By Jane Harrell
Many members of Mineral Springs United Methodist Church like to refer to it as “my little church.”
But with information furnished by church historian, Joan Griggs, it is a history-lover’s dream, according to Ellen Thompson, president of the Whitfield Murray Historical Society, and Civil War historian Marvin Sowder.
The church will be celebrating its 150th anniversary at homecoming on July 15, 2012. It is believed to be one of the oldest churches in Whitfield County having continuous services.
It all began on July 11, 1862, when the Rev. Harvey McHan came from North Carolina and bought 20 acres from Smith Treadwell. The property was originally a parcel of land “designated as part of originally Cherokee and Murray counties, but now is in the twelfth district of Whitfield County.” McHan set aside one acre of land for a church, with access for Treadwell to the spring pond. This one-acre could never be used for anything other than for a church.
The spring pond is not on the acre where the church is located. Mineral Springs was thought to have medicinal properties by the Cherokees. Its exact location is unknown.
The original church was a hand-hewn log building. The church served as a school on weekdays, and as a church on Sunday. The baptists from Pine Grove met on Sunday mornings and the methodists from Mineral Springs on Sunday nights. Many of the same people attended both services. The church was on Pine Grove Road, later known as Brown Bridge Road, which today is Airport Road.
Many early baptists from the Pine Grove area are buried in the old cemetery at Mineral Springs United Methodist Church since it was the only cemetery at the time. There is a continued and lengthy bond between the baptists and the methodists in the area. Pine Grove Baptist Church is a short distance north of Mineral Springs Methodist Church. The oldest marked grave in Mineral Springs Cemetery is 1880, but it is believed that earlier graves exist that were marked with wooden headboards, which would have rotted, or stones that have been overgrown with vegetation or the information weathered away.One marker is for Charles Lafayette Parker, born March 31, 1860, and died Aug.16, 1917. On his headstone is a tomahawk with the letters “TOTE.” He is listed as a member of the Comanche Tribe No. 6.
The Pine Grove Baptist Church was built in 1896. Since the Mineral Springs church building was getting old, the school was moved to the new, one-room Pine Grove Baptist Church.
The present Mineral Springs Church building was erected in 1924. It continued to grow, adding water for restrooms and other purposes. In 1880, Mr. T. S. Mullins built a pulpit for Mineral Springs. A new pulpit was donated in 1972, and the old pulpit was given to the old Spring Place Methodist Church in Murray County. A large cross was hung behind the choir loft and is still there. A covered pavilion in back of the church is used for picnics and church gatherings. Over the years many additions to the church have been made: a kitchen, children’s Sunday school room, library and offices.
Before the church had electric heat, a large wood burning heater sat in the middle of the church for warmth. The pews were made of slats of wood and gas lanterns provided light.
In 1997 three white metal crosses were erected in the cemetery and dedicated to the memory of Bob Osborn, Jim Blankenship and everyone buried in the cemetery. The largest cross is approximately 25 feet tall and the other two about 20 feet tall. The first grave in the cemetery was that of a one-year-old boy who had been shot. No one seems to know who donated it to the cemetery or who the boy was. There is also a woman’s arm buried in the cemetery. She was accidentally shot by a man she was dating and she wanted her arm buried on the church grounds. Her body is somewhere else in the cemetery, but no one knows her name or locations of her arm or remains. According to longtime member Sarah Rogers, “We have to be careful where we dig.”
There are many indentations in the cemetery that were probably graves. There are still two wooden crosses marking graves, some blank stones, stones with one letter and many markers that time has wiped away their inscriptions.
The current pastor is the Rev. Gordon Delashmitt, who with his wife, Cathy, and music director Larry Gibson are involved in the music department at the church. Gibson is one of very few music ministers who also play the bagpipes.
Mineral Springs United Methodist Church has Sunday school at 10 a.m., Sunday worship at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., Wednesday night services and many other activities for its 95 members.
It may by “their little church,” but it has a rich heritage and a big future.