Lawson’s Chapel United Methodist Church is another local church forced to move to higher ground with the arrival of TVA and the building of Douglas Dam.
Now located at 2722 Indian Creek Road, Dandridge, Lawson’s Chapel traces its history to a one-room log cabin atop a hill on the Swannsylvania Road. Oral history says a family in the area were attacked and killed by Indians as they made their way to church.
A new building was erected on Indian Creek Road about two miles south of the original structure with Harry Vance of Dandridge as the contractor. The time was 1902-1905.
High ceilings, typical of the era, were a feature, as was a vacant space in the middle of the room where a big round stove was erected during the winter to provide heat. Large, stained-glass windows were also installed.
In 1942, when Douglas Dam began flooding the bottom lands along Indian Creek, the resulting backwaters threatened to prevent worshipers from getting to church.
Lawson’s Chapel was then moved to its present site on a hill belonging to the John Lichlyter family and adjacent to the Lichlyter Cemetery. During this time, TVA also moved some graves, including those of Jacob and Deborah (Lichlyter) Denton, from their original location to this graveyard.
The coming of TVA also brought electrical power to East Tennessee and many churches, which had long relied on the traditional pot-bellied stoves for heat and kerosene lamps for light, quickly converted to the modern utilities.
Over the years, the “new” oil-burning stove was replaced by electric heaters, which, in turn, gave way to a heat pump and to today’s gas heating and air unit.
From 1970 to 1984, many changes affected the building’s looks, both interior and exterior. Paneling was installed, the floors sanded and stained, carpet placed in the foyer, aisles, and stage, padded pews added, and opaque glass replaced the broken original stained glass.
However, three sections of the original windows were kept in the foyer as reminders of the church’s history.
Three Sunday School rooms and two bathrooms were built by church members, who also purchased a new piano, sound system, and sanctuary furniture.
Outside projects included a new roof, steeple, vinyl siding, a new front entrance and steps, and a covered pavilion for outdoor gatherings. The driveway and parking areas were paved, with all improvements made by church members and paid for by memorial donations.