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Centuries after his death, Isaac Dockery remains a guiding light for descendants

In 1886, Isaac Dockery laid the last brick into what is now the oldest standing brick structure in Sevier County. For his family, it is a clue into their past.

Gabrielle Hays, Madison Stacey

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This is the first part of Stolen Stories - a series about two families in East Tennessee who have retraced their history back to the most recent slave in their lineage. 

Credit: Madison Stacey

Far back against the banks of an impatient creek in Sevierville is a place that would seem holy - hollowed grounds where spirits of past and present come to congregate -  even without the place of worship standing solemn at the treeline. 

Though gospel hymns and sermons stopped ringing out from New Salem Baptist Church long ago, it remains much unchanged since it was first built in the late 1800s. 

The doors are bolted, planks of wood cover the cathedral style windows, and cement steps softened over the years by moss and time lead the way to a locked iron gate.