June 21, 2024

Witt Baptist Church History

The original Witt Baptist Church.

Chrisley Witt and his sons owned and operated an iron foundry near the location of Witt Baptist
Church today. This location was in Jefferson County, then, in the late 1850’s. When the Cincinnati Cumberland Gap and Charleston Railroad came through beside the foundry, in the 1860’s, a little village developed around the foundry called Witts Foundry. The railroad was a factor of it becoming a flourishing little village with two general stores, one drug store, three mills, a lumber mill, two blacksmith shops, a hotel and a one room school house.
It was in this little village, in the Old Depot, that the people who drew out of Friendship Baptist Church met and Witt Baptist Church came into being. The historical roots of the Witt Baptist Church can be traced back two church generations to the Friendship Baptist Church organized on Long Creek, Jefferson County, Tennessee in 18 19. This was a missionary body evidenced by their joining the
Tennessee Baptist Association in 18 19 and the Nolichucky Baptist Association in 1834. However, in 1839, the church became two bodies, with a ” minority forming a Primitive Baptist Association. The missionary body continued to function and letter to the Nolichucky Missionary Baptist Association until in 1868 by official vote of the body Bethel Baptist Church became the successor of the Friendship Baptist Church.
Three ministers from the Bethel Baptist Church held a revival in the rapidly developing village at Witts Foundry in 1883. They were P.H.C. Hale, Crockett Brown, and J.B. Bundren. All of these men were known as Missionary Baptists. Records show that Bethal Baptist Church had an arm of their church at Witts Foundry and on November 3, 1883, these three ministers met with the arm to form a new Baptist Church. Rev. C.C. Brown preached the organizing sermon and was elected moderator of the council.
After drawing up a Church Covenant and Rules of Decorum, 13 affixed their names as becoming charter members of Witt Baptist Church: Elisha Witt and his wife Ellen Witt, Alexander Hatcher and his wife Jane Hatcher, W.B. Helm and his wife Thuley Helm, John H. Helm, J.W. Fry, Orenea Hazelwd, James D. Owen and his wife Margaret A. Owen, Rebecca Witt, and Charles Flowers.
Services were continued in the depot until 1886. Mr. Wilson Witt gave the land for the site of the
building, and George Crosby had earlier given the plot for the cemetery. Money being scarce, logs were
given, labor donated and a new building was started in the early spring of 1886 and dedicated in August of the same year. There were about 30 members on roll the day of the Dedication Sermon.
The most publicized event in the life of the church was when more then 1,000 persons witnessed Dr. John Anderson baptize Wilson Carroll Witt, who was 100 years of age! Various places for baptism have been used during the history of the church. Chrisley Witt and his sons had a race to furnish power for their foundry and this race was used sometimes for baptismal purposes. In reading the church minutes,
it is interesting to note the expressions used as “We went down to the water’s edge.” It makes one feel that the place dedicated upon and the water used was richly blessed by the Lord. Nearby creeks were used for baptisms until 1969 when other churches were used for these services. Sunday School classrooms were added to the original structure in 1926 and more were added in 1951. In 1967, the church added a vestibule with two class rooms and two restrooms which completed the structure of the old church as we see it today. A Library was established in 1969. In 1957, on land donated by John Wallace, a pastorium was built and pastor Rev. Noman Watson and his family were the first to occupy it. The debt for the pastorium was paid off in 1962. The church purchased additional property in 1975, the Goan property and in 1976 they purchased the Gertie Haun (Coldwell) property which adjoined the existing property. The church celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1983.
The original church building had met their needs for a long time but they were in need of a larger facility so in September of 1979 a Building and Finance Committee was appointed. They voted to have $50,000 in their building fund before breaking ground. In 1982, they agreed to wait and break ground for a new building when they had $75,000.
In May of 1988, ground was broken for a new church building having $180,000 in the church building fund. On December 25, 1988, the church held their first worship service in their new building. In May of 1989, we had a special dedication service for the new building. The first baptismal service in the new church was in January of 1989 with seven being baptized.
These history experts were taken from the notes of Ms. Grace Rhoades , Church Historian and Rcv. Glenn Toomey of
the Nolichucky Baptist Association.