Our Church History

The history of this church is rich, and perhaps it is best to begin by first focusing one's attention on the large Bible that rests on a pedestal in the Pastor's office. Turn to the front of its cover and you will see that it was given to The Mossy Creek Presbyterian Church in 1871, by Richard Bradshaw, who was a charter member. It was, most likely, used on the day when the church was dedicated. Turn back the front cover and you will see that this Bible was printed by The American Bible Society in 1869, the year in which the foundation and first walls of the church were built. Today, The First Presbyterian Church of Jefferson City,TN, stands as the oldest building in town.

Now consider, the year is 1788, Cherokee Indians freely roam the hills south and west of the mountains swathed in blue smoke. The Revolutionary War has just come to a victorious end. George Washington has not as yet been inaugurated as the first president. Tennessee is still part of North Carolina - Watauga Country.

A flat boat slips quietly down Holston River and bumps ashore at a place that would be called Mossy Creek. Aboard the flat boat are Adam and Elizabeth Sharkey Peck, their children, their slaves and their belongings. Within a year after their arrival, it is reported that Elizabeth, with the help of her children and slaves, built a log structure for a house of worship. It was located in the oldest part of Westview Cemetery and was called "Elizabeth's Chapel." Its first preacher was Uncle John, a negro slave, of whom his owner and others said "He was the best person they ever knew." Although the Pecks were Methodist, people of all denominations were welcomed and encouraged to worship there.

The Presbyterians and Methodists continued to meet together until October 1867 when the Presbyterian Church at Mossy Creek was organized with 49 members, 5 ruling elders and 3 deacons. Trustee S.N. Fain, R.H. Ashemore and A.M. Newman were empowered to buy land from the John Branner estate for the use of the church.

In 1869, according to an article in the Knoxville Press and Herald of December 1871, "They began to build a house of worship and carried up the walls to the square of the house, but on the 17th day of January, 1871, just when they were ready to begin putting on the roof, a violent storm blew the walls down."

The membership of 64, undismayed by the calamity, went to work again with renewed energy and burnt a kiln of 200,000 bricks. Before the year was over, the walls were in place again, now much thicker and sturdier than before, and under roof. On December 16, 1871 the dedication ceremonies began with the Rev. James Park of Knoxville delivering the message. On the following day, Sunday the 17th, the sermon was preached by their first pastor, the Rev. Joseph Martin of Jefferson County. His text was, "Ye Are the Temple of the Living God." The church cost $8000.

Restoration and Renovation History


Col. Branner sells land to the building Committee of the Presbyterian Church at Mossy Creek, consisting of members Mr. Sam F. Fain, Mr. R.H. Ashmore, Mr. William Newman, Mr. B.M. Branner, and Mr. J.M. Rhoten.


Sanctuary completed and first worship service held on December 16. “The sanctuary was originally entered on both the north and south by two doors. The two small rooms on the east and west of the narthex were used as saddle rooms. Aisles ran north and south between these doors. There was no center aisle; the benches ran east and west over the entire center section of the room while very short benches stood toward the walls, with space enough left for walking between these and the walls. The floor was level. The walls and ceiling were of plain white plaster. The pulpit was located in an oval-shaped alcove. The preacher stood back in this after he arrived by means of narrow steps on both east and west sides attached to a narrow platform fronting the alcove. The choir sat in the southwest “Amen Corner.” A beautiful chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling and oil-burning brass lamps swung on heavy brackets from the side walls. Two large pot-bellied stoves furnished heat. The windows were tall and arched, with numerous, small, clear panes. Back of the sanctuary on the south was one large room used by the Sunday School.” – Mrs. William H. Quillen


First manse obtained, located a block from the church


Manse constructed on the church lawn


The women of the church gathered money to purchase the church bell.


Under the direction of Mr. Frank Jarnigan, renovations included elevation of the floor on the north end, beams placed in ceiling, new lighting fixtures installed, benches cut to provide a center aisle, pulpit extended out into the sanctuary, the choir loft provided; large room on south and back of sanctuary partitioned into three smaller ones; saddle rooms turned into cloak rooms and doors near them leading into the sanctuary replaced by one centrally located large door; and a basement dug for furnace. Hand-tooled rail was placed around the choir chancel, crafted by Mr. Quince Brotherton.

1944 - 1946

The Sunday School and recreation addition was started. Both men and women of the congregation and the pastor, Dr. John S. Yelton, did manual labor, such as painting, carpentry, laying of floor tile and finishing of ceiling especially in the basement Fellowship Hall.


A committee was organized to purchase an organ for the church.


At some time the clear window panes in the sanctuary were replaced by larger ones of white and yellow marbleized effect. The present attractive memorial windows of Colonial design with Seedy-Marine glass panes were installed. The shape and size of the window frames have remained unaltered throughout.


Church purchases the 1955, red Hymnbook.


Gold cross in sanctuary given in memory of Cornelia Williams Mountcastle, Eula Mountcastle, and Ida Mountcastle Yoe.


Church Library opens, set up by Mrs. Rogers. The sanctuary was redecorated and new light fixtures were added.


Library expanded, a table added in the Narthex and the baptismal font purchased.


Hand-carved wooden chalice and plate presented to the church by Mr. Philip Lamberton. The old Manse was deemed unlivable and a new manse was built on the corner of Church Street and Eastview.


Renovation of the church included pastor’s study: paneled, carpeted, new draperies, and furniture installed. The sanctuary was repainted and re-carpeted. The kitchen was cleaned, repainted, and new cabinets installed. In the education building, all Sunday School rooms were cleaned, repainted, and re-curtained.


The wooden cross in the choir loft was carved and installed by Mr. Philip Lamberton. The cross was made out of a Walnut tree that formerly stood on the church grounds.


A successful “adopt-a-window” campaign was conducted. Members of the congregation signed up to be responsible for the painting of one or more windows and/or doors in the Educational Building, either doing the work themselves or employing the services of a young man from the church. The new Wurlitzer 4700 Concert Organ was installed.


A new roof was put on the sanctuary, and a fund established to air condition the sanctuary. The Women of the Church purchased the pewter pitcher, chalice, and paten used for communion.


Handrails installed in narthex by Mrs. Samuel W. Forney and Mrs. Charles Oder in memory of their husbands. Pew cushions added in sanctuary, a gift from Mr. J. D. Hale in memory of his wife Mary Lee Nance Hale and in honor of his daughters Julianne Hale Cross and Mary Alice Hale Corkran. Insulation of Sanctuary, education wing and Manse. Installation of air-conditioning in Sanctuary. Renovation of Education Wing:  New ceilings and wall coverings including paneling as wainscoting on main and upper floors. Remodeling of kitchen, new floor and cabinets. New storage cabinets in fellowship hall. Installation of handicapped restroom on main floor. Installation of wheelchair ramp to Education wing. Installation of storm windows in Education wing. Installation of four new steel insulated exterior doors in Education wing.


Installed sump pump in Fellowship Hall, carpeted the organ pit, installed lights behind the choir.


Organ committee established to oversee the purchase of a new organ. Chaired by Ted Folsom, the committee selected W. Zimmer and Sons from Charlotte, North Carolina to build a pipe organ for worship in the sanctuary.


Maple tree at front entrance to sanctuary had to be cut down. Led by Doug Moody, plans were made to move pastor’s study and secretary’s offices from second floor to first floor and move the parlor to the room behind the sanctuary. This opened up the entire second floor for Sunday school rooms. New Bibles were purchased for the sanctuary. The New Presbyterian Hymnal was purchased and dedicated. The church manse was sold and money distributed to fund future mission projects, help to purchase the new organ, and support the general operating budget of the church.


Church nursery was refurbished. A new library table was built and donated by Mary Ellen and Pat Patton. In preparation for the new organ installation a program of “renewing, redoing and redecorating” the sanctuary was undertaken. Carpet was replaced, the walls and woodwork painted, the plaster repaired, and the saddle rooms, library, narthex, and handbell choir room were made more presentable. New railings and moldings were installed in the narthex. The new organ was dedicated on December 13.


The organ was completed. Jefferson City carries out work to provide more handicapped accessibility to the church. The “Easter Morning” stained glass window was added above doorway in the sanctuary in memory of Sarah Alexander Sanders.


Additional parking lot across Manning Street added. 2001 Playground installed.


Children’s Sunday school classrooms cleaned out and re-carpeted and painted. The church offices were refurnished, and the parlor redecorated.


Memorial garden in east lawn constructed.


Kitchen remodeled.


Nursery renovated (cabinetry finished in 2008) and bathroom in Fellowship Hall completed 2009.  New landscaping at the entrance to the sanctuary.


Completed the grading of the west lawn of the church. Restoration and Renovation for 2013 McSpadden, Inc., General Contractors, Dandridge, TN Sanctuary and Narthex. Repair and paint windows, install protective cover on outside – for energy savings and preservation of old glass panes. Repair and paint front doors. Repair and paint sanctuary walls. Refinish pews and install new cushions, book racks, envelope holders, and communion cup holders. Refinish wood floor and replace carpet in sanctuary and three rooms at the back of the sanctuary. Install insulation over sanctuary and three rooms at the back of the sanctuary. Rooms Behind Sanctuary-- Construct new music room in current handbell room–to hold handbells, music library, and choir robes and music. Renovate middle room as a welcome center, to accommodate the large number of worshipers who enter and leave the sanctuary from this direction.  Make minor changes to the library to accommodate a wider door entering the welcome center. Replace carpet, conceal ductwork, and repair/paint walls in these three rooms. Education Wing--Hallways, Offices, and Parlor Sheetrock walls with old paneling and install trim where needed. Paint walls of each room. Replace lighting and dropped ceilings in hallways. Replace windows on all three floors. Fellowship Hall--Lay new floor. Renovate cabinets to blend into the wall. Install new ceiling with additional lighting and speakers for a sound system. Sheetrock walls and install more electrical outlets. Replace doors and provide storage for chairs, tables, and grill. Exterior of Building-- Install foundation waterproofing and drain system at east end of building. Repair brick joints.


Installed storage shed outside the Fellowship Hall to accommodate additional storage needs as part of our expanding service to our neighborhood through Church Street Cafe.

Founders and Pastors


The very day that the structure was completed, dedication ceremonies were started with a sermon preached that Saturday, December 16, 1871, by the Reverend James Park of Knoxville. On Sunday, the 17th, the dedication sermon was preached by our first pastor, the Reverend Joseph Martin, of Jefferson County. His text was "Ye are the Temple of the Living God." No doubt, in attendance was the entire congregation and the founding charter members.

charter members

Col. and Mrs. John Robert Branner
Col. and Mrs. Sam N. Fain
William A. Moser
Judge Milton Jarnagin
Dr. and Mrs. George P. Yoe
Mrs. Agnes Jarnagin
Mr. and Mrs. S.D. Williams
Mrs. Porter Peck
R. H. Ashmore
John Fain Ross
Mr. and Mrs. W.M. Newman
Mrs. A.J. Mountcastle
Mr. and Mrs. B.M. Branner
Geo. Branner
J.P. Rhoton
Richard Bradshaw
Mary I. Parrot
T.C. Newman
Sterling Branner
J.B. Brisco

Our pastors from the beginning

Joseph Hamilton Martin, 1867-1873
John Daniel, 1874-1875
William Cameron, 1876-1877
J. Albert Wallace, 1877-1879
E. McNair, 1880
Marshall Wallace Milliard, 1881-1883
(first name lost) Gregory, 1885 Stated Supply
C. J. Ralson, 1886 Stated Supply
John Pegram Anderson, 1886-1887
Joseph Gabriel, 1888-1889
J. C. McFerrin, 1889-1892
James McGavock Richardson, 1893-1894
A. Sidney Doak, 1895-1899
Marvin MacFerrin, 1900-1903
Franklin Leeper, 1904-1910
Moses Liddell, 1912-1913
John B. Bittinger, 1914-1919
Dabney Carson, D. D., 1920-1922
V. P. Merrell,, 1924
J.J. Douglass, 1926-1929
E. C. Tomkinson, 1929-1934
Harry M. Moffett, Jr., 1935-1939
Ralph Llewellyn, 1940-1942
John Yelton, 1944-1950
Richard F. Rouquie, 1950-1953
B. Harrison Taylor, 1954-1958
Zachary T. Piephoff, Jr., 1959-1962
E. O'dell Smith, 1962-1968
Richard Keaton, 1968-1971
Andrew Schramm, 1971-1982
Keith Nickle, 1982-1991
Ford King, 1991-1994
Robert Reno, 1994-2002
Russ Weekley, 2002-2010
Glenda Hollingshead (Associate Pastor), 2007-2010
Dr. Robert Shurden (Interim Pastor), 2010-2011
Andrew C. Whaley, 2011-2015
Diana Moore (Interim), 2015-2017
Dave Strickler, 2017-2021
Robert White (Interim), 2022
Dr. Glenda Hollingshead, 2023-present

Significant Events

The original exterior remains very much the same with exception of the changes in size and color of the window glass, first from smaller, clear panes to larger ones of a white and yellow marbleized effect, then to the present ones of colonial glass. The building once stood even with the street. But after many years, the street wore down from the effects of wagons, buggy wheels, and horse shoes. It was later graded down, even more, and the front steps and eventually the walls were built.

The sanctuary was originally entered on the north and south by two doors. Aisles ran north and south between these doors. The two small rooms on the east and west of the present narthex were once saddle rooms. The preacher stood in an oval shaped recess reached by steps on either side. From there he looked out upon the congregation and above their heads to an octagonal clock. The choir sat in the southwest "Amen Corner." Behind the sanctuary on the south was one large room used for Sunday School. From the wide back door, there was one wide step to the ground. A beautiful chandelier hung from the center of the sanctuary ceiling and oil burning brass lamps swung on brackets from the side walls. Two large pot bellied stoves furnished heat. Teenaged boys pumped bellows of the small organ that was moved from time to time to a different position in the room to encourage more of the congregation to sing.

Significant remodeling was undertaken in 1913 and again in 1949 when the Sunday School rooms and recreation rooms were added. If you peek inside the saddle room today, no longer will you find rows of saddles expectantly awaiting departing worshippers. The pot bellied stove has been replaced by central heat and air; the little pump organ has been replaced by our Zimmer 7 1/2 ranks pipe organ.


The belfry to this day contains the original church bell which was paid for by the efforts of the Ladies Aid Society.


The name of the Womans Group was changed to Womans Auxiliary, which in 1928 became known asThe Women of the Church.



The name of the church was changed form The Presbyterian Church at Mossy Creek to The First Presbyterian Church of Jefferson City.



Mr. James Zirkle, then Clerk of the Session, was the first elected Commissioner of Holston Presbytery from this church to attend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.