Chapel on the Hill
One of the recent projects of the South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society Inc. is the ongoing restoration of the old Primitive Baptist Church building on Clute’s Hill. This beautiful century + old hand-hewn sandstone building is located at the corner of Elm Avenue and Eighth Street.
The history of this unique structure has its beginnings on November 20, 1886 when a small group of members of the Primitive Baptist faith held a worship service in a frame schoolhouse located at the corner of Cedar Avenue and Fifth Street in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. During this service, a church covenant was signed by those present for the establishment of a permanent church within the city. Formerly associated with the Primitive Baptist Churches in Sweeten’s Cove and Jasper, both within Marion County as is South Pittsburg, these members had letters of good standing written from those churches.
In 1888, Angus McRae, a contractor from Sewanee, Tennessee, was hired by Mr. Owen Russell Beene to begin construction of a suitable house of worship for the Primitive Baptist at South Pittsburg. The new structure, which was to be constructed of sandstone blocks quarried at Sewanee and brought to the site by horse-drawn wagons, was to occupy a section of land owned by Mr. Beene near the old Gunter Cemetery on Clute’s Hill.
By the spring of 1889, the construction of the church building was completed and ready for worship. On May 17th, for the sum of $1.00, Mr. Beene transferred ownership of the church building and property to the church’s trustees. Messrs. W.O. Patton, Angus McRae, and J.C. Beene were the trustees who accepted this deed with one restriction. It stated that “if the trustees or successors fail to maintain the church organization for a period of five (5) years at any one time, then the sale and the conveyance shall be null and void and said premises shall revert to the vendor, heirs or assignees.”
The building continued to be a place of regular worship for the Primitive Baptist for 90 years and was only interrupted once when, in 1954, a fire destroyed the roof and the frame bell tower. With the exception of the bell tower, the stone church building’s roof was rebuilt and regular worship services once again commenced within the building.
In 1979, due to a declining membership, the Primitive Baptist Church at South Pittsburg ended its regularly scheduled services within the historic building. And, in so doing, ownership of the building and property reverted back to the heirs of the late Owen Russell Beene as stipulated in the restriction he attached to the original deed to transfer ownership to the church.
In 2001, in an effort to preserve the old church building, heirs to Mr. Beene transferred ownership of the building to the City of South Pittsburg. The structure has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the South Pittsburg Historic District. Since that time the South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society Inc., working with the city, is restoring the church building, which is near completion.
Renamed the Chapel on the Hill, the work on the rustic stone structure is progressing through donations, grants from the Marion Natural Gas System and the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, fundraisers, and in-kind assistance by the students of the nearby South Pittsburg High School. With the installation of a heating & air conditioning system, the Chapel on the Hill is now available for weddings, receptions, family reunions, award ceremonies, and the like. All funds generated from the rental of the building will be put into a maintenance fund for the building.
In an effort to generate additional maintenance funds, the Society has begun naming in honor of individuals the windows and pews in the Chapel for donations of $500 per pew and $2000 per window. A brass plaque denoting the individual will be placed on the selected pew or window once the donation is made. Donations may also be made in installments instead of one large payment. If interested in having a window or pew named in remembrance of a person either living or deceased or you are interested in renting the Chapel for your event you may do so by contacting the Society at: [email protected]
Windows named with inscribed brass plaque are as follows:
Prof. J. B. & Grace Dean Havron
Joe Ray & Juanita Wilson
George & Elizabeth McConnell
South Pittsburg Municipal Hospital Doctors - Viston Taylor, Russ Adcox, Jimmy Havron, Bill Headrick, Gene Ryan & John Hackworth
Mary Agnus Riggle Gentry & Ab Hembree Gentry
Lot Henry Warren
Owen Russell Beene
Descendants of Owen Russell Beene
Lodge & Kellermann Families
Pews named with inscribed plaque are as follows:
Pew #1 - In Honor of Mary Jane & Jere R. Brown
Pew #2 - Helen F. Clay
Pew #3 - Memory of Mary Lou Beene Peek
George Lemuel Beene
& Jessie Carlock Beene
Pew #4 - Children of John Wiseman & Mary Luisa Beene Peek
Mary Etta Pulis
Jessie Lorene Walters
Inez Joyce Lehman
Evelyn Ruth Haynie
Helen Marie Tills
Pew #5 - Charles Russell & Sadie Z. Peek
Joyce P. Lysne
Charlene P. Warren
William Anthony & Helen Marie Peek Tills
Debbie Marie Covey
Bonnie Marie Tills
Sherrie Marie Lavery
William Anthony Tills, Jr.
Hollie Marie Carey
Vickie Marie Lehmann Kirner
Pew #6 - In Memory Of William H. Clay Jr. & Agnes C. Clay
Mattie C. Beene
W. Ed Clay
Addie C. Gross
Harvey P. Clay & Fannie T. Clay
H. Bernard Clay
W. Frederick Clay
Creston T. Clay
Pew #7 - In Memory of Mary Lou Beene Peek
Wife of John W. Peek
Daughter of George Lemuel Beene & Jessie Carlock Beene
Evelyn Ruth Peek and Husband Fletcher Haynie
And niece Joyce Peek Lysne
In Memory of David F. Haynie
In Honor of Darrell W. Haynie and Charlotte L. Haynie Mattox