Ooltewah, a small town established in 1856, is located in the Savannah Valley, equal distance between Chattanooga and Cleveland in Tennessee. It was an important rail junction, laid out upon the completion of the Hiawassee, or East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad. 


Shortly after, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was founded by early settlers prior to the Civil War, starting in 1861. It was located near Snow Hill and Mountainview Roads. During the war years (1861-1865), most churches ceased operation because the Union troops took shelter in church buildings. Some of the churches had their floors removed so that the troops could stable their horses, while others served as hospitals. 

150 Years

In 1868, after the war, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was re-established as Ooltewah Baptist Church, with Rev. H. Posey as the first pastor of record. Thus, the beginning of a 150-year legacy began.


During the years of 1868-1882, Ooltewah Baptist had four Pastors in the pulpit: H. Posey (1868), C.B. Martin (1869-1870), L.B. Kimbrough (1870-1874) and J.B. Hunt (1874-1877). The records between the years 1877-1882 are unclear, but it is believed that Rev. Levi Dunn served as Pastor and oversaw the construction of Ooltewah Baptist’s first church building at the corner of Main and Church Streets in 1882


With the interior of the church building completed in 1886, Ooltewah Baptist began regular preaching at least twice a month, with a Saturday service at least once a month. Membership between the years of 1882-1907 fluctuated between 54 to 90 members. 


It was noted that Lottie Moon spent five-months with a cousin in Chattanooga during a furlough from her mission work in China in 1896. While in Chattanooga, she addressed the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) of the 1896 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Chattanooga and suggested collecting a Christmas Gift for Foreign Missions, which began the annual “Lottie Moon Offering” missions campaign. 


Over the next several years, Ooltewah Baptist Church experienced growth in membership, added ministries and even acquired a new “church neighbor.” The First Baptist Church of Ooltewah was founded by African-Americans down the street from Ooltewah Baptist on Main Street in 1909.


Ooltewah Baptist’s church building underwent its first addition in 1916 to accommodate Sunday school classes. More remodeling came in 1929, when a vestibule and a new platform in the sanctuary was added. Pastors that served during this period were: A.J. Hudlow (1909-1911), L.H. Sylar (pastored again in 1911). W.L. Taylor (who had also served as pastor from 1899-1901, 19041905, and again 1912-1913) was believed to be the first pastor in the entire Baptist Association to begin Mid-Week Prayer Service. 


World War II began in 1939 and membership declined. In 1941, there was a polio outbreak and churches nationwide closed their doors to children aged twelve and under for seven weeks. 

In 1942, The Baptist Radio Hour premiered nationally and enlightened the public about Baptist beliefs and activities. R.C. Campbell pastored the church from 1943-1945, with membership increasing to 223. During his tenure, many young people attended activities supported by the church. 

Although the exact date is unsure, a baptistery was installed in the church, perhaps during the time when the remodeling was done to the auditorium during the 1940s

The church’s first pastor’s residence (pastorium) consisting of eight rooms, was built in 1947 on the corner of Main and Church Streets, on property purchased from Hamilton County. In 1954, the Leonard Robinson home, which joined the church property, was purchased and the house was used for Sunday school rooms. 

tragedy and hope

On Sunday night, February 5th, 1961, the church suffered a great loss. It was believed that the baptistery was being drained and the heating element was not turned off, thus overheating and starting a fire that burned the original building and its contents to the ground. The deacons met that night and made preparations for the Wednesday Night Prayer service. Chairs and hymnals were bought for the Sunday services. Fowler Brothers Furniture Company sent an organ and piano for the church to use without charge for six months. A pulpit was borrowed from Providence Baptist Church.


Blueprints for the new sanctuary were immediately drawn with construction beginning in July of 1961. Dedication ceremonies were held on July 15, 1962, with the total cost to rebuild the church approximately $90,000. The library, which also burned in the fire, was re established on January 8, 1969. 


Beginning in 1979, ministries were expanded in many areas. New Pastor, Reverend Lamar Barden, led the membership drive through renewed visitation efforts, resulting in record Sunday school attendance. 


The Baptist Young Women’s Organization began a clothing center for the needy. The church’s first pictorial directory was published, and church growth necessitated making the secretarial position full-time. The church renovated the auditorium and added some Sunday school rooms and a choir room on the north side of the auditorium. 

In April, 2011, the Chattanooga and Ooltewah areas were rocked by a 13-hour long string of violent tornadoes, with an epicenter hitting the nearby communities of Collegedale and Apison, Tennessee, and Ringgold, Georgia. The storm produced two EF4 and two EF5 tornadoes (EF5 is the most severe), tracked 267 miles.


Ooltewah Baptist Church members stepped into action. The church’s Activities Center was used as a central collection point by Hamilton County Baptist Association (HaCoBA) for food, water, clothing, toiletries and other supplies for victims of the storm. A tractor trailer was also parked in the lot packed with supplies. A “chain gang” went out in force with chainsaws to cut up and clean downed trees and assisted local residents with debris clean-up, recovery and removal. 

jesus is still changing lives