HISTORY OF UNION CHAPEL

Affectionately known as “The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood”

Union Chapel of Walden’s Ridge was founded in 1908 to meet the need for a summer Sunday School when the trip to Chattanooga took four hours. It has operated every summer since then, drawing its membership from all Christian denominations. Among those who met in March 1908 at the Chamber of Commerce in Chattanooga to complete plans for the Chapel were Mr. and Mrs. L.J. Sharp, Mr. and Mrs. L.W. Bates, Mr. and Mrs. C.V. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Kropp, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Patten, Mr. and Mrs. Tom W. Fritts, Mr. and Mrs. B.F. Fritts, Mr. and Mrs. Joe V. Williams, Dr. and Mrs. A.W. Palmer, Mr. and Mrs. Milton Brown, Mr. Charley Davidson and others.

The first board of trustees was composed of Mr. B.F. Fritts, Chairman; Mr. Bates and Mr. Milton Brown. The Building Committee was Mrs. Sharp, Mrs. Joe V. Williams, Mrs. J.P. Smartt, Mr. Bates, and Mr. Milton Brown. The original lot was donated by Mrs. Annie W. Fritts and was substantially enlarged in 1948 by a gift of land from Mr. and Mrs. Ben F. Hunt. Originally several Sunday School classes met simultaneously in the one-room Chapel. In 1937 an area was added at the rear. The Infant Classroom was given by Mrs. Z.C. Patten in memory of her mother, Mrs. D.M. Key. Downstairs classrooms were refurbished in 1984 by John S. Strang in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bartow Strang, and new furniture in the nursery was given in 1993 by Mr. and Mrs. Preston Collins in memory of Catherine Newell Oehmig. A memorial flagpole was dedicated in 1984 to Edward W. Oehmig by his family. A stone wall was placed in front of the Chapel in 1993 in memory of Betsy Dwyer Wilson. In 1995 a meditation garden was planted in memory of Ruth G. (Mrs. Harold) Warren. The first stone patio was given by Eleanor Kruesi Martin and Margaret Kruesi Killebrew in memory of Rowena Kruesi Frierson.

In 2002 the rear section of the Chapel was removed and completely reconstructed in conformation with the pre-existing design concept, except that three restrooms were added. A stone patio, ramp and walks along the north side accommodate the growing congregation and provide handicap access. These projects were generously underwritten by caring Christian individuals, and no money from Benevolences was diverted for the work.

Comprehensive histories of Union Chapel were compiled by Karen Paul Stone and published in 1998 titled The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood: The First 90 Years, and in 2008 titled 100 Years The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood: Union Chapel of Summertown in Walden, Tennessee. A Centennial photograph of all in attendance was taken in July 2008.

Every year since 1921 a Homecoming Service has been held on a Sunday near the summer’s end, at which time many former residents of the Mountain return to worship together and to reunite in Christian fellowship. Union Chapel – The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood- welcomes all who will, of whatever age or creed, come and hear the Gospel of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, taught according to the Bible, God’s Holy Word.