During the early years
of the twentieth century, Rev. Eli McCarter was a well-known, effective, and trusted pioneer preacher in Sevier
County TN. In a biographical essay, his eldest son, Earl McCarter, said of him:
"Eli McCarter was the youngest son of Thomas Hill and Marriah Reagan McCarter. Being the youngest
of eleven children, he was born March 29, 1886, and died October 10, 1955 and is buried in Gatlinburg Cemetery.
"Eli was a big man in his prime. He was 6'4" tall and weighed over 200 pounds.
"Eli married Mary E. Hatcher and to this union twelve children were born; eight of whom are living today (Essay first published 1981).
"He became a minister early in life. He pastored and preached in the churches of the area for many
years. He was ordained at the old Banner Baptist Church. (In the 1930's he helped
out the Methodists--who did not have a church building or regular minister--by preaching at Methodist services in the "Assembly
Grounds" when the retired Methodist minister who usually conducted services was unavailable.)
"Eli operated a blacksmith shop for many years, doing all kinds of smith work. Also, he made wagons,
etc. He repaired guns, watches, and made coffins for the burial of the dead.
"Eli was a journeyman carpenter, brick mason, and electrician. These are just a few of the things
he worked at.
"He worked with the Pi Beta Phi people in bringing the school to Gatlinburg and was instrumental in calming
the fears and superstitions of the mountain people. They trusted him. (One of Pi Beta Phi’s
philanthropic projects is the Settlement School in Gatlinburg which they established in 1912. Finding local support
for the school in the beginning was somewhat difficult.)
"Eli had some faults as well. He had a hot temper and was given to fighting at times. His patience
was short with people.
"Eli had only nine months of schooling, but he was a master speller and mathematician. Also, a teacher
of music, he wrote songs and set them to music. Most song leaders in those mountains had a tune fork made by him in
his blacksmith shop.
"He was loved and respected by his peers. His life would make a mountain legend if it were set to
"His favorite saying was--"Tell the truth, if it takes the hide."
"He wrote sermons for the Montgomery Vindicator paper for several years."
McCarter, Earl. "Rev. Eli McCarter," Bristol, TN, 1980.
McCarter, Earl. "Rev. Eli McCarter," Smoky Mountain Historical Society Newsletter,
Vol 7, No. 1 (January, February, and March 1981), p. 6.
Hilten, Robert L. The Little Cathedral in the Smokies. np, np, 1983.