- [S47] Sevier County, Tennessee and its Heritage, Sevier County Heritage Book Committee, (1994, Don Mills, Inc.), 43, 160, 165, 190, 264.
- [S4] Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee), 27 Feb 2003.
Brickmason's skill still stands
Sevier builder's handiwork includes courthouse, Masonic lodge, church
By JEANNINE F. HUNTER
February 27, 2003
Sevier County has always had a relatively small black population yet the tight-knit community has produced several brickmasons, and all-black construction companies, carpenters and furniture makers. Black brickmasons and builders constructed "nearly every important private and public building in the county," according to an article, "Leaders of Afro-American Nashville," which was a project of the 1998 Nashville Conference on Afro-American Culture and History.
Isaac Dockery, born in 1832, was a well-respected brickmason and builder who lived in Sevier County and established a business in Newport, I.D. & Sons Contractors in Brick.
Dockery, who was not a slave nor were his parents, taught his skill to sons, sons-in-law and grandsons. Examples of his handiwork include the Sevier County Courthouse (1896), Sevierville's New Salem Baptist Church (1886) and the Sevierville Masonic Lodge (1893).
"He built the first kiln in Sevier County," wrote Martha Burden Bowden, Dockery's great-granddaughter in her 1988 book "Mountain of Dreams." ("Mountain of Dreams" can be found in the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knox County Public Library System).
Several members of Dockery's family also started as brickmasons including Paris Witt McMahan, a former slave who later established the Sevierville-based Riverside Steam Brick Co. that operated until the 1930s; George and Stewart Burden, who went on to establish a collection company in the early 1900s; and Fred McMahan, who attended Knoxville College and earned his master's degree in architectural engineering at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Around 1920, McMahan returned to Sevierville and opened J.F. & N McMahan Construction Co. with his brothers James and Newt.
The McMahan company built the Dwight and Kate Wade House in Sevierville, a home modeled after an "avant-garde exhibition dwelling at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair's ‘Town of Tomorrow' exhibit," wrote Robbie D. Jones in "Leaders of Afro-American Nashville."
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 8 Aug 2006.
Historic church earns its 'mark'
New Salem recognized for Dockery contributions
By: CANDICE GRIMM, Staff Writer August 08, 2006
SEVIERVILLE - Nearly 300 descendants of Isaac and Charlotte Thomas Dockery gathered from all over the nation Sunday to dedicate a state historical marker honoring Dockery's achievements as a brick maker and builder of New Salem Baptist Church.
The unveiling of the marker was held during the annual Dockery family reunion at New Salem Baptist, which was constructred by Dockery in 1886 of bricks he made by hand. The church is the oldest standing structure in Sevier County and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Dockery is also known for having built many other unique structures in Sevier County, including the county courthouse, and also for the one-of-a-kind furniture he made.
New Salem Baptist is the only historically black church in Sevier County. According to Joseph McMahan of Sevierville, a Dockery descendant, with the church being listed on the National and Tennessee historical registers, the family will be able to apply for grants to repair and maintain the structure.
Carl James Dockery Jr. of Shelby, N.C., said, "If we can bring it back to its glory days, people could have weddings and everything else here."
Local and state officials took part in the ceremony. It included reading of the Dockery family preamble that states in part, "We acknowledge that our responsibility is first to the historical preservation of our unique and diversified family heritage and background. It is to give recognition to those who have paved that path before us and to bring honor to those who have fought with courage to give us the freedom we enjoy today."
Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley talked about the importance of family and noted that the world would be a better place if all followed the Dockery family preamble.
State Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, said he felt honored to have been invited. "What a heritage and history of the county you have in your family. Thank you," he said.
State Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, is a member of the Hugh Henry Foundation in Blount County and interested in historical preservation.
"Too much has already slipped through our hands. ... We need to preserve all we can," said Finney.
Dave Jones of the Tennessee Department of Travel and Tourism presented the family with a letter from Gov. Phil Bredesen to commemorate the occasion.
Said Jones, "In reading about the background of this family, one of the things that spoke to my heart was that Isaac Dockery put the initials I.D. and the date on each of the bricks he made. He did it because he was proud of his work and who he was, and he wanted his descendants and everyone else to know it. This marker is a reminder of Isaac Dockery's work and the job he did."
All eight branches of the Dockery family - Dockery, Coleman, Burden, Gilchrist, Witt McMahan, Tom McMahan, Brabson, and Garrett - were represented. McMahan said Dockery had 15 children, of which 10 were girls, and the family has been holding reunions at the church since 1937.
The ceremoney also included an invocation by Elder Zack Flack, pastor of Boyds Creek Church of God; scripture reading by the Rev. Carl Bragg, pastor of Allens Chapel Baptist; a solo by Denzlow Evans, trustee of New Salem Baptist; and singing by the Macedonia Baptist Church Choir.
- [S84] E-Mail, Sharon McMahan [McMahanPub@aol.com], 14 Nov 2006.
The children of Isaac and Charlotte are listed as 15. Their names are: William, Charles, Samuel, Mollie, Henry, Mack, Frank, Bern, Adeline, Sallie, Mattie, Louisa, Ida, Balzora and Nancy.
Mollie married John Burden, had seven children.(George, Emma, Fannie, Steward, Stell, James, Bertha.
Adeline married Tom McMahan, had five children( Henry, Odie,Joe,Mack,Mollie(Johnson).
Sallie, died as an infant.
Mattie married Jordan Garrett, had three children (Blanch,Walton,Ethel)
Louisa married P. Witt McMahan, had ten children.(James Isaac, Newt, Samuel, Fred, Florence,Mollie, Mattie, Mamie, John, Fannie.
Ida married Bruce Gilchrist, had one child, (Kathern)
Balzora married Edd Brabson and had eight children.( Bill, Oscar, Charlie, Tom, Mary,Josie,Laura,Katie)
Nancy married Samuel Coleman, had ten children.(Ella, William, Kate, Samuel, George, Mary, Robert,Sallie(Armstrong),John, Otis.
William Dockery married Cordia (?), had nine children.(John, Jim, Clifford, George, Laura, Mary, Addie, Kate(McMahan),Gevenia(Blocker)
Charles Dockery married Addie Dickerson, had four children. (Walter, Claude,Edward,Carl James.
Samuel Dockery married 3 times. 1. Mary 2. Nannie 3. Willie(Davis), had five children. Lena Mae(Atkins), Myrtle(Fulton), George, Herman, Harry.
Henry Dockery married Lizzie(?) had seven children. (Dora, Leonard, Imogene, Nina(Craig),Louisa(Hart),Harold, Lillian.
Mack Dockery married 2 times. 1.Ella Wilson 2. Eleanor Irvin had eight children. (Charlie, Mack Jr., Ottie, Jane, James, Emerlis, John Isaac, Willie.
Frank Dockery married 2 times. 1. Mary(?) 2. Carrie(?) had four children.(Jessie, Frank Jr., Juanita, Velma.
Bern Dockery married Mary(?) had nine children.(Ida, Emma,Myrtle ,Hugh ,Oscar, Lessie, Iowa,Paul, Clyde)
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 1 Mar 2010.
1886 Sevier church on endangered list
A church building in Sevier County is on the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance’s list of endangered historic buildings and places in the 16-county region.
The New Salem Baptist Church was built in 1886 by Isaac Dockery, noted black builder, and is Sevierville’s oldest surviving building, Sevier County’s oldest brick church building, and the only historic black church in the county.
The church served the black community until the 1950s when the last services were held by the original congregation. It is located in a bend of Middle Creek along Eastgate Road.
Since that time, the church has been used by other congregations and denominations, and the historic integrity has slowly been chipped away, the alliance said in announcing the list of endangered structures.
The original bell tower and pulpit furniture have been removed and the overall interior has been altered significantly.
Even with these changes, the church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, and a Tennessee Historical marker was placed on the grounds in 2006. The building suffers from lack of maintenance and ventilation issues, which are compromising the structure, the alliance said.
Today the church and grounds are used served for the annual Dockery family reunion, which draws hundreds of descendants. The Dockery Family Association has been working with the East Tennessee Community Design Center, the African-American Heritage Alliance, and ETPA to find a long term solution that would preserve the legacy of the building and the contributions of the congregation.
The first list of endangered historic places is selected by the alliance Board of Directors from nominations. Preservation strategies are developed for each site on the list.
The preservation alliance works to protect places and structures with historic or cultural significance in Cocke, Jefferson and Sevier, among others.
The list of endangered structures:
1. Alexander Inn, Anderson County
2. The Martin Mansion, Blount County
3. Old Lafollette Post Office
4. Graham Kivett House, Claiborne County
5. Gilleland Odell House, Cocke County
6. Abandoned Rural Schoolhouses, Grainger County
7. Morristown College
8. Quaker Valley, Jefferson County
9. Central Business District of Lenoir City
10. Boyhood Home of Estes Kefauver, Monroe County
11. Brushy Mountain State Correctional Complex, Morgan County
12. Roane County, Emory Gap Cemetery
13. New Salem Baptist Church, Sevier County
14. J. Will Taylor House, Union County
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 4 Jul 2010.
By THERESA WILLIAMS
Amazingly, there are several buildings in the Sevierville area still standing that were built using Sevier County red clay and created by the capable hands of an African-American, Isaac Dockery, who passed away a century ago last week.
Records of Isaac Dockery’s birth state that he was born a free man in the year 1832 in the Jones Cove community in Sevier County. He believed that opportunity only presented itself with hard work.
Shortly before the Civil War, Dockery moved to Sevierville where he found work as a mercantile clerk. From his hard work in this position he went into business for himself as a brick mason and builder.
During the Civil War, Sevierville was occupied for a while by Confederate forces. These Rebel soldiers were searching for Union loyalist in the area. Dockery was working as a clerk for Henry M. Thomas.
Thomas, an elderly man, had a grandson named McKendree Porter Thomas who was a colonel in the Union army. The Confederate soldiers tortured Dockery by tying a rope around his neck and threatening to hang him. When this failed to produce any infomation from Dockery, the soldiers took further action.
They dragged Dockery through the streets of Sevierville. The torture continued for quite some time. As Dockery was dragged over the rough ground, rocks and tree roots would rip flesh from his body.
Even though he was badly battered, Dockery never revealed the hiding place of Colonel McKendree Porter Thomas.
After the Civil War, Isaac Dockery began to prosper. He married the love of his life, Charlotte Thomas, who had been a slave of Henry Thomas.
Through their determined spirits they established a brick masonry business. Dockery became
instrumental in establishing the brick masonry tradition within the African-American culture. His trademark inscribed on his bricks was his initials “ID", and sometimes he would include the date on the inside of his bricks.
Isaac and Charlotte had 15 children - eight sons and seven daughters. He taught his sons and sons-in-law the family trade.
Several notable members of the Dockery family: George and Stewart Burden, Bill Coleman, Paris Witt McMahan, and Fred McMahan. Fred McMahan established the J. F. & N. McMahan Construction Company.
Dockery was a contemporary of the legendary craftsman Lewis Buckner.
Some of the notable Sevierville landmarks either built by Isaac Dockery or built of bricks from his kiln: New Salem Baptist Church (1886), the oldest building currently standing in the city Sevierville; Murphy College (1891); and the Sevier County Courthouse (1896).
Isaac Dockery died on June 24, 1910, at his son’s home in Knoxville. His wife, Charlotte Dockery, was bom Nov. 11, 1835 and died on April 30, 1913. They are buried in the New Salem/Pleasant View Cemetery in Sevierville.
His life legacy lives on in his descendents, many who have made their homes in Sevier County and made the world a better place to live.
Theresa Williams is a Genealogist for the Sevier County Public Library System. This is the third column in the Upland Chronicles series, celebrating the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a story or have comments contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email@example.com; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- [S112] Census, 1850.
Name: Benji Dockery
Residence: Cocke county, Cocke , Tennessee
Age: 17 years
Calculated Birth Year: 1833
Birthplace: North Carolina
Film Number: 24565
Digital GS Number: 4191100
Image Number: 00395
Line Number: 40
Dwelling House Number: 1223
Family Number: 1223
Free or Slave:
Collection: United States Census, 1850
- [S84] E-Mail, Sharon McMahan [McMahanPub@aol.com], 22 Aug 2010.
There is a question in my mind about the names, Julas, Manervy, Ambrose and Lewis as being children of Isaac and Charlotte. Family history dictates that they had 15 children whos names were: William, Samuel,Mack, Charlie,Henry,Frank, Bern, Louisa, Adaline,Ida,Nancy, Mattie,Balzora,Mollie and Sallie who died as an infant.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 13 Mar 2011.
Church on last prayers
by STAN VOIT
The recent rain storms threatened to flood New Salem Baptist Church.
John and Alverrene Bridgeforth, and A.B. Coleman, who has family ties to the builders of New Salem Baptist Church.
The interior walls of New Salem Baptist Church is covered by mold.
SEVIERVILLE — The interior is caked with highly toxic black mold. It needs a new roof. A number of bricks have fallen off or broken. It’s in a flood zone. It needs new windows and insulation.
Sevierville’s oldest building is in trouble. A member of the family that owns it thinks the structure may only have another three years of life unless it is renovated.
New Salem Baptist Church made a list of East Tennessee’s most endangered heritage treasures. Alverrene Bridgeforth, a member of the Dockery family which owns the church, says it is very fragile.
“We probably have a window at most of two and a half or three years,” she said. “It’s because of the brick decaying on the side of the building in the rear, where the foundation is. The building is very old. The floor inside is very good, but that can change over time if dampness keeps coming in.”
Bridgeforth, who lives in Knoxville, is a member of the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance that compiled the list of endangered historical structures and attractions.
Constructed in 1886 by noted black builder Isaac Dockery, the church on Eastgate Road near Sevierville Intermediate School is believed to be the city’s oldest surviving building, the county’s oldest brick church and the lone historically black church in the county. It is owned by the Dockery Family Association.
It hasn’t been used as a church since the 1950s. Nobody could use it now because of the mold inside. It’s also small, seating only around 75, so it is unlikely another church could make use of it.
Bridgeforth is hoping to get a preservation grant or two to finance restoration. That effort is hampered by the lack of tax-exempt status for the association since it is a family group.
“Right now we are between a rock and a hard place,” she said.
The East Tennessee Community Design Center has prepared a design of what a restoration might involve. The city of Sevierville’s building codes officer, Butch Stott, has indicated the church can get a waiver for being in a flood plain, Bridgeforth said, because of the church’s historical significance.
But the deterioration goes on.
“We are in dire need of money,” Bridgeforth said.
The Dockery family has had its reunion in Sevierville every summer since 1972 and gathers by the hundreds on the church grounds for a picnic. Some family members have skills that could be put to use in a construction project, Bridgeforth said, but the overall cost makes it nearly impossible for the family to do. And any restoration would have to be done under certain guidelines that may be imposed by a grant or city codes.
New Salem Baptist Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, and a state historical marker was placed on the grounds in 2006.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 9 Aug 2011.
Renovations to historic Baptist church approved
by JEFF FARRELL
The recent rain storms threatened to flood New Salem Baptist Church.
SEVIERVILLE —The county’s oldest church is past the latest hurdle in ongoing plans to restore the structure.
New Salem Baptist Church was constructed in 1886 by noted builder Isaac Dockery. The church is believed to be the county’s oldest surviving building and is the county’s only historically black church.
It’s also on a flood plain, and floodwaters this year came to the entrance. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been listed on the East Tennessee Preservation Association’s list of endangered historical structures and attractions.
The church, which seats 75, suffers from mold and other issues inside, although the floor is in good condition.
The Dockery Family Association has been working on restoration efforts for some time, and recently got approval from the Sevierville Board of Flood Plain Review — made up of members of the planning commission —to do renovations despite being on the flood plain.
“I think I have all the documentation we need, and I can recommend approval,” Codes Enforcement Officer Butch Stott said before the board gave the plan the affirmative vote.
Members of the Dockery Family Association were expected to attend the meeting, but didn’t make it. Still, Stott said they had worked with his office and had exhausted other possible methods for restoring the building.
Because it’s on the flood plain, they were required to look into relocating the structure before doing any major renovations, but Stott said their research showed that just wasn’t feasibly. They also looked into altering the waterway, but engineers said that also was not feasible.
The board’s approval is just the latest step. The association still must raise money for the work, and Stott said he didn’t expect to see work start there this year.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 11 Aug 2012.
Supporters of historic church hope to raise $500,000 for repairs, restoration
by DEREK HODGES
When she looks at the New Salem Baptist Church, a building constructed in 1886 where the windows are now shuttered by wooden planks and the interior is filled with toxic black mold, Alverrene Bridgforth sees hope and a beautiful monument for the future.
It's going to take it a while to get Sevierville's oldest building, which has sat empty for decades, to that point, but Bridgforth and others who support the effort to give it new life have faith. They've now posted a visual reminder of that faith in the front yard of the Eastgate Road structure.
It was first called New Salem Church to represent the fact it was a union congregation, with any Christian welcome for services.
The Gothic revival-style New Salem was constructed by Isaac Dockery, a free African-American born in Jones Cove who was a mason and builder. He was commissioned to erect the first church for the black community in the county, largely centered around the banks of Middle Creek in what's now called McMahan Addition.
For generations they would gather there, shooing away flies in the cool shade of the creek bank.
Eventually, though, the congregation would disband and Dockery's handmade bricks, each of which weighed three pounds, no longer echoed stern admonitions or loving homilies.
The church, which shares a brickmaker with local notable buildings like the school board office (Murphy College) and the courthouse, sat empty and mostly neglected. Vandals would occasionally break the aged glass to gain entry to the old sanctuary. Meanwhile, moisture from below the floor, which remains in surprisingly good condition, seeped up into the space, encouraging the spread of black mold that crept slowly from the floor to the ceiling like ants marching up the walls.
"It's in bad shape," Bridgforth concedes. "It's just been left alone and boarded up for so long. That creek has flooded so many times and it just makes the ground under the church so wet. With it being all sealed up solid, there's just no ventilation and the mold has gone crazy."
There's a note of sadness in her voice as she, a descendant of Dockery, describes the scene. The most recent times she's been to the building, including the recent Dockery family reunion, she's refused to go inside.
"We're going to be able to save it," she asserts. "We would be remiss if we just let it go. I think we should really protect it. God is so good. I know there will be provision for this."
That phrase, "God is so good," peppers Bridgforth's vocabulary when she talks about the vision for the church.
The architect and contractor who have agreed to help with the effort have estimated the needed work — which will include improving drainage on the site to ensure that remains the case — will cost about $417,000. Those spearheading the effort have now posted a picture of a thermometer in the church's front yard, with lines marking the steps to their goal of $500,000.
"It's a lot of money and there's a lot to be done, but we believe we can do it," Bridgforth says. "Through grants and donations and fundraising, we can get there."
Some work has already begun. The electricity is back on and ceiling fans are swirling in the rafters all day and night. They're working to make the conditions a bit less favorable for the mold.
Bridgforth says she and the supporters have plenty of motivation for their work.
"A big part of the motivation for us is it's a historic site. Isaac Dockery built that church in 1886. It stands as a memorial to the man and the community," she explains. "It's amazing. It's a treasure."
And once it's restored to its former glory, Bridgforth believes it will also be one of the must-see attractions for visitors.
"I think people will be excited to walk around the grounds and know the history of that building," she says. "I just couldn't bare to say, 'There's nothing that I can do.' I had to get involved because this is history that should be preserved.
"It's a treasure worth saving."
For more information on the church or how to contribute to the effort, contact Bridgforth at 919-6557.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, District 5, Household 645, Series: M653 Roll: 1270 Page: 426, 10 Aug 1860.
Isaac DOCKERY 25 Merchant Clerk
Living in Henry M. Thomas household
- [S112] Census, 1870.
Sevier County, Tennessee Census, District 5, Page 19, Household 134, 14 Jun 1870.
134 DOCKERY, Isaac MM 33 farm laborer $150 TN
Charlttee FM 31 keeping house TN
Adaline FM 14 without occupation TN
Isaac W. MM 10 at home TN
Mary C. FM 8 TN
Samuel H. MM 6 TN
Amaros B. MM 5 TN
Manervy J. FM 3 TN
McKendree MM 2 TN
Lewis N. MM 12-Oct TN
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, 362A, 1880.
Census Place: Sevierville, Sevier, Tennessee
Source: FHL Film 1255277 National Archives Film T9-1277 Page 362A
Relation Sex Marr Race Age Birthplace
Isaac DACKERY Self M M B 51 TN
Occ: Brick Mason Fa: NC Mo: NC
Charlotie DACKERY Wife F M B 40 TN
Occ: Keeping House Fa: TN Mo: TN
Isaac W. DACKERY Son M S B 21 TN
Occ: Laborer Fa: TN Mo: TN
Mary C. DACKERY Dau F S B 18 TN
Fa: TN Mo: TN
Samuel H. DACKERY Son M S B 17 TN
Occ: Laborer Fa: TN Mo: TN
Ambros B. DACKERY Son M S B 15 TN
Occ: Laborer Fa: TN Mo: TN
Manervez J. DACKERY Dau F S B 13 TN
Occ: At Home Fa: TN Mo: TN
Mckinely T. DACKERY Son M S B 11 TN
Occ: At Home Fa: TN Mo: TN
Henry T. DACKERY Son M S B 9 TN
Occ: At Home Fa: TN Mo: TN
Frank P. DACKERY Son M S B 8 TN
Fa: TN Mo: TN
Julas C. DACKERY Son M S B 6 TN
Fa: TN Mo: TN
Ida P. DACKERY Dau F S B 2 TN
Fa: TN Mo: TN
Charlie DACKERY Son M S B 10M TN
Fa: TN Mo: TN
- [S112] Census, 1900.
Name Isaac Dockery
Residence Newport town, Cocke, Tennessee
Birth Date May 1830
Relationship to Head-of-Household Self
Spouse Name Lattie Dockery
Spouse Birth Place Tennessee
Father Birthplace Tennessee
Mother Birthplace Tennessee
Race or Color (expanded) Black
Marital Status Married
Years Married 47
Estimated Marriage Year 1853
Mother How Many Children
Number Living Children
Enumeration District 0163
Sheet Number and Letter 13B
Household ID 266
Reference Number 52
GSU Film Number 1241562
Image Number 00379
Household Gender Age
Isaac Dockery M
Spouse Lattie Dockery F
Child Ida Dockery F
Child Mattie Dockery F
- [S87] Death Certificate.
Name: Isaac Dockery
Death Date: 24 Jun 1910
Birth Date: 1836
Father's Name: Benjamin Dockery
Mother's Name: Nancy Gibson
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: I00428-8
System Origin: Tennessee-EASy
Source Film Number: 1276605
Reference Number: rn 3526
Collection: Tennessee Deaths and Burials, 1874-1955
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 319.