Religion came to Knox County with the pioneers who made the earliest settlements in this region, and the Presbyterian Church came with the Scotch-Irish settlers who migrated mostly from Rockbridge County, Virginia.
In 1802, Rev. Samuel Carrick, who was the president of Blount College (which later became the University of Tennessee), organized “sundry inhabitants of Upper Grassy Valley” into a church which they gave the name of Washington. It was one of the earliest churches in the area. The name, Washington, was chosen in honor of George Washington, who had just recently passed away .
Rev. Isaac Anderson was examined, ordained, and installed as Washington’s first pastor. Rev. Anderson established Union Academy nearby which seventeen years later moved and became Maryville College. He was the president of the college for thirty-eight years.
Through the years, the church has had four buildings. The first was a log cabin. The second was a 30’ x 40’ brick building which was built about 1830. It is said that the bricks were made by a slave who is buried in the Church Cemetery.
In 1874, a dignified frame building of 36’ x 72’ was built. This was gradually added to so that it had Sunday School rooms and other conveniences which served the congregation well. During the winter of 1952-1953, a brick manse was built and the services of a full time minister were secured. On Sunday afternoon, July 17, 1960, the old frame building burned to the ground. Nothing was saved except the old church bell.
However, under the leadership of Pastor Paul McNiel, the downhearted group answered the question, “What can we do?” With sacrifice and work on the part of the members and assistance from many friends, the present building was constructed. It was dedicated on October 22, 1961.
Being one of the first churches, Washington, to a certain extent, has been the parent of several other Presbyterian churches in the area. Members have gone to and even helped to organize churches as population increased. During the years, it has served well in both Presbyterian and other constructive areas of service.
On September 7, 2002, Washington Church celebrated its bicentennial birthday. Our mission continues to be the same– to be a beacon of light and a reflector of God’s love into our congregation and community.
The congregation of Washington Presbyterian has 200 plus years’ heritage of faith. We want to continue to grow in that faith so that the next 200 years will be as great a Christian legacy as the past. We have faith that God will lead us in our plans for expanding our facilities, in our membership growth, and in our work for missions near and far. Washington Presbyterian Church has been richly blessed. Praise be to God!
The Church Building 1874-1960