Pine Creek United Baptist Church has been in its current building, just behind where the old Pine Creek School once sat, for more than half a century.

For nearly as long as Scott County has been, Pine Creek United Baptist Church has been. And for nearly as long as Pine Creek has been, the Marcum family has been involved in some form or fashion.

Pine Creek United Baptist Church was established sometime shortly after 1871 as an offshoot of Bethlehem Baptist Church. 

At that time, Bethlehem — which had been established in 1834, before Scott County was formed from portions of Campbell, Anderson and Fentress counties — was located near what is now Oneida City Park. It had made the move to the foot of the hill two years earlier, after originally being established near where Pine Hill Baptist Church is currently located. It would be another 17 years before Bethlehem moved to Oak Grove.

On Saturday, December 9, 1871, members of Bethlehem Baptist Church met in the old Pine Creek School for the purpose of discussing a new church for their community. James Litton and William Thomas oversaw the meeting, with Litton — an elder from Bethlehem — serving as moderator. The group met again one month later — on Saturday, January 13, 1872. 

Charter members of the Pine Creek United Baptist Church included mostly Marcums, the family that settled the area where the church was established both then and now. Among them were John Marcum, John A. Marcum, Arlena Marcum, Lunancy (Lucy) Marcum and Richard Marcum. Others included Charley Foster, J.T. Smith, Emily Foster, Luraney Foster, Sarah J. Keeton and Sarah Smith. J.T. Smith served as the church’s first clerk.

While a booklet compared by the church in the 1980s denotes that many early records are missing, the records that remain portray a church with remarkable stability over its nearly 150 years of existence. It has remained at the same location — the site of the former Pine Creek School, adjacent to where the Town of Oneida would eventually create a reservoir for its water supply by damming the North Fork of Pine Creek.

At the time Pine Creek United Baptist Church was organized, the Pine Creek School was an old log building. However, that building was torn down early in the church’s life. There is speculation that the church congregation gathered in the Cotton Creek School for a period of time while the original Pine Creek School was torn down and rebuilt. Cotton Creek is a tributary to the Pine Creek Watershed that Pine Creek Road crosses over. While it’s not clear that the congregation met there, records show that the church purchased an acre of land on Cotton Creek in 1882. 

The “new” building at Pine Creek was used jointly as a church and school, with school desks and a few benches for the congregation. It wasn’t unlike many of the small churches and schools of its time: a single room heated by a coal-burning stove in the center. Water was pumped by hand from a well, and coal-oil lamps provided dim lighting.

By the 1950s, the Pine Creek School was no more. The building was used exclusively for church services, which allowed the desks to be removed and new church pews added. The building was wired for electricity for the first time, and the church also purchased its first piano. Ella Mae Webb was the church’s first piano player.

John Marcum and John A. Marcum, the father-son duo who were among the church’s charter members, owned the land where the church and school were located. The land was inherited by their heirs upon their deaths in 1899 and 1903, respectively. In 1953, the land was divided among the heirs and the parcel of property where the church was located was donated to the church.

The congregation continued meeting in the old school until 1956, more than 60 years after services first began to be held in the building. By March 1956, the church was simply out of room, with people standing inside the building and inside the churchyard during services. Fundraising efforts were undertaken by the congregation, including bake sales and other efforts, and construction began on the new building in 1958.

On September 17, 1967, the new building was dedicated. Frona Marcum — the mother of the church’s pastor at the time, James E. Marcum, and grandmother of its current pastor, Keith Marcum — presented a Bible to the church to commemorate the occasion.

The first pastor at Pine Creek was C.C. Terry, serving from July 1879 until 1882. He then served jointly with G.C. Duncan from March 1882 to October 1892. In December 1951, James E. Marcum was appointed as the church’s 15th pastor. His family had always belonged to the church; two of his great-grandmothers had been among the church’s charter members in the 1870s. He had joined the church by baptism in 1949, and had been ordained in 1950. He served as pastor for almost 37 years, until his death in August 1988. At that point, his son, Keith Marcum, was appointed and transition into the role, and has served as pastor for more than 31 years. So, for the past 68 years, the father and son duo of James E. and Keith Marcum have filled the pastoral duties at Pine Creek.

Several other churches have roots in Pine Creek. Helenwood United Baptist Church, Grave Hill United Baptist Church and Niggs Creek United Baptist Church were all organized from among the body of Pine Creek United Baptist as Scott County’s population grew through the years.

This story is the January 2020 installment of Focus On: Religion, presented by Huntsville Health & Rehabilitation on the fourth week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Focus On series. A print version of this article can be found on Page A3 of the January 23, 2020 edition of the Independent Herald.