Union Grove UMC has a history going back at least 152 years (Holston Conference dates back to 1824; the first mention of Methodists at Union Grove is in 1868). There have been a few articles published by the church and others over the years telling its history, recounting events, and even discussing its ups and its downs. What is evident overall is a sense of community, tenacity, and perseverance by those who have entered its doors and deep and abiding faith in God and dedication to following Christ. The purpose of the page is to archive Union Grove’s past so we can build on the traits that have held it in place from the beginning as we work to regenerate its congregation and restore its place as a center of the Union Grove community.

Do you have a favorite memory of Union Grove UMC? Leave a comment and tell us about it! 

Appointment Term Name
1880 Pleasant Henry
1882-1886 James Rubel
1886 David Hodson
Rev. Rippitoe
Rev. Bales
Rev. Isaac N. Munsey
Rev. A.M. Rose
Rev. Echols
1909-1916 Rev. John Sanders
1916-1918 G.C. Kirby
1918-1922 Rev. J.T. Bird
1922-1925 Francis P. Sanders
1925-1927 J.T. Caldwell
1927-1928 W.L. Roberts
1928-1932 Francis P. Sanders
1932-1934 C.F. Lucas
1934-1936 Perry Rule
1936-1938 G.L. Shupe
1938-1940 O.B. White
1940-1941 Russell Leedy
1941-1943 Robert Fritts
1943-1944 Jack Jones
1944-1946 Ross Francisco
1946-1950 Sam Varnell
1950-1952 W.R. Grimm
1952-1954 Charles Bryan
1954-1956 Max Allison
1956-1958 John Williams
1958-1959 William Phelps
1959-1963 Talmage Skinner
1963-1966 Joe Payne
1966-1969 Horace Henry
1969-1972 Lawrence Clark
1972-1976 Harry W. Hight, Jr.
1976-1978 Frank Knavely
1978-1987 Tom Markwood
1987-1997 John Roberson
1997-2000 Rose Mincey
2000-2005 Herman Cate
2005-2008 Stanford “Stan” Johnson
2008-2013 Beecher Dunsmore
2013-2015 James T. Hartley
2015-2020 Matthew Coldiron
2020- Rev.Valerie Ohle

Author: Charlotte England

Just a small frame building
In the midst of a grove,
Important facts about it
So few scarcely know.

In the year of 1873
A deed for a plot,
But not until the 1880s
Our present building was got.

Both as a school and a church
It would be used
For meetings, camps and Sunday affairs,
For those who would choose.

“The Methodist Episcopal Church, North,”
It would be called
After quite a dispute
And unity was sought.

Today, a hundred years have passed,
This beautiful building still stands,
Surely God has embraced it
With his tender loving hands.

“Union Grove United Methodist Church,”
Today, it is called.
New faces have joined with old
To share an important cause.

Let every day be a new beginning
Spread the news far and wide,
Let everyone be conscious
Of what they’ll find inside.

Tis love, the Love of God,
His story will be told,
We’ll all unite together
For this important goal.

Author, Unknown

In July 1864, a loyal body of ministers and laymen answered the call of Governor William Brownlow and others to meet in convention of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, to consider the re-organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Holston territory. As a result of this convention, the first session of the reorganized conference was held at Athens, Tennessee, June 1-5, 1865, Bishop David W. Clark presiding. Rev. J. Albert Hyden was appointed presiding elder (now called District Superintendent) of Athens District, which included Maryville. Rev. Thomas H. Russell was appointed pastor of the Maryville Circuit, which at that time included preaching appointments at Maryville, Pecks Chapel, Carpenters, Middlesettlements, Louisville, Kizer’s Chapel, Axley’s Chapel, and Havens Chapel.

According to records in the year 1868, the following churches sent delegates to a lay meeting: Maryville, Pecks Chapel, Centenary, Carpenters, Morganton, Louisville, Middlesttlements, and Union Grove.

However, it was not until 1890 that our present building (frame building) was dedicated. In the meantime, in the year 1873, a deed was made to a committee consisting of William Jones, Jasiah Henderson, P.H. Lane, G.R. Curtis, and H.H. Clark for the purpose of a Union School House and Meeting House. This deed was signed by M.A. Lane and R.C. Alford.

On this plot was built a frame building which was used both as a school and church. A little later, a shed was built on to the back of this building which was used for meetings, camps, and a boarding house was also built on the grounds. These housed the ministers and others who wished to camp for the 2 weeks while the annual camp meetings were held. A couple in the neighborhood usually camped and had charge of the meals at the boarding house. 

The meetings held in the shed were non-denominational and were usually held for 2 weeks in August, with Sundays all-day affairs, with picnic lunches. 

During the time the meetings were still being held in the old building, interest was manifested in building a new church. There was quite a dispute between the Northern and Southern Methodist in the Congregation as to what the new church would be called. The church was built in the 1880s and organized as a Methodist Episcopal Church North.

A deed was not made to the property where our present church stands until 1890. It was made to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who were E.R. Curtis, D.P. Baldwin, C.T. Lane, AlbertPotter, and Dallas Miser. Later, a plot of ground behind the church was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church by Laura Alford. In the year 1893, the present cemetery grounds were deeded to church.

The parsonage was constructed on the church property in 1954.

The brick educational building was added to the frame sanctuary and dedicated on Sunday, February 20, 1963. It contains 12 classrooms. The District Superintendent, Dr. E.A. Eldridge, delivered the message.

Author: Wilma Baldwin as published in The Daily Times ca 1986

As we look at the history of the Union Grove Community, we find these words as recorded by one of its earliest settlers, John Moore. “We moved to Blount county and settled at the headwaters of Galleher’s creek. (This is where the renter house now stands on the Raymond Loveday farm). Soon a famous structure was erected ‘hard by’ for the purpose of educating the youth of the land. Thither did they gather with hunting shirts and tow pans (the products of feminine labor) to spell, read, write, and cipher, graduating at the double rule of three. Soon the log hut used for a school was gone and a more commodious building was built. This building was used for school and preaching. This was known as Union Grove.”

Though no church as such was yet in existence, in 1868 the record of the Holston Journal of those attending a lay meeting included delegates from Union Grove.

Then, in 1873, a parcel of land was deeded to a committee, then consisting of William Jones, Josiah Henderson, P.H. Lane, G.R. Curtis, and W.H. Clark. The deed stated that it was for the purpose of Union School and meeting house. On this land, a frame building was erected and might have been the one mentioned by Mr. Moore as the “commodious building.” This building was approximately where the community building is today. Some of the early teachers were Mr. Ross, Mr. Luther Miser, Ben Pate, Hugh Matthews, Sam Dunlap, Jim Stanfield, Everett Moore, and Laura Alford.

This building was a sturdy building built with logs held together with wood pegs. The seats were rough board with no backs, and for times of inclement weather, there were wooden flaps that were closed in the sides of the shed.

This structure was used for Camp Meetings usually held for two weeks during the month of August. At that time there were a couple of other camps erected. One for housing the visiting preachers and others who wished to camp, and one with sleeping quarters and kitchen where meals were prepared for the campers and boarders. Usually, a couple in the community would keep the boarding house and help cook the meals. Some of those couples were the Drew Baldwins, the Jeff Jacksons, and the Homer Frenchs.

Although the preaching often lasted well into the night and long past the bedtime of the young children, it presented no problem for the were bedded among the straw which was on the floor of the shed. This straw often had to be replaced during the meetings as there was no fence to keep out the hogs and other animals who were known to roam into the shed.

These meetings were non-denominational, and preachers such as Davy Kerr, a Cumberland Presbyterian, Mr. Moore, a Quaker as was Mrs. Hackney, and Mr. Metslwer of the Salvation Army all held services there at one time or another.

During this time, interest was being manifested in building and founding a church. There was quite a dispute among the people as to whether it would be a Southern or Northern Methodist Episcopal Church. And though no exact date of this founding is known, it evidently was during the early 1880s, and it was founded a Northern Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 1885 or 1886, the sanctuary of the present church was constructed in a rustic form. It was built on land which was deeded to the Trustees of Union Grove, Mr. D.P. Baldwin, c.T. Lane, Albert Potter, E.R. Curtis, and Dallas Miser from John and H.A. Walker.

This structure was a small building, with rough pews, and some still remember the potbelly stove that was in the middle of the room, where the card class gathered to hear Miss Cora Curtis teach. There were kerosene lamps in brackets on the walls near the windows, and a wrought iron chandelier which held kerosene lamps. Those were removed when electricity arrived in the community in 1942. The potbelly stove was replaced by a coal furnace and, later, by a gas furnace. The basement and block foundation was added in 1950.

The years brought other structures to Union Grove. In 1954, the parsonage was built, and in 1963, the 12-classroom educational building was completed. The Sanctuary was remodeled in the early 1970s to is present appearance. In 1980, the Community building underwent remodeling to its present condition.

 To this physical growth must be added the growth of the spirit, and this can be seen in the willingness of the church to pitch in and get the job done. Stories are told of how the men of the church cut the logs and hauled them in to build the first structure and that spirit has continued. When the educational building was built in the early 1960s, the church worked together. A loving spirit of fellowship was evident whether the men were doing repair work or the women were cleaning the sanctuary or school rooms. Once or twice a year the women met and scrubbed the floors, cleaned the windows, and freshened the buildings. There were plays at the community building and, of course, the Lord’s Acre Sales in the fall. Many women remember holding hands and praying before the dinners and sometimes picking the hams or turkey bones two or three times before the meals were over. And the Lord continued to bless and multiply. 

Unity of spirit was evident as the precious Black foster children prepared us for the new Black members of our church. Truly as the word says, “A little child shall lead them.”

In the mid-1970s the Spirit continued to draw us closer and closer, and create a desire for a much deeper fellowship with Jesus as Saviour and Lord. As we drew closer, the Lord showed us that a cleaning process had to occur in our spirits, and he shed new light and understanding to our souls. Union Grove found that a new right relationship brought renewal financially and the ability to begin to look outside the church for mission.

Yes, God has moved in His people at Union Grove, and as we now celebrate 100 years of past service, we look forward with great anticipation to what the next 100 years will mean for Union Grove, and its ministry of God’s word and love to the community, and to the world. Campmeeting Days are a celebration of the past, but also a stepping stone to the future.

Much of the preceding history was taken from the notes that Katheryn Best compiled for an earlier history. 

Author: Bea Britton

FRIENDSVILLE – There’s something special in the wind in Friendsville. Oh, we’re seeing robins and cardinals and even an occasional red-headed woodpecker, but listen … the Holy Spirit is speaking softly to God’s people, some of whom worship Him in a century-old sanctuary called Union Grove United Methodist Church.

There’s a heart-warming history plus lots of memories, praises, and even a few mysteries associated with Union Grove. An unnamed delegate reportedly represented Union Grove at Methodism’s Holston District conference in 1868, yet the oldest date engraved on a headstone in the cemetery adjacent to the sanctuary is 1894. The conference was organized in 1824, and meetings were presumably held in Knoxville. 

Blount County Centennial History mentions a struggle of sorts occurring somewhere between 1880 and 1892. Baptists were holding informal brush arbor camp meetings on the present church grounds while Methodists met in the schoolhouse, the present-day fellowship hall.  Mrs. Lydia Williams offered a compromise proposal – she would donate adjacent land to whichever group was first to have building materials on site. By daylight the following morning, the Methodists had their materials on the ground, thereby winning the building site.

A mimeographed Centennialflyer refers to the late 1880s when the church’s annual August open-air brush arbor camp meetings attracted folks from far and wide. They came to enjoy the “great singing, stirring testimonies, shouts of praise, and the preaching of God’s Holy Word.”

Dare we pray, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again?”

If you’ll tilt your head back a little and close your eyes, you might envision a huge tent flapping in the breeze, barefoot youngsters racing across the grounds playing tag, hot, uncomfortable babies bawling for attention, horseshoes flying toward their appropriate stakes as bystanders munch chili dogs and cheer approval. Wagons with their teams are safely hitched to ancient trees. There’s something special in the air. 

Dare we pray, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again?”

Birds trill their special praise songs, squirrels dash about in endless search for hickory nuts the Lord has provided, then someone tugs a rope and the church bell clangs its stirring call to worship. Friends, neighbors, kids move together toward the huge, sawdust-floored tent, anxious to learn more of God’s Word through His chosen messenger. All too soon, the special joy of preaching and loving fellowship become a treasured memory.

Dare we pray, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again?”

Between 1940 and 148, there were two classrooms and eight grades in the schoolhouse. A few old-timers tell tales of rousing baseball games, a lunchroom in the basement of the two-teacher school, coal stoves providing heat (no mention of air conditioning), outside toilets, kids walking one or two miles to school, others riding to and from school, one behind another, on the family horse.

Guy Walker remembers a community baseball team benefitting handsomely from funds raised by a crowd-pleasing “womanless wedding” performed at the school sometime in the mid-’50s. In 1952 and 1953, several small county schools were closed in favor of regional schools. Walker estimates the present fellowship hall was probably acquired by the church sometime in the ’60s, although it was available for community use before that time. He and Rachel, young marrieds in 1961, were among the 12 to 15 members of Howard and Anna Lee Loveday’s college-age and young couples’ Sunday School class which met in the schoolhouse. 

Guy recalls a balcony at the rear of the sanctuary and two dro-down panel doors near the present sound room. Pews placed under the balcony provided seating for Sunday School classes. When needed, additional seats in the sanctuary were created by opening the doors. At that time the public road crossed between the front of the present church and the school building. 

The Rev. Sam Varnell, pastor at Union Grove from 1948 to 1955, is credited with setting an unwritten standard of excellence for succeeding pastors. During his tenure, he baptized 57 individuals, most of whom were then received as church members on profession of faith.

The parsonage, built somewhere in the early ’60s, was debt-free in 1962. 

A new, 12-room, two-story brick educational building was built on the church property and used for the first time on Sunday, January 20, 1963. District Superintendent Dr. E.A. Eldridge delivered the dedication sermon. Pastor Talmage R. Skinner, Jr., called this construction a “significant step in church history.” Excavation was done by Paul Rankin and construction by Fred Huffstetler, with many hours of labor contributed by church members and friends.

A major renovation and remodeling program began at Union Grove in the mid-’70s under leadership of the Rev Harry W. Hight, Jr. Building plans included a new narthex and front steps with landing and handrails. Removal of the balcony provided for more sanctuary space. New lighting, air conditioning, carpeting, and aluminum siding for the exterior of the building were included in the plans provided without charge by architect Mack Baldwin of Atlanta, Georgia, a former Union Grove member.

Dr. T.L. Williams, a retired Methodist minister, led an enthusiastic fundraising campaign which encouraged members to over-pledge the $25,000 estimated cost. Shirley Jones, one of the oldest church members, responded on dedication Sunday to President Gerald Ford’s request for national bell ringing by initiating a two-minute ringing of the church bell after Sunday School.

The Lord’s Acre annual bazaar was in full swing one Saturday afternoon in November 1978 during the Rev. Frank Snavely’s pastorate. In addition to the traditional ham supper, costing a whopping $2.75 per adult and $2.00 for children, crafts and white elephant items were displayed. In charge were Mrs. Ruth Stooksbury, Lord’s Acre committee chairman, and Mrs. Dixie Oldham, United Methodist Women’s president. Jack Chesney, Mss. Anna Lee Loveday, Buddy Pierce, and R.J. Hodge, Sunday School superintendent, were among those who assisted in various ways.

When Rev. Snavely left in 1978, he was the last of the 35 circuit pastors who faithfully served Union Grove congregations since the original structure was built in 1880. The Rev. John Roberson’s pastorate extended from 1989 to 1997, followed by Rev. Rose Mincey, 1998 to 2000. 

The Rev. Herman Cate assumed pastoral duties at Union Grove on September 1, 2000, moving the church through a time of healing. In June 2005, the Rev. Stan Johnson assumed pastoral leadership of the 127-member church.

Dare we pray, “Do it again, Lord?” Yes, there’s something in the wind at Union Grove. God’s great unchanging love is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and the Holy Spirit is alive and well and can surely, “Do it again!”

From materials collected by Wilma Teffeteller Baldwin; compiled by Betty Boone Best; published in The Blount Journal – Fall 2007

Union Grove community has been in the news recently in Blount County because the Blount County School Board was deciding on the name for a new elementary school in that area. The older Union Grove schoolhouse building is now a part of the Methodist Church by that name. The last school building is at the edge of the parking lot for the church and is used for church and community functions.

A history of the Union Grove Methodist Church, cemetery, and community has been preserved by the following people: Mrs. Calvin (Wilma Teffeteller) Baldwin, Jean and Claude Bailey, Katherine and Roe Best, Grace and Gordon Hargis, Mrs. Taylor Simmerly, Elizabeth and Harmon Smith, and Luther White. These community historians agree that the dates and events which follow are important to Union Grove.

Sometime before 1868, there was a settlement around the log hut which was being used for a schoolhouse and for revival services.  John Moore, a Quaker who settled near the headwaters of Gallaher’s Creek, was one of the organizers. Typical of the history of the early Quakers of Blount County, these pioneers would erect a log structure for a place to worship, and soon afterward, would begin a school in the same building. The earliest classes were conducted in the sturdy log building, which was held together with wooden pegs.  The seats were of rough boards with no backs. When the weather was good, the wooden flaps on the sides of the building could be let down to let in light and fresh air.

The recorded history refers to a spirit of great cooperation among the people, even though there were difficult decisions to be made. From the earliest times, the men hauled logs and wood and built the shelters, and the women continued to clean the facilities.

In its report for the year 1868, the Holston Journal reported that Union Grove Methodist Church sent delegates to a lay meeting of the Methodist Episcopal Church from the Maryville Circuit of the Holston Territory. During the time the meetings were still being held in the old log building, interest was maintained in building a new church. In the aftermath of the Civil War, there was quite a dispute between the Northern and Southern Methodists as to what the new church should be called. When the church was builtin in the 1880s, it was organized as a Methodist Episcopal Church, North.

In 1873, a parcel of land was deeded to a committee consisting of William Jones, Josiah Henderson, P.H. Lane, G.R. Curtis, and W.H. Clark. The deed stated the land was for the purpose of building the Union School and meeting house. The deed was signed by M.A. Lane and R.C. Alford. On this land, a frame building was erected and was located where the community building is today. Sometime after this frame building was constructed, a shed was attached to the back of the church and was used for extra space during the annual camp meetings. 

In 1885 or 1886 a sanctuary was constructed in a rustic form. The building was small and had rough pews; a potbellied stove sat in the middle of the room. A wrought iron chandelier hung overhead, and wall brackets held kerosene lamps. Some of the local historians remember fondly how Miss Cora Curtis taught the card class for many years.

The log building used for camp meetings was located near the overnight camps, which were set up for housing visiting preachers and others who wished to stay for several days. A nearby camp was used as a kitchen where meals were prepared for the campers. Usually, some couples from the community also kept boarders and helped with providing food.  Remembered for helping were the families of Drew Baldwin, Jeff Jackson, and Homer French.

Although the preaching often lasted well into the night, and long past the bedtimes of the youngest children, this was no problem. They were bedded down on the straw, which was spread on the floor of the shed. The straw had to be replaced often during the two weeks, as there was no fence to keep out the hogs and other animals that were free to roam through the shed.

Community activities seemed to center around the church and school.  Since the days of the old log church, there were plays held for the community.  For many years, a community-wide Lord’s Acre Sale brought neighbors near and far together. Although not much of the school’s past was recorded, local historians remember some of the early teachers – Laura Alford, Sam Dunlap, Hugh Matthews, Luther Miseer, Everett Moore, Ben Pate, a Mr. Ross, and Jim Stanfield. 

The parsonage was constructed on Church property in 1954. A 12-classroom brick educational building was added and dedicated in 1963. The present sanctuary was remodeled in the 1970s; and in 1980 the community building was updated to its present appearance.

As a part of Tennessee’s homecoming 1986 Celebration, proposed by then-Governor Lamar Alexander of Maryville, Union Grove Methodist Church held a Homecoming event on June 15-22, celebrating Camp Meeting Days. It was a highlight of the past few decades in the community’s life. 


Betty Boone Best and Wilma Teffeteller Baldwin did an update of the cemetery on April 18, 2007. Wilma is the Treasurer of the Cemetery Association and used lists which had been given to her in 1950.  One list was of the graves of soldiers and the other was of all the graves, either marked or unmarked. She told how her husband’s father, C.C. “Dick” Baldwin, for many years would take his wagon and bring bodies from the County Farm to be buried at Union Grove. Her list named many for whom there were no markers. Edith Burns Little states in her recording of cemeteries in Blount County that there were at least 40 unmarked graves in Union Grove Cemetery.

Wilma credits others for helping keep up with the Church and Cemetery records. John A. and Harriet Walker gave the deed for the Cemetery land in 1893. Ben James kept the record books until his house burned and they were destroyed.

The earliest recorded burial is for J.H. Curtis, who was born 5-28-1847 and died 6-12-1894. There were burials before then, but are not marked. 

Wilma’s records show collections for the upkeep of the Cemetery beginning on Decoration Day, June 1, 1926. There was a balance of $4.30 and a collection that day of $1.70.  Three dollars had been spent for maintenance.