Holder’s Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Cosby dates to shortly after the Civil War. It is located at the junction of Jones Cove Road (Hwy. 339) and Holders Grove Road.
The church was established on December 1, 1874 and was to be known as White Baptist Church of Christ.
The building was used by both Baptist and Methodist congregations in its earliest years. Later the Methodists established themselves as White Chapel Methodist Church and later evolved into Large’s Chapel Methodist Church.
Preaching points on the Newport Circuit for 1853-1863 included Caton’s Grove, Butler’s School House (later Jenkins Chapel), Pleasant Valley, and White or Wyatt Moore.
An undated list of those contributing to a fund to build a church building includes the names of both nearby residents and others living as far away as Newport.
For example, Cosby residents David R. Shults gave $50, and Robert Dennis and D. C. each donated $25. Attorneys W. W. Langhorne and James Randolph, both of whom lived in Newport, each gave $5. Thomas Caton, himself a Methodist minister, also gave a $5 donation.
It is interesting to note that “Red” (Redmon) McMahan and Robert McMahan each gave $100. Robert McMahan died January 7, 1891, so this helps date the list somewhat.
On December 3, 1890, church members appointed the following men as a committee to arrange for either “repairing or building a church house”: D. C. Waters, John Lillard, Redmon McMahan, B. A. Proffitt, and F. M. Ragan.
Oral tradition in the McMahan-Holder family says that the White Church building was destroyed by a severe storm, and the members held their services in Chavis School on property owned by John Holder and his wife, Jane (Dennis) Holder.
Redmon McMahan donated the wood to build the church, and John Fancher sawed the lumber. L. L. Cline was the builder, with Sam McMahan, Scott Holder, and others helping.
An inscription on the back of the pulpit reads, “Whenever you see this/Remember me: Sam McMahan and Jr ??, Sam McMahan, helper; Scott Holder, helper; L. L. Cline, builder of this thing and house.”
By 1913, a decision was reached for each denomination to have their own meeting place. According to church minutes, on February 15, 1913, the Baptists “recently sold their interest in the old church (White) and erected a new building.” This structure, built near the home of John Holder, was about a half mile from “the old place of worship.”
Meeting in a called session, the congregation voted to change the name of the church from White Church to Holders Grove Baptist Church. They then adjourned to meet at Chavis School because the new building wasn’t ready for “holding services.”
The first meeting in the newly-named Holders Grove Baptist Church occurred on March 1, 1913, and a dedication service followed on May 3.
John and Jane Holder deeded the property to the church trustees, F. M. Ragan, D. C. Hicks, and M. L. Cureton, on that date. The original church was a one-room building with a belfry and porch. It had a wood stove for heating and one kerosene lamp.
In earlier years, the church bell was rung thirty minutes before services began. Today the bell is rung at the beginning of each service.
Long ago the church was tolled to alert the community of a death by hitting one side of the bell with the clapper. The number of tolls indicated the age of the deceased.
If the bell was rung at times other than church services, it was an indication that something was wrong in the community, and people hurried to the church to learn what was amiss.
During World War II, the church minutes reflect the pride the church members felt for local young men called away to service.
On April 19, 1942, a special offering was taken for the War Emergency Fund, and on October 4, 1942, according to the church minutes, “It was agreed to buy pocket quarterlies for the boys of our community who are in service. Also a wall chart for their names.”
During that meeting, nominations committee recommended G. B. McMahan be elected as Superintendent and Robert Evans as Assistant Superintendent. This same committee “was asked to draft resolutions concerning M. L. Cureton, Jr., who was our Superintendent until called into the service of our country.”
On November 1, 1942, Gordon McMahan, Mrs. R. H. Proffitt, and G. B. McMahan were appointed to “place the names of soldiers from our community on the honor roll.”
Rev. Will Weaver was pastor at the time.
Women have played an active roll of leadership in Holder’s Grove for many years. In 1923, Miss Gordon McMahan was named delegate to the East Tennessee Baptist Association meeting. In 1924, Mrs. J. M. Waters, Mrs. B. A. Proffitt, and Mrs. Charles Allen were delegates, and in 1925, Eva Cureton and Mrs. J. M. Waters were delegates.
Throughout the years, women have taught Sunday School, played the piano, sung special musical numbers, and directed Vacation Bible Schools.
Music has been important in the church, too. On January 5, 1941, the Matthews sisters—Sammie, Lillian, Elsie, and Naomi—accompanied by Juanita Evans, sang two special numbers in celebration of the church’s first piano.
Prior to the acquisition of a piano, the song leader used a tuning fork to “get the pitch” or key to a song. Singers used the Stamp-Baxter songbook, and when a new song was tried, the song leader usually had the congregation to “sing the notes.”
A special yearly event came when the church held “all-day singings with dinner on the ground.” Sometimes Holder’s Grove hosted the Smoky Mountain Singing Convention.
Like all churches, Holder’s Grove has seen members answer God’s call to share the Word. On April 27, 1895, the church “gave Sister S. A. Bryant the privilege of “Exersing” in public.” Apparently this is a reference to “exhorting” or preaching.
On April 4, 1914, “Brother Gerome Hicks” was granted the “privilage (sic) and liberty of exsigning in public. May God’s richest blessing rest upon him and may he be instramental (sic) in his hand of accomplishing much good.”
Hicks was ordained for the ministry on August 23, 1914.
Then on July 31, 1915, the church “Granted Bro. Bruce Layman the privilage of Exsizing in public,” and on September 14, 1915, “Granted Bro. Bruce Layman the recommendation to the trustees of Cosby Academy School, feeling he is Impressed that he is called to the Ministry and wasn’t to prepair (sic) for that calling.”
Many improvements have been made including the addition of Sunday School rooms, the evolution from wood to coal to electric and finally to gas heating, the installation of electric lights, air-conditioning, carpeting, and vinyl siding, the digging of a well and the building of restrooms, the addition of a baptistery, new church furniture with padded pews, a finished basement, a fellowship hall, and a paved parking lot.
Rev. Randall Freeman is the current pastor. All are invited to worship at Holder’s Grove.