1892 - 1916
OUR CHURCH GETS OFF TO A SLOW START
In 1891 there were finally enough families to form a church, including a core group of nineteen members of First Presbyterian Church. One of these was Frank Caldwell, who had come to Chattanooga and joined the First Presbyterian church in the 1870's before Dr T H McCallie, then in poor health, resigned as pastor and became chairman of the presbytery home missions board. These two men met to discuss the possibility of planting a church on the mountain and agreed to work on it. Frank Caldwell did the door to door work with mountain families and Dr McCallie, in May of 1892, moved that the mission field of Lookout Mountain be united with the St. Elmo Presbyterian Church, a mission church. Rev. Paul F. Brown was called to take charge of both. He began preaching in St Elmo in the mornings and on the mountain every Sunday afternoon.
Then on Sunday, October 16, 1892 at 3 PM, the Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church was organized with 26 charter members, following ten days of evangelistic meetings conducted by Rev J. E. Triplett of Knoxville Presbytery. Rev J. W. Bachman of First Presbyterian Church preached the sermon using the Scripture text I Timothy 3:15 " ... the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Elders and deacons were elected and Rev. Brown continued as pastor and moderator of the session. Morris Temple, son of Captain Temple, was the only charter member with direct descendants still members in 1992. His daughter May Temple Montague, now Mrs. Dick Houck, her son Dwight Montague and his daughters Rebecca and Emily are all active members. This meeting was held in a large wooden pavilion beside Natural Bridge.
A building committee was soon appointed, a lot was donated by the Lookout Mountain Land Company, of which Sam Read was a principal, and work began the next year, with work to proceed only as funds were available. On October 4, 1894 the first service was held in the first small, circular room on the front of the new church.
The first church was located on what is now the upper playground of Lookout Mountain School, across Bragg Avenue. It was situated at the intersection of Bragg Avenue and the Broad Gauge Railroad tracks which ran where Watauga Lane now lies. But there was no upper Hermitage Avenue beside this lot - it was too steep for horse drawn carts. Not until 1900 would the town build a two story stone elementary school next door. Both used pink sandstone quarried down the hill in back where Sunset Road now crosses Hermitage. A home on the corner now obscures the old quarry.
The second incline, the one we know today, was built in 1895 by J T Crass, backed by the Whitesides, and erected by H L Harbin, father of Edith Harbin Bell. Edith is now our first living member.
In December, 1896, among the first baptized were the children of the John Inman Carters: Garnet, Paul, Lucille and Mary Lynn. Baby sister Dorris, Bill's grandmother, would not be born until 1990.
Garnet Carter, was the great uncle of present deacon Bill Chapin. He would later develop the Fairyland community including the Fairyland Inn, invent miniature golf, and open Rock City, which Bill now operates. Garnet and Frieda Carter, having no children, would pass the management of Rock City to their nephew E. Y. Chapin Jr., father of present deacon Bill Chapin, after World War II.
Paul Carter figures in our history because he would build the second Lookout Mountain Hotel in 1929, which would after 1964 become Carter Hall at Covenant College, which even later would become part of our PCA denomination.
In his autobiography, Paul Carter told how in 1895 J B Whitehead moved next door to the Carter family. Four years later Whitehead, J. T. Lupton and Benjamin Thomas of Chattanooga acquired the bottling rights for Coca-Cola. Then during the Depression widower Paul Carter would become president of numerous Coca-Cola bottling companies when he would marry to Anne Lupton Harrison, the widow of his good friend Frank Harrison. Thanks to his good fortune, Paul Carter became a great benefactor of the college
Then began a period of short-term pastors and little growth:
Rev. Brown resigned to accept a call to Bartow, Florida in 1896 and Rev Baldwin A. Pendelton came in 1897. That year the Broad Gauge Railroad was foundering and J T Crass bought it. The Lookout Inn had been opened and closed several times in its short life before it sold in 1898 for only $20,000. Then in 1899 Mr. Crass of Incline #2 bought out the interests of Incline #1 and closed it. The Point Hotel was dismantled. The mountain economy was in retrograde.
From the start our church had requested that during the four summer months the morning worship service should be held on the mountain instead of in St Elmo since there were so many more people up here in those months. In 1897 the presbytery granted that petition. In 1900 it became a moot point when Rev Clift became our first full-time pastor. He initiated the womens Christian Endeavor Society but then resigned in 1901.
The Ladies Aid Society was organized in 1901, which worked very hard to raise money for benevolence and to furnish the church with carpet, furniture, upholstery, papering of windows to reduce glare, and even an acetylene gas plant for lighting. The Christian Endeavor Society likewise provided Bibles, hymnals, and the first communion service items.
In 1902 the Union Sunday School formally united with the church. Its membership was eighty "scholars" while the church membership was down to thirty-two.
In 1904 the African Americans living on the mountain formed the First Baptist Church with seven members. Rev E. H. Dial remained as pastor for twenty-four years.
There was a major ice storm this year. Roads were in poor shape and those living here for the winter had difficulty getting to church and to meetings. In those days some of the men who worked in Chattanooga walked down the mountain on a direct path to the foot and caught the trolley into town, returning home on the incline and the trolley on top which was affectionately known as the "dinkey."
The T-Model Ford was not introduced until 1908, but in 1909 some 50,000 people from all over the country came to watch the famous Barney Oldfield and others in the Automobile Races of Lookout Mountain on the Whiteside Turnpike with its sixty-eight turns. Good roads and common use of automobiles was still a few years off.
There was little activity during the next few years. Rev. Guille was followed by Rev P B. Hill, then Rev. Louis Collins, then Dr J. H. Nall in 1908. In 1907 there were 30 members, ten Sunday School teachers, and 44 Sunday School scholars. Ladies Aid Society counted 19 members and Christian Endeavor 32.
In 1911 the ladies formed a missionary society, which usually met in the same day and in the same place as the Ladies Aid Society, with many members in common. They were hard working women.
It is very noteworthy today that in 1912 Edith Harbin, now Mrs. Leon Bell, became the 73rd member to join our church. She is not, she hastens to point out, the "oldest living member". That distinction goes to Mrs. Katherine Gager Cartinhour, born two months earlier in 1900. She did not become a member until much later. Since Edith joined before Katerine, and since no earlier members are still living, we happily grant her the distinctive title, "first living member."
Dr Charles T. Hyde followed Dr. Nall in March, 1912. Membership had increased again to 73, with 65 in SS. Much interest and effort went into benevolence and raising money for an organ and other the needs of the church during this time.
Electric lights were installed in in the church building in 1913.
World War I began in 1914. The United States did not join the war until 1917. Much of it was trench warfare with close combat.
Then comes a quizzical series of events in our church history. While filling the pulpit during Dr. Hyde's vacation in 1914, Dr. G. T. Newcomb died. The next year Dr Nall filled in, and he died that March. It makes one wonder if Dr Hyde was becoming a hard act to follow . . . It seems fitting that the brave man who agreed to fill the pulpit during Dr Hyde's vacation the following year would have a name like Rev. Battle McLester. Did they tell him what had happened the previous two years? The record does not say. Oddly enough, they had chosen a Methodist this time. Were they afraid to risk any more Presbyterians? As it turns out Rev McLester survived the experience. That may have had an influence on his being called as our pastor the following year, 1917. He stayed for nine good years.
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