A History of Us
On July 16, 1837, a group of 28 people met in the log courthouse in Cleveland and organized the Cumberland Presbyterian Church--the first church in our denomination to be established south of the Hiwassee River.
After 20 years of meeting in various locations around town (the courthouse, other churches, and even a shed!), we built a church on our present location in 1857. The four columns along the front were made of rounded handmade brick from a local brick maker, and were said to be the only ones of their kind in the entire nation.
By 1897, we had 20 electric lights; by 1917, we had indoor plumbing. We were growing and changing with the times, but our love for God and for the community remained rock solid.
In 1920 and again in 1932, basements were dug and annexes were built along each side of the Sanctuary to house our growing Sunday School department. Back then, it was common for Sunday School attendance to be even larger than Worship attendance!
Out of the Ashes
In 1954, the Session of the church decided to excavate a basement under the sanctuary. On June 8, after a Session meeting, the elders went to view the progress. Unfortunately, when the basement light was turned on, it triggered an explosion of gas that had built up during excavation.
At that moment, Elder J. A. Mikel was at the water fountain near the back of the Reese Annex. He said it sounded like a tornado, and was so scared he jumped out the window and landed in the yard of the Cleveland Hotel next door. Across the street at City Hall, people were nearly shaken out of their seats; they thought there had been an earthquake. In the Cleveland Daily Banner offices, staff members assumed the rumbling was a low-flying jet.
When the dust and debris finally settled, the scope of the tragedy began to take shape. Elder Andy Maxwell was killed by a falling window frame, and the church building was nearly a total loss. The only part still standing was the 1932 Reese Annex. The church made immediate plans to rebuild, and on March 25, 1956, they held their first worship service (and first funeral) in the building where we still worship today.