When the first settlers of Cades Cove staked their claim they were optimistic that this area would help nurture and provide for their families, both physically and spiritually. Religion played just as big of a part in people’s everyday lives as it does today, and maybe even more so.
Faith was so much of an issue with the settling of Cades Cove and the surrounding Smokies area, that it wasn’t long after the first homes were constructed that churches soon followed. History shows that prior to the foundation of Cades Cove’s first Baptist church, residents traveled long distances through the Smoky Mountains, sometimes in feet of snow to attend services in Millers Cove and/or Wears Cove. Tuckaleechee Cove, which is now Townsend, TN, was known to hold their own religious revivals which drew people from all over the region.
John Oliver and his wife, who built the cove’s first cabin, even managed to establish a sect of Millers Cove Baptist Church in Cades Cove in 1825.
Soon though in 1827, the Cades Cove Baptist church was established. And although biblical interpretation would split the Baptists, one side said the scripture allowed for missionary work and others in the congregation said it did not, it was an argument that was being felt in numerous churches across the nation at the time. Therefore, Cades Cove Baptists decided to rename their church in order to distinguish their beliefs from other Baptists. Thus, the Primitive Baptist Church was formed in 1841. The small congregation met in a log structure for 60 years until the white frame church was built in 1887.
The Primitive Baptists remained the dominant religious and political force in the cove with their meetings interrupted only by the Civil War.