History of Union Hill Free Will Baptist Church

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Liberty Free Will Baptist ChurchThe earliest known history of Union Hill Free Will Baptist and New Liberty Free Will Baptist Churches states that the first Liberty Free Will Baptist Church was started by a group comprised mostly of members of Moores Chapel. This group from Moores Chapel, one of the first Free Will Baptist churches in Carter County, branched out and joined with folks from Forbes Hollow and Peters Hollow and in 1921 built a small frame structure. The new property was donated by Daniel Forbes and the new church was situated on a hill on Lane Hill Road about a mile and a quarter from the Stoney Creek Highway, near the head of Forbes Hollow. Reverend Alfred Benefield, the pastor of Moores Chapel, organized the church with fourteen original members and was given the privilege of naming the church. He named it Liberty Church and from that time forward Forbes Hollow has been known as Liberty Hollow.

After the Liberty Church congregation had met for a while in the new church on Lane Hill, the Carter County School Board agreed to swap the Forbes School House for the Lane Hill building. The Forbes School House was located about three quarters of a mile up Liberty Hollow at the fork of Hoss and Log Branch (now known as Bob’s Hollow) and Liberty Hollow. The Forbes School House building burned in 1934.

After the fire, the congregation once again used the original church building, now known as the Lane Hill School House, as a temporary meeting place. It was there that they discussed where the new church building would be built. Folks in the upper ends of Liberty and Peters Hollow wanted to rebuild at the same site, while others wanted to build down near the Stoney Creek Highway. One group, led by John W. Peters, decided to build a new church near the Stoney Creek Highway. The church was built in 1934 and is now called the New Liberty Free Will Baptist Church.

The other group of approximately twenty five members met in the Lane Hill School House. During a business meeting moderated by Reverend D.C. Patrick, officers were appointed. The first deacons appointed were Powell Shoun, W.O. Garland, Wiley Peters, Willie Branch, Ike Peters and John Garland. The first trustees appointed were Tip Oliver, Walter Richardson, Stacey Hardin and George Colbaugh. Martha Shoun was appointed church clerk and D.C. Patrick was elected pastor.

Meeting together, these folks decided to build the new church about three quarters of a mile up Peters Hollow, close to where Jerry White’s house sits now. The property was donated by Dan Colbaugh and the foundation was staked out in preparation for the new structure when the area was hit by a flash flood. During this flood a large creek flowed from the area known as the “standing stone” and washed a huge gully right where the building was staked out. When the planned site was washed out, Ike Peters agreed to give a plot of land on Lane Hill Road for the new building.

Drawing of Log Building, Union Hill ChurchW.O. Garland, Willie Branch and others went into the mountains and cut chestnut logs for the new building. Using a team of oxen, George Colbaugh skidded the logs out of the mountains and stacked them in front of the home of Mike Peters in Peters Hollow. The logs were then hewn and a new building, approximately 28 feet by 28 feet, was constructed.

When the original Liberty Church burned in 1934, Millard “Cabbage Head” Mooreland, who was sheriff of Carter County at the time, promised to provide boards for the new roof. When the congregation split and built two churches, Sheriff Mooreland said he would pay for the board shingles to roof both churches. Henry Colbaugh and his two eldest sons, Luther and Arthur, along with Buster Peters, were hired by Mooreland to make the boards for both churches. Numerous other people of the community donated items that were used or sold for the building of the church.

Log Building, Union Hill ChurchThe log church building was completed in 1935. After much discussion concerning the naming of the new church, John “Copperhead” Peters suggested calling it “Union Hill Church”, which it was named.

In February of 1948, when the log church became too small and “shake-like”, a new cinder block building was erected just to the east of the old log church. The church had a membership of 125 at that time. The old log church was torn down and much of the material was used for the construction of the new $12,500 building.

Here again, the exhaustive efforts of the people, in their desire to improve their place of worship, must be noted. Members met in the basement rooms during the afternoon and quilted and sewed in order to raise money to complete the building. Quilts were made by the ladies and sold for $3.00 each. Bonnets and aprons were also made and sold. Stories are told of how people tithed eggs their hens laid on Sunday, selling them for ten cents a dozen. Aunt Lillie “Ann” Peters said, “My chickens lay more eggs on Sunday than any other day.” Chickens were also donated by numerous folks in the community and the children would “run them down”, take them to the store, and sell them for cash to help finish the building. The goal of the church was to pay off a debt of about $4,000 and purchase a new furnace through building fund pledges of about $81 per month.

1948 Cinder Block ChurchPreaching services were held in the new church once a month by the Reverend Handy Wilcox of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Sunday School was held each Sunday, with an average attendance of 90 and an average offering of $18. League, was held on Sunday evenings. There was no organized Ladies’ Group, but the women met and worked on plans for a future Ladies’ Aid.

While the early members believed in music, there were no musical instruments in the church. Members stated that when they were in the old log church there was no room for instruments and, since the completion of the new building, no funds were available for a piano.

The new building consisted of six rooms in the basement and a large auditorium lighted with fluorescent fixtures. The inside cinder block wall was painted spotless white. The floors in the basement were concrete and the auditorium floor was of hardwood polished to a high gloss. The benches from the old log church were reused in the basement while 31 new pine benches were built for the auditorium and arranged in three rows.

Church Auditorium in 1948The church, which had both an adult choir and a junior choir, loved music and enjoyed visits from various local singing groups. Space was provided in the front of the auditorium for both choirs, one on each side of the church, facing each other. Behind the choir areas and the pulpit was a large mural with three scenes. On the left was a scene of Calvary with three crosses. The scene on the right depicted Christ appearing to Paul on the road to Damascus. The scene in the middle, the largest of the three, showed the tomb with the city of Jerusalem in the background.

In 1948, the Sunday School Superintendent was Jim White. Alice Huskins was the church clerk and Willie Branch was the church treasurer. The deacons of the church were Willie Branch, W.O. Garland, Paul Shoun and Hobart Hardin. Trustees were Walter Richardson, John Garland, Gilbert Hardin, Herman Peters, and George Colbaugh.

Pastors during the period of the early Liberty Church and Union Hill Log Church (until 1948) came into the community once each month and held preaching services on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Various members of the congregation provided lodging and meals for the preachers during their stay in the community. During this time Sunday School was held every Sunday by members of the church.

Union Hill Free Will Baptist Church 2010In 1966, brick was added to the cinder block structure built in 1948. The building was enlarged and pews were added in 1978, with other improvements made in recent years. Today the church structure, along with a fellowship hall, parsonage and picnic shed, is located on 4 acres of land with which God has blessed the church.

In 1981 an inspirational drama, “The Dawning of Life”, was penned by Gale Colbaugh, Curtis Huskins and Ann Lowe. The drama was inspired by the four Gospels of the New Testament and became an annual event during the Easter Season. This drama was presented for twenty years (1982-2002) and viewed by thousands of people from throughout the country. God has used this drama to present the love of His Son to all mankind and many souls were won to the Lord through the presentation of this drama.

The church believes that the Holy Bible is the infallible word of God and is dedicated to the teaching and preaching of the Holy Scriptures as they were written. We believe that men and women are free moral agents, born and created in the image of God and having the freedom of will as to whom they will serve. We believe that the grace of God is given freely to whosoever will come to Christ and that salvation is freely given to all that believe and will call upon the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, accepting Him as the Son of God. We believe in following the example set before us by Jesus concerning Baptism and the washing of the Saints’ feet. We believe that Christians who have been “born again” by the Spirit of God will live with Him throughout eternity. We also believe that those who deny Christ as their personal saviour in this life will be doomed to Hell, which was prepared for the Devil and his angels.



September 1994 by Gale Colbaugh and Herman Peters (died Aug. 21, 1995)


September 2010 by Gale Colbaugh and Joey White



We wish to express our deepest appreciation to Reverend D. C. Patrick, Aunt Bets Peters, Jennie Bell Hardin, Stacey Hardin, Auther Colbaugh, Anna Lee Peters, Herman Peters, Beulah Peters, Mike Wilson, Evelyn Wilson and Irene (Laws) Knode, for their inputs in writing this history. Without their knowledge much of the information would have been lost forever.


Pastors of Union Hill Free Will Baptist Church

Pastor Dates Served
D.C. Patrick 1934-1936 and 1937-1938
George Melvin 1936-1937
Nat Campbell 1938-1940
Joe Bowers 1940-1943
Moore Howell 1945-1947
Handy Wilcox 1947-1954 and 1965-1971
Curtis Beculhimer 1954-1956
Gene Head 1956-1960
Farrell Sparks 1960-1961
Carl Johnson 1961-1965
Dan Garland Jr. 1971-1972
C.M. Burnett 1972-1974 and 1975-1978
John Vance 1974-1975
Jonas Revis 1978-1983
Harry Mintz 1983-1989
D.C. Byrd 1990-1995
Danny Simerly 1995-2001
Tony Trott 2002-2006
Talmadge Brown (Interim) 2006-2007
Roger Hayley 2007-Present

Former Deacons of Union Hill Free Will Baptist Church

Powell Shoun, W.O. Garland, Wiley Peters, Willie Branch, Ike Peters, John “Little John” Garland, Hobart Hardin, Earl Lowe, Dan Garland, Jr., R.L. Sargent, Ray Colbaugh, Howard Hardin, Herman Peters, Buford Peters and Harold Lowe


Former Trustees of Union Hill Free Will Baptist Church

Tip Oliver, Walter Richardson, George Colbaugh, T.N. Garland, Howard Laws, Gilbert Hardin, Ralph Andes, Garney Christian, Herbert Colbaugh, Clyde Peters, Ray Lowe, Clate Peters, Ralph Lowe, Kenneth Colbaugh, Sanford Cole, Roger Colbaugh, Jimmy Buckles, Grady Wilson, Stacey Hardin, Harold Lowe, Curtis Huskins, Joey White, Ken Pierce, Lynn Peters, Eddie Archer, and Waco Campbell


The Church has been blessed with men called into the ministry.  They are: Dan Garland Jr., Ray Colbaugh, Oscar Henson, Daniel Blevins and Charlie Wilson


Questions about Union Hill Free Will Baptist Church? pastor@unionhillfreewillbaptist.com

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