A History of First Church

One year after the close of the Civil War, the Rev. J.B. Ford and thirty others organized the First Methodist Episcopal Church. They held their first service on July 8, 1866 in the Circuit Courtroom of the old Knoxville Courthouse. It was the first Methodist Episcopal Church to be organized south of the Mason-Dixon line after the Civil War.

The first church building was on the southwest corner of Clinch and Market Streets. The masons conducted laying of the cornerstone in the spring of 1868.  Rev. John W. Mann dedicated the Church on May 9, 1869.  After 24 years, the community and church growth necessitated a larger building.


In 1892, during the ministry of Dr. Thomas C. Warner, a new building at the corner of Church and Locust Streets was started. The fine stone for the building was donated by Mr. C.T. Stephenson. Church members worked on the construction. The new sanctuary was first used on Easter Sunday, March 25, 1894, before an overflow crowd of 2,000. After 72 years, during the ministry of Rev. Henry C. Dawson, a vote was passed to relocate in order to enlarge the church capacity.


The Hugh Sanford property at 3316 Kingston Pike (our present location) was purchased while Rev. Henry Horton was the minister. Dr. E.H. Ogle, the district superintendent, and Rev. Horton dedicated the new sanctuary, fellowship hall, and education building on January 16, 1966. The Sanford home is currently used for offices, classrooms, the library, prayer room, and the archives.

On September 30, 1968, two great denominations, The Methodist Church and the United Evangelical Brethren, merged into a single, powerful witness.  On October 27, 1968, we became First United Methodist Church following the Holston Conference recognition of the merger. On June 1, 1997, Rev. Ron Fisher held the first “Down by the Riverside” worship service in the newly constructed Peacock Riverside Pavilion.