JONESBOROUGH UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
211 West Main Street, Jonesborough, TN 37659.
The Jonesborough United Methodist Church began in 1822 as a result of a revival series of prayer meetings in the home of a Mrs. Brown, held by R.W.H. Hill, a merchant of Huntsville, Alabama. The history of Methodism in Jonesborough actually dates earlier than this. There were Methodists in the area who had meetings in their homes prior to the organized church. After the revival, Jonesborough was made an appointment in the Holston District of the Tennessee conference. One of the most famous of the converts was Elbert F. Sevier, a grandson of General John Sevier, who gave up a promising legal practice to become a Methodist preacher.
The second session of the Holston Annual conference was held in Jonesborough on October 20, 1825. Every year since Jonesborough has been listed in the appointments as Jonesborough Circuit or Station. Shortly after this date a brick church building with brick floors and rough slabs for seats was erected in the southeastern part of town. The fifth session of the Holston Annual Conference met in Jonesborough in 1828.
In 1833, Jonesborough and Kingsport became a two-point circuit. Time marched on and about 1845, work began on the present sanctuary. The lot was purchased for $600.00 and the cost of the building was about $4,000.00; both were large sums for that day. The undertaking was a huge task for the congregation of less than one hundred members. We know for certain that the building was completed in 1847 because the First Quarterly Conference record is still available.
The outward appearance of the Church was similar to that of today except for two chimneys on each side of the sanctuary permitting four stoves for heating. Within the sanctuary was a balcony for the use of the slaves and free blacks. The records of 1849 indicate that there were 54 white and 8 black members in the Sunday School and 75 white and 47 black church members. The present windows, pews and choir loft were later additions. There were no Sunday School rooms except in the basement, which was entered from an outside door only.
In 1875, the steeple was remodeled from a four sided structure to the present eight sided spire. The bell, which was placed there soon after the Civil War, remained in the steeple and has the inscription “Cast by Vanduzzen & Tift Buckeye Bell Foundry, Cincinnati, 1866.”
The stairway to the balcony was removed and two Sunday School rooms were built beneath the balcony, One on each side of the entrance. The box pews were replaced with curved pews and a crude central heating system was installed in the basement.
New windows were installed in 1892, otherwise there were few structural changes in the building. The present windows were installed in 1928. In April 1948, an extensive restoration and redecorating project was completed. This included new plaster throughout, complete rewiring and lighting, painting, new pews, carpeting, pulpit furniture and additional classroom space in the basement. A new crystal chandelier was imported from Czechoslovakia, before the beginning of hostilities of World War II in Europe. The cost of the chandelier was $1,200.00. In 1972, the tower chime system was installed. In 1959, an educational unit was built to the front of the sanctuary. One major change was made in the sanctuary at this time, the addition of a choir loft at the front. Previously, the choir had been in the corner to one side of the pulpit. A stained glass window was given by Mr. Rollin Britton in memory of his wife, which was placed in the front of the sanctuary.
In 1966, the adjoining property was purchased to provide more adequate parking space. In 1904, the end apartment of the historic “Three Sisters’ Row Apartments” was purchased for $1,050.00 to be used as a parsonage until 1950. A parsonage was purchased on Locust Street from 1950-1971. In 1971, the new parsonage on Allison Drive in North Jonesborough was completed.
Following the north-south split in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844, the Methodist Church in Jonesborough became a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. After the Civil War, northern ministers took control of the church as a result of an unpaid lien against the property. The “southern” congregation then held services in the Washington County Courthouse. In 1870, the dispute was settled in court and the southern group recovered possession of the property. In the years following, the church continued to grow, and in 1987 had 491 members.
Source: History of Washington County, Tennessee, 1988 ,by the Watauga Association of Genealogists-Upper East Tennessee, p.81