Churches in Cades Cove
Faith served an important role in the lives of early Smoky Mountain settlers, and several churches played prominently in the history of Cades Cove. Three historic churches still stand along the Cades Cove Loop Road Tour route: the Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church, Methodist Church and Missionary Baptist Church.
These historic sites stood as worship halls, served as wedding chapels and witnessed souls laid to rest for the Cades Cove pioneers. Even today, the white-frame Methodist and Primitive Baptist Churches are used as venues for weddings in the Smoky Mountains, and residents of Townsend, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville can trace their lineage to ancestors buried in the cemeteries of Cades Cove.
Before community members had established their own congregations, the faithful of Cades Cove traveled difficult roads through the Smoky Mountains to attend Sunday meetings at churches in Miller's and Wears Coves, as well as campground revivals in Tuckaleechee Cove.
Primitive Baptist Church
The original Cades Cove couple, John and Lucretia Oliver, first introduced the Baptist denomination to Cades Cove. The Olivers organized a branch of the Miller's Cove Baptist Church in 1825, and by 1829 Cades Cove Baptist Church had been pronounced an independent entity. The first church building—a simple log structure—was constructed in 1827 on land donated by William Tipton.
However, differences in biblical interpretation—specifically views on missionary work, temperance societies and Sunday schools—led to a congregational split and the establishment of a separate Missionary Baptist Church in 1841.
Following the split, the Primitive Baptists remained the dominant religious and political force in the Cove. But disparate loyalties during the Civil War disrupted harmony in the Cove, and the Primitive Baptists, who were staunch Union supporters, were forced to close their doors during the war. When hostilities ceased between the North and the South, Sunday sermons recommenced as tensions eased in Cades Cove.
The pretty white-frame Primitive Baptist Church building that now stands along the Cades Cove Loop Road was built in 1887. Despite a few interruptions through the years, the Primitive Baptist congregation continued to meet in Cades Cove until the 1960s, more than 20 years after the he formation of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Missionary Baptist Church
Established May 15, 1841, the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church was an offshoot of the original Cades Cove Baptist Church. Formed by Pastor Johnson Adams and a number of parishioners in the wake of a hermeneutical dispute, the Missionary Baptists initially met in members' homes or at one of the existing church buildings in Cades Cove.
The congregation rarely met during the Civil War and Reconstruction years but enjoyed a particularly successful revival following the war. In 1894 the Missionary Baptist Church was finally able to construct a building of its own on Hyatt Hill, and in time, membership grew to more than 100. The white-frame church building that now stands along the Cades Cove Loop Road was built in 1915 to accommodate the burgeoning flock.
When the Cades Cove Methodist Church began meeting in 1840, worshippers gathered in a simple log structure with a dirt floor and fire pit. Such humble beginnings are hardly surprising considering the denomination was planted in Cades Cove by traveling preachers, also known as circuit riders or saddlebag preachers. Rev. George Eakin, one of the most prominent early circuit riders in East Tennessee, was likely one of those influential in establishing the Methodist Church in Cades Cove.
Services were held in the log structure for 62 years, until in 1902 Pastor John D. McCampbell—also a carpenter and blacksmith—built the charming white-frame Methodist Church that stands in Cades Cove today. The building features two front doors, a common design for churches in the Smoky Mountains in the 1800s. The dual-door design was typically used to separate the men and women of a congregation. In Cades Cove, however, the design was more decorative than functional, and churchgoers sat where they pleased.
As with the Baptists in Cades Cove, the Methodist Church was affected by the Civil War and Reconstruction. Divisions among members led to a church split and the formation of the Hopewell Methodist Church on the opposite side of the Cove near the Tipton Place. A cemetery is all that remains of the Hopewell site today.
The Methodist, Primitive Baptist and Missionary Baptist Churches are just a few of the historic structures in Cades Cove. The Cades Cove Loop Road Tour includes historic homesteads, cabins, barns, mills and more along its 11-mile route. Not only is Cades Cove considered the largest open-air museum in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is one of the best places to view wildlife in the Smokies.