The beginning of Holly Grove Evangelical Lutheran Church is inseperable from the Academy with the same name.
The evidence indicates that Holly Grove Academy was founded by the Rev. Professor W. P. Cline with the support of his four congregation parish and that by the time the Academy got going, there was a supporting group of Christians in the area ready to be organized into a Lutheran congregation.
In the spring of 1885 the movement to build a suitable academy building was begun in earnest. Eli Younts gave several acres of land near the Quinn School house and Ilex Post Office. Ilex is the Latin for holly. The Post Office was named Ilex because the community was known for its holly trees. School began in the new facility in December of 1885 and a special day of thanksgiving was set for Christmas Day 1885. This Christmas worship was the birthday of Holly Grove Evangelical Lutheran Church. The auditorium-chapel of the Academy became the birth place and the meeting place of Holly Grove Evangelical Lutheran Church. On November 6, 1896 the congregation was received into the Syond membership.
In November of 1889 the Academy and congregation were ready to host the Convention of the Tennessee Synod meeting. On Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1913 the decision was made to build a brick church. Construction progressed quickly and the cornerstone was laid in November 1914. Holly Grove organized a Sunday School in 1887 and may have been the first area church to do so.
Lenoir-Rhyne College, in Hickory North Carolina was begun from the Holly Grove Academy when Rev. Cline saw greater things could be done with higher education. He along with Dr. R. A. Yoder, (who became the first president of Lenoir-Rhyne), Dr. J. C. Moser and Rev. A. L. Crouse founded the college in 1891. The first graduate of the Holly Grove Academy, Robert L. Fritz, became the president of Lenoir-Rhyne in 1901.
A handsome place for the Pastor to live has been part of the Holly Grove tradition. The first parsonage was completed in November of 1886. In 1926 a brick parsonage was built to replace it. A third parsonage was built in 1963. Through the years modern conveniences, such as central air, carpet, new floor coverings, paint, appliances and thermal windows have been added. Currently the parsonage is being newly renovated to house the church offices. The pastor and secretarys offices will be located in the updated facility. The office complex will accommodate meetings and house a few Sunday school rooms on Sunday mornings.
Holly Grove was in a parish with Becks, Lebanon, and New Jerusalem churches. In 1956 the members of Holly Grove voted to become self-supporting. Having been the offspring of four congregations, incubated in the Academy, she grew quickly to nurture the Academy and to continue serving her Lord long after the Academy had served its purpose and retired in dignity. On November 19, 1967 member of Holly Grove celebrated the occasion of being debt free by a mortgage burning ceremony in the sanctuary.
Mr. Edgar H. Younts, in memory of his parents Eli and Flora Younts, donated a set of chimes to the church and deeded additional land to the cemetery. The land for the Holly Grove cemetery was deeded June 29, 1909 to the trustees of Holly Grove E. L. Congregation.
In 1959, a recreational park replaced the farm buildings and orchard behing the parsonage. It was the first county softball field and park to be lighted. The Lutheran Mens Group built an outdoor shelter where meetings and cookouts could be held by the church organizations.
In 1975 a pipe organ, along with central heat and air and a new speaker system were installed in the church. The parking lot was paved. New lighting fixtures were installed in the sanctuary as gifts from members and friends. A new roof replaced the first roof on the sanctuary and original Sunday School building. The ball on the steeple was replaced with a stainless steel cross.
In the spring of 1985 a Carillon was donated to the church. Work began in 1989 to make the church handicap accessible by adding a ramp leading to the sanctuary, and building new restrooms onto the church. In 1990 new lights, poles and fence replaced the originals at the recreation park.
In December of 2005 Holly Grove Evangelical Lutheran Church turned120 years old. One hundred and twenty years worth of history cannot be stored here. Please come visit and experience our heritage and help us make strides into the future.