1917 - 1926
FIRST GROWTH PERIOD UNDER MCLESTER
During 1917, McLester's first year of ministry here, a Ford car was ordered for him but he considered it a needless expense, and the order was cancelled. The automobile has finally come to the mountain, only to be rejected.
The first years of this century had been lean ones for our little church, which stood at only 81 members when Rev McLester came and offerings of $3,000. But the faithfulness and persistence of these women's groups and their prayers were rewarded, in that - of the twenty-eight men from our church who went off to fight in World War I - not one was killed or injured. There was great thankfulness for God's mercy in the Memorial Service of November 11, 1920. And now brighter days lay ahead.
To Rev's McLester's considerable credit, in 1920 the ladies organizations finally combined to become part of the Auxiliary Plan as adopted by the whole church . . . but the Ladies Aid manse fund of $500 was not entrusted to the new auxiliary. It was kept in a separate account for years.
1920 was a special year for other reasons. Still with us today is Irvin Hunt Barrows who became member number 136 on January 4th of that year. God also brought to our church, on January 18, J. Edmondson Smartt and wife Mary Read Smartt by letter of transfer. Mary was the daughter of Sam Read, a donor of the church lot in 1892. Later to be affectionately called "Mom Smartt" by everyone, she wrote the fifty-year history and finally went home to the Lord at age one hundred in 1988 after sixty-eight years of membership. She was the best evangelist ever in our church, the only conceivable nominee for "mother" of our church. Edmond and Mary Smartt were the parents of present member John Smartt and pastor Kennedy Smartt who helped establish the PCA.
He must have been well regarded for the minutes of the February 8, 1920 deacons meeting record that Deacon Smartt successfully proposed that our church begin sponsoring a Boy Scouts of America Troop (#22), which tradition continues today. Impressively, he even succeeded in getting three other deacons appointed to oversee the project! Of course he, too, gave great attention to the Boy Scouts over the years.
In April, 1920, the church had grown to 106 members with 189 in Sunday School. The next year the church held three Go-To-Church Sundays during the summer and over 300 attended each time.
Rev McLester compiled by far the best legacy of any pastor so far, spanning the War years and then better times. He was also a hard worker. After five years they had to force Rev McLester to take his first vacation, a three-month rest, after which he served four more years without rest or break.
In December, 1923 Battle McLester preached a powerful hell, fire and damnation sermon. The Spirit moved young John E. Smartt, Jr. such that the next week, he became our 245th member and his buddy Bob Chambliss joined with him. This verbal synopsis does not permit us to cover all significant families of the early 1900's but the John Chambliss family was one of several others that played a major role. They had talked it over out in the woods that week and firmly decided they did not want to spend eternity in the place Rev McLester had depicted to well.
We should note here that this was, until 1929, the community church and all its members were not Presbyterians. In fact Rev. McLester was a Methodist minister - and he made quite a good showing at that.
The church was active in its outreach. In June 1924 as the summer families moved up, the session divided the mountain into sections and every white person on the mountain was invited to attend. Getting crowded is always a good problem for a church to face, and plans were submitted for a new building, but nothing "concrete" happened just yet.
What happened instead was that after nine years, the longest yet, Rev McLester resigned. During his pastorate there were added 141 new members, of which 67 were by profession of faith and 20 by adult baptism. Total membership had grown from 81 to 177, with 113 in the Sunday School.
With the transition to Dr. Harris Gregg in 1926 the building plans were delayed further, but he was credited as a consecrated man, a scholar and a teacher of the Bible who converted some outstanding Christians on the mountain and in Chattanooga.
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