Appalachia Music Oconaluftee/Smokemont

The Story Of The Lufty Baptist Church

Smokemont baptist church lufty baptist church

During the weeks before-and after-our trip to the Lufty Baptist Church I listened intently for a story about the church. I looked in every corner, nook, and cranny of that beautiful old church. I even poked around outside, but I still came up empty handed.

As I learned more and more about the area, and about the people who called it home during the era of Lufty Baptist Church, I kept feeling like some thought was just out of reach in my mind. Sorta like when you see something out of the corner of your eye, yet when you turn to see what it is there’s nothing there.

Lufty Baptist Church

My scattered thoughts made me doubt myself leaving me feeling like I didn’t really grasp the whole story. Making me wish more than once I hadn’t blabbered on an on about Oconaluftee here on the Blind Pig.

Once I got over my infatuation with the first names like Haseltine, Eximena, Cpradela and Jessomay in the church records I took notice of the last names.

There are Bradleys, Collins, Elliotts, Gibsons, Griffiths, McMahans, Roberts, Watsons, Lamberts, Maneys, Jenkins, and the list goes on—with all the names being the same in one way: they are still common surnames in Swain County as well as in all of Western NC. Many folks who live right here in Cherokee County share the surnames.

Crying holy unto the lord

I finally realized that was the story. It was the story of Granny’s family who are Jenkins; of the Collins who live just over the GA line; of the Griffiths who live over the ridge; of the Watsons who live in Murphy; and of the Lamberts who live up on Junaluska. My entire experience with the Lufty Baptist Church told the story of the longevity of Appalachia.

Earlier this week we talked about how sense of place ties Appalachians to their homeland. Multiple generations of the same family being able to settle in the same area (or country as Pap would say) ensures an enduring culture.

Inside lufty baptist church

I can never say what it felt like to lose your land, your home, your church for the supposed greater good of society, yet I can say without a doubt the members of Lufty Baptist Church were my people. They lived in the same Appalachian culture that I do where things like independence, self reliance, faith, neighborliness, love of family, humility, humor, music, and love of place are all valued.

Even though I didn’t know any of the people from the list of names I shared yesterday they’d be no stranger if I met them today. For we’d soon find out we both speak the same rich Appalachian language, we both know about gritted bread, and with just a few quick questions we’d know who we both belonged to and we’d know we were of the same people.

Take a listen to the last video of the girls recorded in the historic Lufty Baptist Church, by far my favorite from the day.

I hope you enjoyed the song and the entire series about the Lufty Baptist Church and the area which surrounds it.


*Source: Ocona Lufta Baptist Pioneer Church of the Smokies 1836-1939. Text by Florence Cope Bush. Over 1,000 names from church records. Copyright 1990 Misty Cove Press PO Box 22572, Concord, TN  37933-0572

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  • Reply
    January 9, 2019 at 9:18 am

    I came across this article randomly and enjoyed it. I am from East TN and my family has often come to visit the Lufty Church for the annual Smokemont Revival held in August. I thought the revival might interest you. It is really neat to attend the Revival to worship with others and talk to elders who remember family that attended the church. There are always lots of stories told and a big homecoming dinner on Sunday afternoon. It’s a great experience if you want to learn more about the church and its history.

    • Reply
      Sue McIntyre
      April 7, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      My husband and I just left the Smokemont Campground. We stopped in the to visit with the LORD at Lufty Baptist Church. My husband read scripture, and I sang AMAZING GRACE (I am not a singer but he is a preacher, LOL) The SPIRIT was strong. Thankful for the opportunity to worship where all those precious souls came to worship before us. Times may be different, but the SPIRIT is still the same. The McIntyres

  • Reply
    Carole Coates
    July 31, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Wish I’d found your blog sooner (like ten years ago), but so happy to come across it now. I’m working on the story of my mother’s life and times. Her 3rd great grandfather, John Mingus, was a charter member of Lufty, and the church originally met in his home (probably among others).

  • Reply
    Carole Coates
    July 31, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Wish I’d found your site sooner. Working on the story of my mother’s life and times. Her 3rd great grandfather, John Mingus, was one of the charter members of this church and it met in his home (and probably others) from its inception until they built a church

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Closing my eyes and listening to your girls singing with the echoes of the past and future mingling together….reading your posts about that lovely, lonely church – oh my!!!
    Thank you for this blog of yours.

  • Reply
    March 1, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I didn’t see Ed’s Ammons post till just a little while ago but, It was great Tipper! Well said and the metaphor about the dried four leaf clover was so meaningful. Maybe he will see this.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    It is sad that the little Lufty Church could not whisper its story to you. Maybe it is shy and afraid of all the strangers around you. No, not your children! Their songs brought back many memories of happier times when people sang and children played on the hill where now mostly strangers visit. It remembers a time when it was the center of a thriving little community. Where folks met to worship and remain long after to exchange news of the day or maybe even gossip a bit. To find out how the corn is doing or where the best blackberries are or whose sow has a litter and will soon pigs for sale.
    The little Lufty Church was once the heart, but the body it served is almost gone. Only a quickly vanishing few of its familiar faces visit now. As the former parishioners fade away, so does the soul of the church pass into eternity. Its life is draining rapidly away. It is soon to become solely an exhibit of the National Park Service. A fossil! Like a four leafed clover folded up in a book. Faded and brittle. Such a sad ending to such an extraordinary life.
    I think if you went back there alone sometime, completely alone, you would get to story you want. It might not be the story you wanted to hear, but the story the little Lufty Church has to tell.

  • Reply
    February 28, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Sometimes centering in on a specifice idea or name is not a bad thing, but as you brought out these family names are relatively common and represent family lines. I really enjoyed the girls’ singing. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Reply
    February 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I have enjoyed all the blogs and
    comments about life in the Lufty
    Basin. Those beautiful girls of
    yours singing helps to relieve
    the hardships of the past. I’m
    probably related to some of the
    names mentioned earlier because
    my daddy and mama once lived in
    the town of Bushnell, before the
    Fontana Dam Project…Ken

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo aka Granny Sal
    February 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Wonderful Post Tipper..

  • Reply
    February 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Great series Tipper, we have really enjoyed it. Your girls just keep getting better and better! The picture of the door in this post really intrigued me. Makes me wonder about about all of the people who passed through it and if the door was ever really locked. Thanks for reminding us how lucky that Appalachia is our home!

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    February 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Tipper, genealogy would take days to write for the names listed for the church. The Lambert names are in my family. They are mixed up with the rest names. If you go back to the Childers Blog. Berthy and Thomas Childers are on the list of Ocona Lufty Church members.
    I’m surprised no one had an article on the Smoky Mountain Turnpike Road Book head of Oconalufty River heading to Tennesse belonging to Robert Collins. This book contains the names of the workers with their names, male and female personal accounts. These pages have at the top, List of men working on the Smoky Mountain Road by Indians.
    List of Squaws on the Road. The squaws is a Cherokee Indian woman.
    List of Little Boys.
    There is two columns of names and after each name is a ( / ) mark for one days work. 1 days work was 25 cents.
    They could take it out in the store. List shows on October 15, 1836 each person was paid one pair shoes ($2.25 and one pair socks .75 cents.) They were paid any where from 6 ½ to .50 cents.
    Their names are in Cherokee. One Date was March 5, 6, and 7.
    Some of the women would have 38 marks. Some pages would have 67 marks.
    One these pages I found my second, third and fourth great grandfathers and mothers, along with their sons and daughters.
    Robert Collins was to receive the “ toll” on the Oconalufty Turnpike, and keep it in repair.
    (Have more but to long.)
    This is courtesy of the Museum Of the Cherokee Indians.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull, Ph.D.
    February 28, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Mercy! How meaningful can you get, Tipper? Like Ethelene said so poetically, you hit the nail of the head! Well Ethelene did not say that exactly, but she allows a person to talk in their own strange way. So that is my way of taken’ today – about your wonderful summary!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    February 28, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I enjoyed the videos of the girls singing…they are getting better and better.
    The stories of the Lufty Baptist church and history were so interesting. For the most part when one parked they stayed parked in the mountains for generations…even the “PARK” couldn’t take home from all of us.
    As bad as it seems to some. I am sort of glad for the preservation.
    At least one can go back and hear home and see pieces of family history. I shiver to think it could have all been askewed with steel buildings, after cabins were long gone and full of fume filled autos, and home gardens full of black oily pavement…shudder, shudder…We need to support at least that portion of home in the mountains.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 28, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I have really enjoyed learning about Lufty Baptist church and the people there. I’m not sure if there is a connection or not but my grandmother was a Jenkins and from what I can tell came out of the Robbinsville area. I have not been able to find much about her family.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 28, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Tipper, You’ve waxed poetic in your prose as you’ve told of the deep impression the Lufty Church visit made on you. Those “ties that bind” can be so strong at times they seem visible when they’re invisible,
    and encircling when no cords seem physically present to draw. Thanks for the entire series on the Lufty Baptist Church! I identify–and especially enjoyed seeing those Collins names!

  • Reply
    February 28, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Love this!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    February 28, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Back to the names: I wonder how many given names came from the Bible. I had a great aunt, Tamer Stonecypher Davis. When I was a teenager, I asked my mother where did Aunt Tamer get her name. She said the Bible.

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    February 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Tipper , I have loved your whole look at Lufty Baptist Church and it’s people , our people, mountain people . In today’s post you captured us in word. Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    February 28, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Thank you for the series. It certainly helped me realize my ties to to the area, and I’m very proud of those ties. I agree with Bradley. You and your family are very special.

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    February 28, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Enjoyed the whole series of stories, you done a fine job, also enjoyed the girls music, great acoustics, can you imagine if the Church house was full, bet you could hear them folks singing a mile away…

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    February 28, 2013 at 6:44 am

    I know the feelings that old churches, old cemeteries and old schools can inspire. I wish some in my area could tell their stories.

  • Reply
    February 28, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Nice post today Tipper. I remember many years ago my brother and I heard this new guy sing on the car radio. we were going to town one Saturday morning. I hope you don’t think I’m bragging but, I told my brother that this guy was going to be special; I just had an a feeling. That is the same feeling I had when first reading your blog and your book. Oh, by the way, that guy was Elvis Presley (one “S”). “Heartbreak Hotel” was the song!

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