 1887 the subject of the "Sabbath School" was discussed, but it wasn’t until June 1888 that a motion was made to organize the school. In January of 1890, a ten-day revival yielded fourteen conversions with fourteen additions to the church membership. In February, seven more were baptized, and in April, eleven were baptized. Revival fires reached into the Black Community and the church sought a black preacher to minister to them. It was the 1890’s that the church licensed its first man to preach the gospel. Brother Alvin Slaughter was the first sent out; however, other men would follow."
Baptist believe in total body submersion in water. For many years the Baptisms were held in Arnott Creek below the church or in the Holston River near Rotherwood Mansion. Today the church sanctuary has a baptismal.
Baptism at Arnott Creek
Baptism at the Holston River
"Finances were a problem with the young church. Sometimes the collection would be just eighty cents or perhaps $1.41. At times the offerings would be products of labor of the members, such as corn, wheat, etc. These offerings were meticulously logged in the minutes."
"In May 1895 a building committee was appointed to funds by subscription for the building of the new church house. In August 1896, another building committee was appointed. By the turn of the century Oak Grove Church was in a new building. It was located on the small triangle almost directly in front of the present day pastorium at the corner of Independence Avenue and Cyprus Street. It was constructed of rough sawn boards with strips of wood nailed over the cracks."
Oak Grove Baptist Church - First Building 1916
In 1913 the church rolls listed 40 members. The church has continued to grow and in the 1930’s a new church building was constructed. The Keener and Arnott families provided the property. The building committee was composed of W.S. Arnott, G.R. Hart, J.H. Marsh, and Henry Davis. A special finance committee was composed of J.M. Bailey, J.M. Crawford, Charlie Baker, C.B. Burchfield, and J.J. Arnott. "The April 2, 1936 edition of the Rogersville Herald carried a front page story of the new church building which estimated the new building to be worth $7,000.00. Many members furnished lumber from their own woods. The article stated that it was one of the most beautiful church buildings in Hawkins County. The Church minutes note that the members moved into the new white frame church on June 1, 1936. The Rev. Claude R. Morelock was pastor when the new building was dedicated in 1936."
"An educational building was added in 1941 with the dedication held in October of 1941 with Brother J.J. Craft "preaching the dedication."
"A four room frame house was bought and remodeled for use as a pastorium. A resident pastor, W.H. Parrott, was called. He became the first full-time pastor on October 5, 1948."
"The church has continued to grow. In 1953 a new brick church was constructed on three and a half acres of land donated by Mrs. Mary Clay Kenner of Rogersville. The church cost approximately $40,000.00. The members moved into the new brick sanctuary on June 6, 1954. This building is now part of the church’s educational building."
Oak Grove Baptist Church with Educational Wing– Photo made in 1974
In the search for pastor during 1972 and 1973 it was noted that "it is of interest to know that according to the records, the Pulpit Committee at this time had Ladies serving on it for the first time in the 104 year history of the church."
The continued growth of the church created a need for more space. A new sanctuary committee was formed in 1979, and the church building was expanded again. The new auditorium was entered in December 1982. The older sanctuary and educational building were renovated.
The growth of the Oak Grove Church was not limited to the church it’s self. Through the efforts of the church and its members with the desire to reach the community for Christ, missions and other churches were begun in the community. In 1890, Oak Grove Baptist Church held several revivals in the community. "The spirit of revival reached the Black Community and the church sought a black preacher to minister to them."
In 1950 the mission work was centered in the Block City community. The First Baptist Church of Block City was formed. It is now called Belmont Baptist Church. In 1969 the Carter’s Valley mission work began the Carter’s Valley Baptist Church. The church was later reorganized into today’s Ridgeview Baptist Church.
When the Rev. Carter Morrell was serving the church, he encouraged the older members of the church to meet at the church for spiritual, social and service to the church and community. The success of the activities created interest throughout the community and many of the church members friends from out side the church joined the activities. The activities became more organized, and a noon meal was added. The group formally organized, and became the Mount Carmel Senior Citizens. They continued to meet at the church for many years before moving to another location.
Today the Oak Grove Baptist Church is very active in the community, and the members encourage anyone who wishes to visit or participate in its activities for all ages to do so. Services are held Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday evening. Services are also held at a local nursing home for the residents and their guest. The membership was 1148 on August 19, 1998.
Oak Grove Baptist Church is a member of the Holston Valley Baptist Association, the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Oak Grove Baptist Church through the years since 1869 has had approximately 34 pastors. Since 1948 the pastoral position has been a full-time position. The full-time ministers who have served the church are:
W.H. Parrott 1948 - 1955
Lloyd Helton 1955 - 1957
Jack Clark 1957 - 1958
Bob Smith 1958 - 1963
Carter Morrell 1964 - 1972
Jim Wilcox 6/73 – 9/73
Clay Fraizer 1974 – 1985
1985 – 1987 Jack Randalls (interim)*
John Compton 1987 - 1992
1992 – 1994 Ronald Hicks (interim)*
Benny Keck 1994 –
Note: The above information was taken from the "Oak Grove Baptist Church, Written and Pictorial History 1869-1986" compiled by the 1986 Homecoming Committee consisting of Doug Wagner, Gene Williams, Patsy Tate, Judy Wilson, and Shelby Alvis; "Centennial Material" written by the Rev. Carter Morell, Mr. Bill Marsh; the church minutes and current church records. This document was prepared by Leota Bennett and approved by the Oak Grove Baptist Church for use on the Hawkins County Genealogy County Genweb site on the Internet in association with the TNgenweb and Usgenweb, the Hawkins County Genealogical Society, the Hawkins County Heritage Commission, and local libraries.
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