// history

1: Early Baptists in Bradley County

When North Cleveland Baptist’s charter members gathered in a grassy meadow to organize a new Southern Baptist church, Baptist activity in Bradley County was over one hundred years old. Although Baptists were present in Tennessee before 1775, their influence in Bradley County was confined to mission work among the Cherokee Indians, who were native to this region. However, many Cherokees apparently accepted Baptist doctrine readily for they soon established churches and many became preachers. In fact, the first three Baptist ministers in this area were full-blooded Cherokee. After the Indians were removed to the West in 1841, Baptist churches in the area organized the Ocoee Baptist Assocation. This association was fairly successful until several Primitive Baptist Churches denied membership to Baptist churches who supported mission activity. The conflict that erupted eventually contributed to the organization’s gradual demise.
In 1859, however, fifteen churches met at the Blue Springs Baptist Church and revitalized the old Association. At the time they organized, members of the new Ocoee Association resolved the former controversy by determining that the Association would be strongly Missionary. Remaining idle during the War Between the States, the Ocoee Association joined the Tennessee Baptist Association in 1874. Through the affiliation, the Ocoee Association was able to join with fellow Baptists in the Southern Baptist Convention, organized in 1845.
Bradley Baptists continued to support the Ocoee Baptist Association until 1950. One problem these same churches faced however, was that the Association included churches in Bradley, Hamilton, Meigs and Polk Counties in Tennessee, and, at one time, churhces in Fannin County, Georgia. With such a large area to serve, Associational leaders were often hard-pressed to effectively minister to all member churches, even though many tried diligently to do so. As a results, during the 1947 Annual meeting, a special committee was appointed to investigate the possibility of dividing the Ocoee Association into two distinct Associtaions. One member of that committee was Rev. C.E. McDonald, who would later serve as pastor of North Cleveland from 1946-1957.
The committee discovered there was adequate reason to create two new Baptist Assocations, and eventually left the decision-making process to various Associational leaders. In Bradley County, that leadership was assumed by the Preacher’s Conference, who heard the Associational Committee’s report, and decided to take action. On October 13, 1949, the Bradley Baptist Association was organized with twenty-nine churches and 5,096 resident members.
Today the Bradley Baptist Association counts some fifty-seven Southern Baptist churches as members. North Cleveland is one of those churches who has had, and will continue to have, a prominent role in Associational activities. Many North Cleveland members have held numerous Associational positions, and have aided in the Baptist cooperative effort throughout Bradley County, and in the entire SBC.