Ottway Church History

Timeline of Ottway United Methodist Church




Abraham Carter represented Carter’s Station at Albany at Methodist Episcopal Church, South Quarterly Conference and had his exhorter’s license renewed.



The Methodist Episcopal Church (North) was reorganized in the Holston Conference

July 1871

Thomas and Martha Carter deeded ¾ acre to Abram Carter, Harvy Kenney, Thomas N. Sayler, J. K. P. Sayler and B. Carter, Trustees for a school and for religious purposes.

Aug. 12, 1879

Ruhamah Deed was registered


Abraham Carter created the first membership roll for Ruhamah M. E. Church.  It was on the St. Clair Circuit, and Moses Seaton was the pastor.  There were 54 members. Abraham Carter was the Sunday school superintendent.


Ruhamah M. E. Church was transferred to the Oakland (Baileyton) Circuit with J. M. Bales as preacher.

Feb. 7, 1890

Abraham Carter died at the age of 72.


Dr. J. J. Rankin deeded 0.46 acre of land across from Ottway College to the trustees of the M. E. Church at Ottway.  They were Amos Harrison, James B. Gass, Tom J. Gass, James O. Young, John H. Davis, D. Martin Harmon, and J. A. Morrison.

Nov. 12, 1893

Carter’s Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated by Bishop Thomas C. Carter (no relation to Greene County Carters).

1909 - 1939

Carter’s Memorial M. E. Church was assigned to Mosheim Circuit

Early 1930’s

The Women’s Society of Christian Service and the Epworth League were organized.  A two week long Vacation Bible School was begun.


Unification of the Methodist Episcopal Church and M. E. Church, South.

1939 - 1965

Carter’s Memorial was assigned to Mosheim Parish. (It usually had 5 churches)

Oct 16, 1958

Ground breaking for a new church building was begun by Rev. S.T. Emmitt.


Church was held at Ottway High School.

June 26, 1960

First service in the new sanctuary was conducted by Rev. Woodrow Banks.


Methodist Youth Fellowship was organized with about 30 members.

April 7, 1963

Ottway Methodist Church was dedicated by District Superintendent W. L. Pickering.  The building was debt free.


Ottway Methodist Church was assigned to the Greeneville Circuit (3 churches).


Unification of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, thus we are now the Ottway United Methodist Church.


Ottway became a church with its own part-time pastor.

Aug. 12, 2007

First time in the history of Ottway Church that there was not a Sunday school class held in the sanctuary.

Oct. 28, 2007

Fellowship Hall was dedicated by District Superintendent Micky Rainwater.

History of the Ottway United Methodist Church - by Della Justis and Glenna Casteel


In July 1983 the Greeneville Circuit of the United Methodist Church (Hardins, Ottway, and Bales Chapel) combined for a Sunday of worship commemorating Greene County’s 200th anniversary.  Della Justis grew up in the Ottway Church and taught at Ottway for over 40 years.  She was a lay speaker and official church historian.  Her ability to poke fun and be serious at the same time was a great gift.  I want to give you Del’s rendition of the history of the church.  Sit back and enjoy the fun.


Del begins:  As a member of the host congregation, I would like to say that we are very glad to have all of you.  This is more people than I have ever seen in this church before.  (Rev. Greg Garland had announced that there had been 218 attending Sunday school.)  We usually look like a snaggle toothed hen, a few here and there.  Our Sunday school lesson, I guess everyone studied the same thing, was about Jethro and his zeal.  Now this situation was put together with a lot of zeal and a lot of wisdom.  I don’t think it turned out like the elephant which strayed into the barnyard and saw the hen sitting on her egg.  He was very enthusiastic about the whole thing, so he thought he would help her out.  He offered to set on her egg awhile.  When he did it was a disaster.  That was without wisdom.  He had the zeal, but not the wisdom.  Now after that, I will tell you about the Ottway Church.


There are a lot of things about this church that we don’t know about.  I found out some things this morning that I didn’t know about that I should have.  Too often the history of a community has been lost because those who made history left no written records, and time has a way of erasing or distorting the events that took place in the past.  Those who come in the following generations wonder what happened before they got here.


It is a fact that someone in our community was interested enough in the religious growth in our little community, or we would not be here this morning.  No one here—is there anyone here who was here at the first meeting?—I’m sure you are not able to lift your hand if you were.  No one is here who would remember that first get together.  The following is a very brief history of the Ottway Methodist Church.  Some of it has been handed down by word of mouth and part of it has been taken from the written records.


About 1870 the first known church in our community was conducted in a sheep shed—a sheep barn.  Now that isn’t so strange when you come to think about it because in this area, a long time ago there were a lot of sheep raised here.  I remember when Rome Graham had sheep and different people had sheep.  I guess a lot of times the sheep barn might have been better than the house they lived in.  So, I thought that was very clever of them—using the sheep barn for a church.  Now Mr. Bruce Graham was the one who told me this.  Some of his ancestors had handed it down to him. 


Now, I presume that the sheep were driven out, the place was sort of cleaned up, and the services were conducted.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the sheep were very unhappy when Sunday came around.  I really don’t know if the sheep complained so much as those who attended the church service.  The congregation decided that it would be better to have a building more in keeping with their religious condition.  Now the Lord can hear you in a sheep barn as well as a cathedral so don’t worry about where you are praying, because He can hear you anywhere.  Education and religion down through our history, particularly in Tennessee, and I guess in some of the other states, have gone hand in hand.  A very sturdy log cabin was built to serve the community as a place of worship and a place to go to school.  Now, this school/church was called Ruhamah or Ruhamey be the locals.  I always wondered where they got the name Ruhamey, because, as far as I know, no one in this community was ever called Ruhamey.  But, it is a Biblical name from Hosea chapter one.  It comes from the Bible, and whoever named it that had to dig pretty deep.  By the way, Mrs. Naomi Solomon told me that her grandmother taught school at Ruhamey.  I didn’t know that until yesterday.


Now this log cabin was built by a large spring which has long sense dried up.  The location of Ruhamey was right out here before you turn to the right on the Billy Bible road.  It was on the left on the side of the hill next to the woods.  They kept that location for about 20 years.


People realized that they had outgrown their log cabin situation, and a lot of progress had taken place in this little community.  A better school had been built, the Ottway College.  It was a very progressive, prominent college or school at that time.  To keep up with this progressive entry into the community, plans for a new church began to take place.  Land was bought, this land right here, from Dr. J. J. Rankin.  By the way, we have right here Dr. Rankin’s daughter with us today, Nic Rankin.  It was bought for $100.This is on the record in town.  It is in the court house—one acre.  This church sits almost on the same spot as where the first one sat.  Nic Rankin says that the land was actually donated to the church.


Construction of the church was an enterprise typical of this community.  Mr. Bruce Graham told me about this.  He was a little boy at the time, and he was here when they moved in the saws, the saw mill, and planing mill.  He said he remembered hearing the sound of the saw mill and the planing mill up and down the valley.


Some of the people who were on this building committee were A. J. Harrison—some of them I know and some I didn’t—I didn’t know him, Mr. J. O. Young, Thomas Gass, Harvey Carter, and George A. Graham.  This church was called Carter’s Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church.  It was dedicated by T. C. Carter the second Sunday of November, 1893.  Clarence Young told me this morning that Mr. Buck Carter—I don’t know who he is—I’m half Carter, but I don’t know who he was—was the first Superintendent of this church.  And, I don’t know who T. C. Carter is either.  I should do a little research.


This church was considered a very up-to-the-minute structure in its day, but there comes a time when everything has fulfilled its purpose, and the old must be replaced by something more appropriate for the times.  Now we come up to the time, December 29, 1957, under the leadership of Rev. S. T. Emmitt.  We thank the Lord for Preacher Emmitt—you all remember him.  I said the Lord sent Preacher Emmitt to build this church because a man of weaker passion would have quit long before he started.  He was a good businessman, he knew what he was doing, and he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.  Every time something very discouraging would happen, he would just brush it off and go on. 


All the plans were made for a new church.  On October 16, 1958, the ground breaking was held.  Notice these dates because they do have a little significance to the story.  We began planning in 1957, we broke the ground in 1958, and in May of 1960 the first services were held in the basement.  Preacher Emmitt got his wheel barrow and cleaned it out so could set chairs around and have our church service.  The pews, those that you are sitting in, hadn’t arrived yet.  Twenty-three years ago last Sunday, which was the 26th of June, the first meeting in the sanctuary took place with Rev. Woodrow Banks as the pastor.


Now from 1957 to 1960 might seem a long time to build a church.  I wish you would keep in mind that this church was paid for as we went.  We wouldn’t call this a very affluent community.  A very small amount of money was borrowed—I  think $1,000 for a very short period of time—was the only money we borrowed.  It was paid for as we went.  Mr. Jim Solomon gave the land over here on the right where the old college dormitory stood.  He gave that land which made our lot much bigger.  The pews of the church were donated or given in memory or honor of someone.


Then, on April 7, 1963, the church was dedicated.  At that time W. L. Pickering was District Superintendent and Woodrow Banks was pastor.  Now the Ottway Methodist Church was at one time on the Mosheim Circuit.  We are very happy, I don’t know how you all feel at Hardins, but we are very happy to be part of your circuit.


Some of the pastors who have served this church in the past were A. A. Newman, W. O. Briley, Jake Reed, Willis Johnson, Frank C. Mason, Woodrow Banks, S. T. Emmitt, Alden W. Nichols, C. T. Beasley, I. G. Crowder, W. C. Winslow, and John Lindy.  That is not all of them.  And what’s his name back there, (motioning toward Rev. Greg Garland).


I would like to close with this:  Territory is but the body of a nation.  The people who inhabit its hills and valleys are its soul, its spirit, and its life.