by Sister Virginia Hildreth
with research by Brother John Stone
When Chattanooga Primitive Baptist Church was constituted, the Chattanooga Terminal Station, later known as the Choo Choo, had been in business for less than a year. This was the decade the United States entered World War I, and many soldiers were trained for the U. S. Cavalry at nearby Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. From 1918 until 1919 the Spanish Influenza plagued Chattanooga so widely that many public gathering places were closed for months.
Amidst these epic historical events our church had its humble beginnings. On May 28, 1910, a little band of Christians gathered to establish a local Primitive Baptist church. The congregation purchased a private dwelling on E. Kent Street in North Chattanooga for its first meeting place, which it papered and painted. Soon they became affiliated with the Sequatchie Valley association of churches, and have sent representatives ever since then to these associational meetings.
During this first decade elders H. L. Golston, R. O. Raulston, A. J. Houk, and H. P. Houk served as pastors. Some baptisms were performed in the Tennessee River near the Walnut Street Bridge and in Dry Valley Road Branch near Valdeau.
In 1917 the church read and endorsed Elder Lee Hanks’ “Peace Proposition” published in the The Primitive Baptist earlier that year. Throughout our history we have desired peace among the brethren and have sought to adhere to the basic biblical principles reflected in our articles of faith.
During the 1920’s Chattanooga Church hosted at least two associational meetings, one in the Billy Sunday Tabernacle, and another in the auditorium of the County Courthouse.
After appointing a committee to find a suitable new building, the church purchased a meetinghouse on E. 12th Street and changed its name from the North Chattanooga Primitive Baptist Church to the Chattanooga Primitive Baptist Church.
Elders R. O. Raulston, A. J. Houk, H. P. Houk, M. A. Hackworth, and W. J. Harwood served as pastors.
On at least one occasion our church service had to be suspended because of the Tennessee River’s flooding. In 1933 the Tennessee Valley Authority was formed to stop the devastating floods that plagued the city. During this time America plunged into the throes of the Great Depression and saw the start of World War II in Europe.
Elders Raulston, Harwood, and H. P. Houk were pastors during most of the 1930’s. In 1938 Elder Raulston, pastor for twenty-eight years, suffered a stroke while preparing to meet Elder Harvey Houk at the train depot. He never spoke again and died a few days later.
Two members joined Chattanooga Church in 1938 during an annual meeting of the Collins River association of churches, and the following year Chattanooga sought to join the Sequatchie Valley and Collins River associations together, an arrangement that lasted several years.
Elders M. M. Morton and W. J. Harwood served as pastors during the decade marked by the Second World War.
In 1940, WAPO radio offered thirty minutes of free air time each morning from April 13th to 19th. Elder C. H. Cayce, visiting from Arkansas, preached several messages that appear to be the first Primitive Baptist radio broadcasts in history.
Brother D. M. Raulston, charter member and church clerk for 43 years, died. He also had served for fifteen years as clerk of the Collins River-Sequatchie Valley associations.
After some deliberation over whether or not to build a new meetinghouse, the church decided instead to remodel its current building on East 12th Street. Extensive renovations took place and the church also purchased new pews.
Elders J. W. Clemmons, Paul Childers, G. M. Birdwell, and Fred Stewart were pastors during the 1950’s.
This decade saw the ordination of Brothers O. D. Young, Douglas Sons, and John Stone as deacons and Richard Martin as elder.
Pastors included elders Martin, H. D. Fulmer, Horace Stewart, Fred Stewart, and Paul Childers. The Sequatchie Valley and Blue Ridge associations consolidated in 1963.
A new kitchen was added to the church building. Brother Robert Hood joined our congregation and was instrumental in finding a lot on Runyan Drive for the construction of a new meetinghouse.
The church proceeded with its plans to erect a new church building. After Brother Hood purchased a contractor’s license, he oversaw the construction of our present Runyan Drive meeting place. One detail he enjoyed was hanging an old riverboat bell he owned in the new spire. He was heard to say, “I think that is a safe place to preserve this old bell.” During the construction period the church met in the Community Church Building in the New England community of Dade County, Georgia.
A dedication service for the new building was held on the fifth weekend of April, 1973, with preaching by Elder Milton Lillard. Sister Mamie Raulston, the last living charter member, died in 1974.
The church voted to trade some land with a neighbor to straighten the property line. Brethren Robert Hood, Fred Benderman, Homer Wilson, and others planted 1,500 pine trees and 300 black walnut trees behind the church building.
Elder Eddy Flick was ordained in 1979. Pastors in this decade included elders Flick, Fred Stewart, Richard Martin, Harold Hunt, and Joe Hildreth.
Final payment was made on the church building and property.
Elders Hildreth, Flick, Martin, and Virgil Herrin served as pastors.
Brother David Peters improved the spring and built a shelter over it. A new roof, with crown and ridge vent, was installed on the meetinghouse.
During the 1990’s Elders Joe Hildreth and Eddy Flick served as pastors. Brothers Homer Wilson and Billy McGhee were ordained as deacons.
Improvements on the building included enlarging the ladies’ restroom, upgrading the sound system, building a handicap ramp, and paving the parking lot.
Home ministers since 2000 have been elders Joe Hildreth, Eddy Flick, and Andrew Huffman. In 2001 Elder Hildreth asked the church to seek another pastor. During the ensuing year the church invited numerous ministers to preach for us. In 2002 Elder J. Andrew Huffman accepted the call to become our pastor. The church has been richly blessed under his leadership.
Building improvements this decade include construction of a downstairs bathroom, a back entrance drive-through shelter, further paving to the parking area, and replacement of the heating and air system.
In recent years we have hosted several singing schools and associational meetings. In October of 2005 we held a special meeting to observe Elder Hildreth’s 50th year in the gospel ministry.
In July 2008, brethren Jim Peace and James Hindman were ordained as deacons.
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“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us
and establish thou the work of our hands upon us;
yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”
— Psalm 90:17