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Well Springs UMC celebrates 120 years

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By Dwane Wilder

Although Ruth Bailey is not nearly as old as Well Springs United Methodist Church, it’s safe to say that they grew up together.

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The quaint country church along Tenn. 63 in eastern Campbell County was nearing the end of its third decade in January 1921 when Ruth was born, the third of six children, to Samuel Carter and Vernetti Jessie Carroll near the confluence of Davis Creek and the Powell River.

Ruth was barely a teenager when she joined the church at 13. Almost 80 years later, she is the oldest living active member of Well Springs UMC.

“There have been a lot of changes in Well Springs, but it’s the same to me. It’s just a wonderful community,” she said.

Last weekend, Ruth was one of about a hundred people who attended the church’s 120th anniversary celebration, which included homecoming activities, special music and a cemetery tour on Saturday and a worship service on Sunday.

“It’s been a while since they’ve had (an anniversary celebration),” said Keith Hampson, who is in 

his second year as pastor of Well Springs UMC.

Ruth grew up in a time when everything in the community revolved around the church. That included an adjacent school supported, in part, by the congregation.

“It was a wonderful school. We had wonderful teachers,” she said. “If there was a funeral at church, they would turn school out if we wanted to go. If we saw a car go up the road, we’d get up and look at it if the teacher let us.”

The school at Well Springs closed sometime during the 1960s.

Ruth left Campbell County for two years to work at Oak Ridge during the height of World War II. As an office worker for the top secret Manhattan Project, she said she was sometimes asked to make photostat copies of blueprints.

When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan in the summer of 1945, she said her supervisor made a special announcement: “The greatest secret of the war is now known. You have done your part well.”

In 1946, she came back to Campbell County, where she married war veteran Charlie Bailey and became a homemaker. She and Charlie raised four children.

Ruth left Well Springs for a period of 15 to 20 years in order to attend a Methodist church at Flat Hollow that was closer to her home. After that, church began to suffer declining attendance, she went back to Well Springs. She has been a faithful member of the Well Springs Family and Community Education Club for 58 years.

“I’ve had a good life. I can’t complain,” she said.