An American Family History


Sinking Creek Settlement

East Tennessee is part of Appalachia. At the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began drifting into the area. In 1769, they first settled along the Watauga River. During the Revolution, the Overmountain Men defeated British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The State of Franklin was formed in the 1780s, but never admitted to the Union.

Carter County, Tennessee was organized from Washington County on April 9, 1796. Elizabethton is the county seat.

Sinking Creek is a tributary of the Watauga River. The Sinking Creek Baptist Church was organized in 1772. The creek is in Johnson City, Tennessee. Elder Sparks in Raccoon John Smith says that it was an "out-and-out Calvinistic church."

December 31, 1774, John Carmack had 470 acres surveyed on Sinking Creek and
on January 31, 1775, he had an additional 97 acres surveyed.

The Virginia Gazette 
(Williamsburg, Virginia)
25 Aug 1774

 The Denton family came to the area about 1775. On November 19, 1775 James Denton was granted patent #63 on Brush Creek and Sinking Creek in the Watauga Purchases and Samuel Denton was granted patent #74 on Brush Creek.

In 1776, the church was disbanded because problems with the indigenous people. In 1777-1778 it was reorganized by Talbot, Mulkey, and Joshua Kelly.

In 1778, Francis Hughes was granted 100 acres on Sinking Creek.

In 1782 the Philip Ausmus family settled along the middle fork of Sinking Creek, one mile southwest of present day Johnson City near the home of John Sevier. Randolph Crecelias (b. 1728) came at the same time and settled adjacent to Philip Ausmus' land along the Little Cherokee and Sinking Creeks.

John Hammer came to Washington County in the early 1780's along with his brother, Baltis, the Bogart family and the Range family. They settled on Knob Creek and were early members of Sinking Creek Baptist Church.

Samuel Tipton joined the Sinking Creek Baptist Church about 1783.

In 1783 a new log church was built.

In 1784 John Ford, William Haile, Lloyd Ford and Mordecai Ford were granted land on Sinking Creek.

Between 1784 and 1787 John Reneau settled on Sinking Creek.

A register of members of Sinking Creek Church, Book I to 1791 lists church members Garrett Reasoner, Keziah Reasoner, Charles Reno/Reneau, Elizabeth Tipton, Samuel Tipton, Catherine Reno/Reneau, William Reno/Reneau, and John Reno/Reneau. William Reno/Reneau was listed as a "clerk in behalf of the church" in a document dated July 5, 1785.

Joseph Crouch received a land grant in 1790, Sinking Creek, Washington County.

In 1790, Charles Reneau was "defellowshipped" by the Sinking Creek Baptist Church for "arguing and leaving the church in a rude and angry manner." He was later restored in good standing.

In the early 1790s Jesse Hunt bought several tracts on Sinking Creek.

In 1792, Frederick Emmert bought 200 acres on Sinking Creek.

In 1794 William Jackson bought land on Sinking Creek from Anthony Duncan.

On February 13, 1796, Sinking Creek Church found Sarah Reneau guilty of fornication.

In 1806 Thomas Barron bought 205 acres on Sinking Creek.

In 1812 Joshua Boring bought 74 ¾ acres on Sinking Creek in Washington County from Nathaniel Taylor next to Caleb Odell.

18 Oct 1819, Joshua Boring sold 78 acres of land in Carter County, Tennessee on Sinking Creek to John McAfee.

About 1824, several members were excommunicated from the Sinking Creek Baptist Church. The church split over who was to baptize Fanny Renfro. The excommunicated included Edward Hendry, Richard Carr, Joseph Renfro, David Pugh, Molly Hendrix (Hendricks) and Eli McNabb. They went to Boones Creek Baptist Church.

Leonard Hart (1758-1852) was buried in the Sinking Creek Baptist Cemetery.

Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796. It was initially part of North Carolina.

Johnson City, Tennessee is in Washington, Carter and Sullivan Counties. It was known as Brush Creek for the Creek than runs through it.

Johnson City, Tennessee is in Washington, Carter and Sullivan Counties. It was known as Brush Creek for the Creek than runs through it.


Carter County Map
Map of Carter County
Sinking Creek Baptist Church in south west.





Baptist and Reflector 
Nashville, Tennessee
20 Jun 1935, Thu  •  Page 6

Sinking Creek Church Planted Religions Seed In Tennessee

(There is a difference of opinion as to which is the oldest Baptist church in Tennessee whether Buffalo Ridge or Sinking Creek one in Holston Association and the other in Watauga Association. In our centennial issue a writer held that the honor belongs to Buffalo Ridge. The following article holds otherwise. We have not studied the matter enough to take sides but on the principle of fair play we run this article on the matter — Editor)

Historian Declares Oldest Church Organization in State founded Here
Story dates back to Stirring Days of French and Indian Wars

(From the Johnson City Chronicle January 20 1935)

By Gladys Seeck

Fred Hinkle newly elected historian of Sinking Creek Baptist Church on the new Glanzstoff Highway believes he has found absolute proof that Sinking Creek Church has not only the oldest church building in Tennessee but also the oldest church organization. He bases his belief on minutes of the early church meetings on letters of transfer to Sinking Creek Church and names he finds on the early church records.

War Took Toll
Several names found on the records of the church are names of those killed in the French and Indian war. Among these are
Capt Jacob T. Tipton [son of John Tipton] killed in St Clairs defeat [1791] during an expedition against the Indians.
Abraham Tipton [son of John Tipton] killed in Ohio and
Mrs. Wm McDowell killed and scalped by the Indians at Moccasin Gap Virginia

This places the date of the organization of Sinking Creek Church previous to 1880 the date given by Benedict, Baptist historian for the founding of Buffalo Ridge Baptist church which also claims to be the first church in Tennessee. Mr. Hinkle says that according to various histories of this region in 1775 at a meeting at Sycamore Shoals a lease for all lands in this region was granted by the Indians to Charles Robertson. Among those who received patents were Matthew Talbot preacher, Andrew Greer, Baptist McNabb, John McNabb, John Cassidy, Duncan Tipton Lincoln Denton, and Charles Robertson — all members of Sinking Creek Church. Ramsey in his Annals of Tennessee says that there is no doubt but that Andrew Greer was the first settler in Tennessee

Talbot Probably Founder
Sinking Creek Church was probably founded by Matthew Talbot together with Jonathan Mulkey who was preaching in Carter Valley Hawkins County in 1774. Due to an Indian uprising there he returned here. When Col. Wm. Christian made an expedition against the Indians in 1776 the name of Jonathan Mulkey and another Phillip Mulkey appear as members of his company. They were also members of Sinking Creek Church. Benedict says

There were two churches who were gathered by Baptists when the state was a dangerous wilderness sometime before any of these arose whose history we are now about to relate. They were probably (certainly we might say) sometime after the year 1765 and broken up in the Indian war of 1774.

Mr Hinkle believes that Benedict refers here to Sinking Creek and Buffalo Ridge churches. Buffalo Ridge he says moved their location and later formed a new organization. The greatest effect of the wars to Sinking Creek seems to be the loss of several members.

Captain Maxwell Member
Captain Thomas Maxwell under John Sevier took part in the Battle of King’s Mountain and was a member of Sinking Creek. Captain Maxwell was killed in that battle.

According to Mr. Hinkle Sinking Creek church was not a member of the general Association of Baptists for a period of about 25 years. This he says according to letters he finds was probably due to differences that had arisen among the Baptists in North Carolina and carried over in this region The Sinking Creek people were first known as Regular Baptists and later as United Baptists. Buffalo Ridge people were New Light Baptists.

The original church letter of Samuel Tipton son of Col. John Tipton from Shenandoah County Virginia shows the date of 1783. Samuel Tipton represented Carter County in the first legislature and was one of the commissioners who selected the site of Elizabethton.

The Pugh family were members of the Sinking Creek church for more than a hundred years. John Pugh leader in the Regulators party movement in North Carolina in 1771 was condemned by Governor Tryon to be hanged but escaped came to Watauga settled and located on Buffalo Creek. He was the first of the Pugh family to be associated with Sinking Creek Church. During the Sevier-Tipton fued (sic). Pugh sided with Tipton’s party took part in the three days battle on the Tipton farm (on the present Erwin Highway) and was mortally wounded there.

The yellow old church records show up some characteristics of the early settlers Under date of June 16 1798 is written:

The Church from a sense of duty excludes Joseph Tipton (brother of Col John Tipton) for his frequently railing in church meeting at individuals and also for unbecoming and unsavory discourse saying he would neither believe the Word nor the oath-of some and lastly for leaving the church in an abrupt and angry manner saying he would not set or live with the church till some alterations should take place.

Brother Tipton was reprimanded excluded and returned to the church several times according to the records. On July 19, 1800 this was written:

Brother Joseph Tipton was restored to fellowship again.

This day Zebulon Smith is declared to be out of fellowship for as much as he has been guilty of fighting and intends to fight again.

Modern church members might do well to note that one "brother" was excluded "for the crime of absenting himself from church."

Even the pioneer woman spoke her mind occasionally as is evidenced by this written September 14 1805

Charge brought before the church against Rosey Wood for using some very abrupt language She being dealt with in a Gospel order her reply was that if she had it to do again she would repeat the same. The church thinks her worthy of exclusion declares the said Rosey Wood out of fellowship with us neither are we to be charged with her future conduct.

The French and Indian War lasted from 1754 to 1763 and was the North American phase of the Seven Years' War.


The Jonesborough Whig 
Jonesborough, Tennessee
16 Mar 1842, Wed  •  Page 3

We will now in conclusion give a recent instance of the combined bigotry and despotism of Baptists— At a protracted Baptist meeting at Sinking Creek Church eight miles west of Elizabethton the Methodists and Presbyterians of Elizabethton were invited to attend and assist in hie labours of the meeting which they did.

Towards the close of the meeting the Sacrament was administered and the pastor of the Church, Mr. Bayless, after detailing the reasons why they could not suffer others to commune with them determined to convince them that they were not wanting in affectionate regards for them.

Accordingly he notified the congregation that all who were in good standing in their own churches might occupy the front seats and see the Lard's people partake of the emblems of his shed blood and broken body! What amazing condescension! What a rare occurrence! What an ebullition of a haughty dogmatism! How calmly resplendent must have been the glory of this scene! Ye murky clouds of superstition from the Scandinavian forests do permit yourselves to be eclipsed by the smoke of that bigotry displayed on this memorable occasion! Stand fast ye inhabitants of earth and heaven and see the light of Christian charity in its full orbed glory burst at once upon the congregation of saints and "all who are in good standing in their own churches" at Sinking Creek! Look on ye unpolished barbarians and unbaptized heathens totally ignorant of the fashionable etiquette of Christian courtesy and learn what religion is!

But those who "are in good standing in their own churches" have no right to complain at this treatment for they are living in the neglect of a known duty And they must know that they can no more get to heaven without suffering a Baptist preacher to immerse them than they can arrest the sun in his course or check the impetuous cataract of Niagara in its terrible progress

Colonial Maryland
Colonial New England
Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
Quakers & Mennonites
New Jersey Baptists
German Lutherans
Watauga Settlement
Pennsylvania Pioneers
Midwest Pioneers
Jewish Immigrants

©Roberta Tuller 2020
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