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Little Leaf Baptist to mark storied past at Sunday’s 122nd homecoming

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By Julia Hopper Daniel, For Roane Newspapers

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Little Leaf Baptist Church, Oliver Springs, will observe its 122nd church homecoming on May 6.

Elder Kenneth Lewis, associate minister of Little Leaf, will be the morning speaker. The afternoon speaker will be the Rev. William Caldwell from Mount Sinai Baptist Church of Clinton.

Little Leaf is at 228 E. Tri County Blvd.

The history of Little Leaf Baptist Church has been compiled from living memories and faded records of days gone by.

Historical accounts reveal that the church began in 1890 in the Sulphur Springs area of Oliver Springs. Sallie Gallaher, a longtime Little Leaf member, provided information that Jim Staples was one of the leaders who established the church in 1890.

Oral history also indicates that the church served as a school building for black children beginning in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

The second site was on Reed’s Hill, where the Rev. Mack Reynolds was pastor. Ministers named Grison and Golington also served the early church as pastors. Reed’s Hill is off Fritts Road. That church building burned in either 1908 or in early 1909.

On June 1, 1909, land was purchased for the third building site of Little Leaf Baptist Church.

William, John, David and Joseph Richards sold the land to J.K.P. Naff (Knaff), trustee of Little Leaf Baptist Church.

Also listed on the deed were the Rev. W.J. Peak, the Rev. William McKamey, Granville S. Staples and W.W. Willoughby.

The cornerstone of the third building was laid May 15, 1910, with Peak listed as pastor.

The charter members of the 1910 church were Mc-Kamey, Staples, Willoughby, Sam Cross, Adeline Staples Crozier, Henry Crozier, Jack Crozier, Rosie Crozier, Margaret Curd, Emery Davenport, the Rev. Lee Davenport, Lucy Felker, Roxie Gallimore, Mary Hall, Celia Hudson, Fannie Knaff, James Knaff, Jane Knaff, Liza Knaff, Ella Lynch, Sarah Shavers, Ann Staples, Jenny Staples, Mary Staples and Tilda Staples.

The third building was an attractive frame structure that stood until it was replaced with the present brick structure.

The fourth and current building was completed in October 1964, when the Rev. Maceo Roddy was pastor. Roddy served as pastor for 31 years.

The current pastor is Elder Thomas Dews who became pastor in 1986.

The Little Leaf Baptist Young People’s Union/Baptist Training Union’s earliest records are dated June 17, 1916.

In 1919, Deacon William Julian “W.J.” Hopper was listed as president of BYPU. Other officers recorded were Ella Mae Griffin, vice president; Lettie M. Gallimore, secretary; Susie Hall Foster, assistant secretary; Laura Crozier Griffin, corresponding secretary; and Josie Crozier, treasurer.

Early notes indicated Little Leaf’s participation in the Knoxville District Association, because delegates were sent to the association meeting each year by the BYPU.

A church group was organized under the title of “Literary Society” in 1922 with Nannie Bell Hall as director and Laura Griffin, Ella Griffin, Rena Gilbreath and Robert Knaff as officers.

Debates were held with the following topics listed: “Which is the most useful, horse or cow?”, “Which is the most benefit to a home, dish rag or broom?”, “Is fire more destructive than water?”, “Is whiskey more destructive than war?”

The topics indicated the concerns of the time period.

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Oliver Springs native and resident Julia Hopper Daniel is a longtime member of Little Leaf Baptist Church and Oliver Springs Historical Society.