Madisonville Presbyterian Church, Madisonville, TN, ca 1945-1949.
In about 1820, Isaac Anderson, frequently was known to ride alone into the southwestern frontier of the United States, into territory that the Secretary of War, John. C Calhoun had enticed the Cherokee Indians to cede to the United States in 1819. That territory was known as the Hiwassee District, the land between the Little Tennessee River on the north, the Hiwassee River on the south, and the Tennessee River on the west. For several years before he came to the Hiwassee District, Anderson had been accustomed to making a circuit of 150 miles one or two weeks a month to accomplish his visits.
In 1820 he was minister of New Providence Church and was President of the Southern and Western Seminary, now Maryville College, which he founded in 1819. His trips into the wilderness of the Hiwassee District were to take the gospel message to and to minister to the pioneer families who were settling this new frontier. His efforts resulted in the organization of this church in 1822 at Chestua camp grounds, under the authority of the Union Presbytery in the Synod of Tennessee. It was the first Presbyterian Church formed in the Hiwassee District and was among the first churches of any denomination founded in the Hiwassee District.
The first regular pastor of the church was Robert McAlpine. In 1824 or 1825 the church was moved from Chestua to Tellico which is present day Madisonville. There is no indication in any record of why the congregation moved to Madisonville, but it is likely that the move was made because of Madisonville being the county seat and being a larger community than Chestua. The congregation worshipped in the courthouse for a short time until a brick church could be built near the entrance of the present day Madisonville Cemetery.
The congregation worshipped in this building until the division into the Old School and the New School occurred in 1841, after which the two branches built their own respective buildings. The Old School church stood one-half mile north of the courthouse on the first lot on the the right at the beginning of the Hiwassee road. The New School built on the lot where the present church stands. After the Civil War, the southern branches of the Presbyterian Church joined to form the Presbyterian Church in the United States to which the former New School Church belonged.
In the year 1884 the two churches consolidated their properties in trust and both occupied the same building which stood on the lot on which the present church stands. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A sold its property north of town. The two churches had separate ministers until 1910. In the early part of June 1897, at a joint meeting of the Sessions of the two branches, a committee was appointed to solicit and raise funds for the purpose of building a new house of worship. The committee succeeded in raising $3380. A fund of $655 from the sale of the old church, the PCUSA property, was on hand.
The Sunday School had $295 that was added to the funds and $140 was realized from the sale of the old church building and furniture making a total of $4400. The cost of the new church complete without furniture was $3890 and furniture and carpets cost $510 for a total of $4400. The building committee reported at the dedication of the church on December 12, 1897 saying the building was completed, the contractor was paid in full and there were no encumbrances whatever on the building. The building was owned jointly by the two branches of the Presbyterian Church, each congregation contributing equal amounts.
In 1906, on a national level the Cumberland Presbyterian Church united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and as a result of the national union, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in Madisonville united on September 29, 1906
The Presbyterian Church U.S.A of Madisonville petitioned the Union Presbytery of the PCUSA on April 16, 1910 to consent to the union with the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) in Madisonville and to consent to the property of the church being conveyed to the trustees of the Southern Presbyterian Church of Madisonville with which the petitioning church wished to unite. The last paragraph in the petition follows: “The desire for this union is not because the undersigned wish to break away from the Presbyterian Church U.S.A, but because they think it would be much better for both churches, and should the union be accomplished, we shall always have a warm and fraternal felling toward the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and all of its members, and we hope that in the near future there will be a union and consolidation of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the Southern Presbyterian Church so that we will all be one and the same denomination.”
The union of the Madisonville Presbyterian Churches was approved and the combined churches called J. Lynn Bachman as the pastor.
The hope that the two denominations would unite as one was fulfilled in 1983 when there was a reunion of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
The Madisonville Presbyterian congregation still worships in the twin-tower, brick building built in 1897. In 1946 a brick addition was added to the back or south side of the church building.. This addition contains classrooms surrounding a large fellowship hall on the ground floor and a basement.