ELIZABETHTON — This March has been a special month for Stoney Creek Baptist Church.
The church was organized on March 9, 1822, so the church is celebrating its 200th anniversary this month. The church celebrates the event this Sunday, inviting former members and other friends to celebrate with the congregation during morning worship.
Families who have photographs involving church activities and past church members have been invited to bring them to the special service so others can view the legacies and share the memories the photos unlock.
It should be a day to remember, but the history of the church has inspired many other memories, including the founding of a volunteer fire department.
Much of what follows has been taken from notes that event organizers took from these documents and records.
It all started around 1820, before there was a Peters Hollow Egg Fight. At the time, the Stoney Creek community was still being settled. There was only one church in the area, Sinking Creek Baptist Church, the oldest church in Tennessee.
In July 1820, a group of Christians began meeting at Thomas Evans’ house in Stoney Creek, across the creek from where the church would be located. This meeting was part of a missionary work of the Sinking Creek Baptist Church. The culmination of this missionary work was the organizational meeting of the Stoney Creek Baptist Church on March 9, 1822.
A Spinnerette article on Stoney Creek Baptist Church printed in December 1949, discusses the role Sinking Creek played in encouraging the growth of the new church. He cited Sinking Creek church records that said his church members from the Stoney Creek community were “free to join” the new church.
There were 24 founding members, and nearly all of their surnames are still commonly found in Stoney Creek, the community and the church today. Names like Thomas Evans, Elizabeth Nave, Abigail Bowers, Lydia Taylor, Jacob Cole, Samuel Musgrave, Joseph Cable, Anna Buckles and Joseph Cable.
A small log church was built and the first pastor was Reece Bayless.
Another historical impact of the early church was that when the Watauga Association of Baptists was organized in 1868, Stoney Creek Baptist Church was one of the original 14 member churches of the association. At that time, the church had 109 members. A frame building was also constructed and served as a church for the next 50 years.
The church suffered a fire in 1910 and the first church records were burned. A new, larger church building was erected in 1910. Other buildings were also added. In 1936 the church was renovated and Sunday school halls were added. In 1947, the presbytery was built. In 1966, the Brick Education Building was constructed.
The building trend continued, with a new sanctuary being built in 1970. The church suffered a setback on November 25, 1970, when the old frame building that had been the church’s second building in 1910 was caught fire. During the construction of the new sanctuary, there were great fears that the fire would spread to the presbytery and other church buildings. At that time, there was no organized volunteer fire department at Stoney Creek.
Church records indicated that a member, Uncle Jim Hyder, called the town of Elizabethton to help save the rest of the church buildings. Hyder was told the city could not send fire engines and firefighters to the county. The notes read: “By the grace of God, the mayor has taken responsibility for the fire trucks and firefighters. The new church and rectory have been saved, praise God.
The notes do not identify who the mayor was, but a search of the Municipal and Technical Services website lists Elizabethton’s mayor for 1970–71 as J. I. Cornett.
The notes continued the story saying that the congregation gathered in the new church on November 26 for prayer and that God is rising to be with the church.
The experience had an immediate impact on the people of Stoney Creek, whether they were members of the church or not. Strong support was given to the formation of a volunteer fire department. The Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department was soon organized under Chief Clifford Peters. The fire hall is located within sight of the Stoney Creek Baptist Church.