Old Grace Church on Lowes Ferry Pike

Beth KinnaneOur Town Stories, West Knox County

Oh, the things you will learn. This past weekend, I went to the opening of the Robert Birdwell exhibit at the Oak Ridge Art Center (see story here, seriously, you should go) and found myself transfixed by two paintings of the same old church, each displayed on either side of Birdwell’s Knoxville bicentennial painting.

One was titled Abandoned Church, the other “Grace Presbyterian Church.” I had never heard of the latter, at least not in terms of an historic Knox County Church. I asked Ann Birdwell where the church was, and she told me out Northshore Drive, and that it was no longer there, taken down sometime in the 1980s.

One of two paintings of the church by artist Robert Birdwell,

So, digging into newspaper archives, I found an entry from November 1950. The Rev. D.P. LaClare, pastor of Lynn Memorial Baptist Church (??) on Riverside Drive would be conducting a Sunday “singing and preaching service” at the old Grace Church on Lowes Ferry Pike in the Blue Grass Community.

I was thrown off for a bit by Lowes Ferry Pike. I’m well acquainted with Old Lowes Ferry and Lowes Ferry roads in Blount County. Lowes Ferry crossed the Tennessee River/Fort Loudoun Lake from roughly where Admiral Farragut Park is on the Knox County side to Lowes Landing/Weatherspoon Road area on the Blount County side. It was in operation from about 1797 into the early 20th century. As such, much of what we now call Northshore Drive was then called Lowes Ferry Pike.

The ferry was still in operation when Grace Presbyterian came into being in 1905, formed by some prominent families in the Blue Grass area. The congregation had separated by the early 1930s, however, mostly splitting between Cedar Springs and Erin Presbyterian churches, both still in operation.

Though the church remained vacant for many years, the property was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Scott, primarily for the purpose of preserving the land for the graveyard. The property was eventually purchased and taken over by the Seventh Day Adventists, who operate Little Creek Nursing Home just east of the church property on Northshore.

For decades, the old sanctuary was used for church services, funerals, weddings, even a school, and not just for Adventist members. The need for a new building, however, eventually became apparent. The new church was completed in 1981, and a new congregation was organized. They decided to hold onto the name Grace. A new church was completed in 1991. When the Scott family deeded the property over to the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, one of the stipulations was that whatever church was there would be open for weddings and funerals of any denomination, and that the graveyard be maintained in perpetuity.

Beth Kinnane writes a history feature for KnoxTNToday.com. It’s published each Tuesday and is one of our best-read features.

Sources: Knoxville Journal digital archives, Knoxville News Sentinel digital archives¸ McClung Historical Collection digital archives, Grace Seventh Day Adventist Church history

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