The third church that we visited on the Cades Cove Loop Road was the Primitive Baptist Church. Park Ranger Tom Harrington (left, seated) presented an informative history of the role of this church in the life of the Cove. The Church was described as the “invisible government.” Its values and its sense of helping anyone in need provided a structure for the community and a strong sense of belonging for its members.
The metal plate in the floor (in the photo above) was the location of the pot-bellied stove. The plate in the ceiling marked the location of the chimney. Tom noted that the placement of the stove in the front of the church insured that the members would fill up the front first.
The women and girls who were members of the Church sat on the left of the front; boys under 12 sat on the left side, also. Men and boys 12 and older sat on the right. Women who were not members and men who were not members sat on the left and right sides of the congregation, respectively. Services were held once a month and lasted for 3-4 hours.
The congregation was formed in 1827, and this church was built in 1887. It was built using pine that was green, so as the men worked with the wood, the sap and the oils on their hands combined to leave fingerprints in some places. One of these fingerprints can be seen in the top center of the photograph (above) of a board in the ceiling. (You may need to click on the photo to enlarge it.)
The name Primitive Baptist became popular in the early 1800s when the term primitive conveyed the idea of originality rather than backwardness. Accordingly, Primitive Baptists claim to maintain the doctrines and practices of the original Baptists, who are claimed to be the New Testament church. From our viewpoint, it would seem more descriptive to use the spelling with an "a" ("Primative") and to use the pronunciation with a long "i" (as in primary) to emphasize the idea of originality or simplicity. (We have only seen one spelling with the "a" in information brochures.) The description of the practices and community connectedness reminded us of the Amish.
During the Civil War, church services were suspended. They opposed the secession of the South and were subjected to attacks by their neighbors. The cemetery behind the church has the grave of elder (the Church leader) Russell Gregory. His tombstone states that he was "Murdered by North Carolina Rebels".
We also had a brief introduction to Shape-Note Singing, but this will be a subject for another day.
It was noon on a beautiful day as we left the Church and opted to take the one-lane Rich Mountain Road from the Cades Cove Loop Road to Townsend. It was a gravel road, but it was listed as an optional way out of the Park. And we were not in any hurry. (Good thing, too. We later learned that the road followed an old Indian trace carved out in 1820.)
Seventy minutes later we completed the one-lane portion of Rich Mountain Road (right). This portion was about 7 miles long and was described in a hiking guide book as “curving more times than a black snake climbing a tree.” Much of it was gravel . . . then dirt, with ruts and rocks.
We then entered the final two-mile, two-lane stretch coming down the mountain (left). Notice how much wider this was than the one-lane road in the previous photo!
I may need to purchase a topographical map.