The Story Behind the Photo: Jennie Shelton Memorial Church

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second place churches

2nd place winner: Churches; Photo by Charmin Branam

We had several Tennessee Home & Farm readers write and call asking for details about some of the photo contest winners and honorable mentions. Charmin Branam’s 2nd Place photo in the Churches category shows Jennie Shelton Memorial Church in Lamontville, located in McMinn County. The church sits on private property, but here is a little about its history and namesake, courtesy of Charmin:

A little history behind it: Virginia Muncy Shelton’s family made a long journey from Greene County to Lamontville in McMinn County, west of Calhoun. The family settled down here and purchased land by the Hiwassee River, where Jennie (was the owner of the land at this time) shot herself in the abdomen over a breakup with her sweetheart and some of her brothers passing away which threw her into depression. The shot wound was fatal but before she passed she told them to build a church on the land so the people had a place worship and rejoice. She died on January 13, 1900. They started on the church soon afterwards and completed it in 1901. This church is 116 years old and still standing. I hope you enjoy the picture and some history on it.

We also found some additional information about the church on this Facebook post by Durant Tullock:

The following is information on the Jennie Shelton Memorial Church in Lamontville TN behind Bowater on County Road 4. Many have asked me about the history of the church. The information I share is from direct family members. The church is on private property and is not safe to enter. The church has deteriorated and the owners do not want the public to enter.

Virginia “Jennie” Muncy Shelton was the daughter of John E and Lucinda Perrin Shelton. Jennie was born on August 30, 1869. Her father is found in the records to be an original settler into the area and was a fairly successful businessman.

After Jennie’s father passed away, Jennie felt some security in having her Uncle Sam as a guardian to lean on. Jennie was described as a lovely young lady and photographs of her confirm her beauty. Her letters indicated that she was both refined and intelligent.

There are some indications that Jennie sensed a weakness in the family strain. Jennie’s 34 year old brother Felix died an untimely death. Three years later, her younger brother Jasper passed away at age 29, and nine years later her brother Benjamin passed away at the age of 49. There seemed to be an affinity for an illness among the males characterized by a wasting of the body. Jennie’s sisters were both married and happy.

Jennie’s security seemed to shatter when her Uncle Sam, at a mature age, took himself a wife. At age 30, Jennie’s despondency was indicated in a letter that she wrote to her Uncle Sam following a break-up between Jennie and her sweetheart. At age 30 she was living with her younger brother and her responsibilities were tremendously difficult and was suffering from sever depression.

On January 13, 1900, Jennie shot herself in the abdomen with a shotgun. She remained alive and lucid for several hours. On her deathbed, she requested that the portion of the John E. Shelton that would be hers was to be sold to the other heirs and the money would be used to build a church.
Consideration had been given by the membership of the nearby church at Chestnut Grove to the building of a new church. Previously, Jennie had been interested in this project. In 1901, the church was completed and was named the Jennie Shelton memorial Methodist Church, South. It stands on the northern line of the John E. Shelton farm which was part of the James Shelton homestead.

In the stained glass window with a red stained background was the white lettered inscription: Virginia Muncy Shelton. Through the years, Jennie’s sisters Dolly and Kate spoke of their love for their younger sister.

We hope our readers enjoy this additional information about the photo.

Do you have any unique stories about Tennessee history to share? Leave a comment below, or email us at


  1. Joann McEachern

    January 24, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    WOW, it looks and sounds Beautiful. I know it is on private property but with permission do they allow to schedule a time to see it……

  2. E. Cartwright

    August 30, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    About 50 years ago the Cleveland district of the Methodist church started a new church in a house on Peerless rd. If I remember rite the pews came from this church. Bill Schultz ,who was kin to the Shelton family helped get us the pews. The church is now named Wesley Memorial.

    • Shirley Roden

      December 20, 2019 at 10:12 pm

      It was a great store it’s just a Shane that all her brother died of at a early age ,is that why she toke her own life or was it because of her fiance dumped in her??

  3. Rebecca Decker

    August 4, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    I am of the Shelton family in Tennessee. I would love more information on this Jennie Shelton Church. And if possible to contact the owners to see if seeing it? Even if we can’t go inside.

  4. Hannah Boggess

    March 1, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    My Nanny went to church here as a child. She told me there was an older man that would walk to church and holler “Here sheepy sheepy” and the children would come and follow him to church. She was one of them.

  5. Martha

    December 20, 2019 at 7:04 am

    Is there a grave yard, next to it somewhere?

  6. Martha R.

    December 20, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Is there a grave yard, next to it somewhere?

    • Shirley Roden

      December 20, 2019 at 10:13 pm

      It was a great store it’s just a Shane that all her brother died of at a early age ,is that why she toke her own life or was it because of her fiance dumped in her??

  7. Radny

    January 21, 2020 at 8:15 am

    It looks like it is a haunted church.

  8. Allison

    February 20, 2020 at 4:57 pm

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