(taken from Fentress County Historical Society article written by Donald Bailey, Jr.)
The first Methodists to come to the Cumberlands are lost in the midst of history. Certainly, they were among the earliest settlers. Their presence in significant numbers was attested in 1803 with the formation of the Livingston Circuit, embracing present day Jackson, Clay, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Fentress, Scott, Morgan, and Cumberland Counties, with the Rev. Jesse Walker as Pastor. Walker was the perfect choice for the Livingston appointment. Having pioneered Methodism in infant Chicago and St. Louis, Rev. Walker was a fine frontiersman and an experienced organizer of frontier congregations. Literally living in the saddle, Rev. Walker preached in meeting houses and solitary cabins throughout the mountains. He baptized, solemnized marriages, buried the dead, and brought the Gospel to the mountain people he loved so well.
By 1817, Methodism was thriving in the Cumberlands. During that year, Rev. Timothy Carpenter recorded conducting regular services in several homes in what is now the Jamestown area. This continued to be the pattern of Methodism in the region, until 1845 when Jamestown Methodist Episcopal Church, South was officially organized. Meeting in various buildings, including the Masonic Hall, the Church continued to grow with the mountain community for the next three-quarters of a century.
Many ministers have served in the Cumberlands. Some came reluctantly and left as quickly as they could. But, many fell in love with the mountain and its people and stayed. Of the latter was the Rev. Robert Hall. Called to the ministry in his fifties, Rev. Hall spent his entire fifteen-year career (1916-1931) in the Cumberland Mountains, often turning down prestigious appointments elsewhere to do so. So devoted to ministry in the Cumberlands and so loved by the mountain people was Robert Hall, that he became known as “Bishop of the Cumberlands.” Appointed to Jamestown in 1918, Rev. Hall proclaimed in his first sermon, “I’ve come to build a church,” and build it, he did! Purchasing an unfinished church building on the corner of Main and Church Streets from local Baptists for $358.26, Rev. Hall led his flock to finish the stately two-story frame structure, in which worship was inaugurated on Mothers’ Day, 1922.
During his pastorate at Jamestown, Rev. Hall became increasingly concerned over the lack of adequate schools in the Cumberland region. In 1919, he took his concern to the annual meeting of the Tennessee Conference in Nashville, and was rewarded the following year with the establishment of Cumberland Mountain School in Crossville, along the main line of the Tennessee Central Railroad. A close friend of Sgt. Alvin C. York, Rev. Hall encouraged our native hero in his own devotion to education, which blossomed in the establishment of Alvin C. York Industrial Institute, later known as Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute.
By the end of World War II, Jamestown Methodists had outgrown their facility, and a building committee, consisting of D. O. Beaty, Mrs. Kirby Johnson, Chester Looper, J. P. Sloan, and C. B. Winton, was formed to lay plans for a new building. Under the pastorate of the Rev. Robert S. Lee, ground was broken in 1948 on the site of the old church, and the cornerstone was laid in 1949 for the beautiful native stone edifice which you see today.
Today, Jamestown First is a leading church in the Cookeville District of the United Methodist Church, honored by its heritage and proud to persevere in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in the noble tradition of Methodism in the Cumberlands.