Thursday, November 20, 2008

Northcutts Cove Chapel

When missionaries approached John Tipton he turned them away. But before they left one of the Elders dusted off his shoes. John’s wife noticed what had happened and insisted that they hear what the Missionaries had to say. The next day he invited the missionaries in and was later, baptized into the Church. By 1896, several families in what is now called Northcutts' Cove, joined the LDS Church.
They originally met in members homes, but it didn't take them long to decide they needed a chapel in which to meet. Accordingly they formed a committee: John Tipton, Bill Tanner, Reuben Smartt, Henry Smartt, and Beecher Smartt. The land was donated by John and Belle Tipton and built by the donated labor, both of the members of the branch, non-members and missionaries.
Henry Smartt and Albert Fults made the wooden benches for the seating (see photo). The chapel was dedicated on October 24, 1909 by Charles A. Callis. Though regular services are not held there today, it is still in use for special occasions, such as the annual Easter service. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 18 April 1979.
The Northcutts Cove Chapel of is located just north of Altamont, in Grundy County, Tennessee. It sits at the top of the Cumberland plateau.
It served as the headquarters for the Eastern Tennessee Conference. (Missions used to be divided into conferences) It was the site of a three day debate (24-26 Oct 1909) between Charles A. Callis and Reverend Mansfield a Church of Christ (Campbellite) minister. This little church is believed to be the oldest existing chapel of the LDS Church in the southeastern United States.
The location of the Chapel is quite rural, due to the practice of proselyting outside urban areas. Originally this was done to avoid the organized persecution that was known to happen in cities. In truth, persecution was just as organized and virulant in rural areas as it had been in urban areas. The Cane Creek Massacre is the most tragic example of this.
As of 2000, Grundy county has the highest percent of LDS Church members of any other county in Tennessee. Just over 2%, which is almost 5 times the state average of just over 0.4%. By way of comparison, California's statewide average for the same period was 1.5%


Jon W. said...

That is a really interesting story. Lovely building by the way.

BruceC said...

Yeah, I wonder if I could convince my wife that we should go there for Easter services.

Steve C. said...

Great post. I'm glad that the chapel has been preserved for all these years.

Orson Adams said...

I am sorry to let you know the oldest existing standing Mormon Church was built between July and August of 1907. The first sermon was preached by Elder Nephi Jensen in latter part of August.Look in the Smithstonian Institute magazine and you will see the oldest Mormon Church.

Orson Adams said...


LeVa said...

The church was actually built much earlier than that, it is believed, in the spring of 1906. It was dedicated in 1909 because that was the soonest they could get someone with the authority and knowledge of how to dedicate it to come. Also the chapel is not on top of the plateau.. It is at the base of the mtn in a valley.. hence the name.. Northcutt's Cove. My great- grandparents are the Tiptons and the Smartts mentioned in your article. Thank you for your work on this piece.

LeVa said...

BTW at one time there was a picture of the Northcutts Cove chapel in a visitors center in Salt Lake, with it listed as the oldest surviving chapel east of the Mississippi.