Jerry Summers: When Dolly And George Came To Ringgold

Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

Most historians of the Civil War would probably think that the most famous event in the area would be Confederate General Patrick Cleburne’s brilliant defense of Ringgold Gap on November 27, 1863 during the South’s retreat from the disastrous defeat of Missionary Ridge by the blunders of General Braxton Bragg on November 25, 1863.

Others might be made proud of the accomplishments of a local son in a farm family, O. Wayne Rollins (1912-1991), who in 1964 bought Orkin Exterminating Company from its family owners.

Yet to country music fans two of the most significant dates would be May 30, 1966 when Dolly Parton married Carl Dean and George Jones and Tammy Wynette each entered into their third marriage in 1969.  Other notables that have tied the knot in the northwest Georgia county seat of Catoosa County include former Louisiana governor and country music performer Jimmy Davis, who wrote and sang his campaign song of “You Are My Sunshine.”  A more modern-day bride and groom who got married in Ringgold on Valentine’s Day was Bob Harvey, a member of the rock and roll group, Jefferson Airplane. 

The title of the wedding venue is now the Ringgold Wedding Chapel and the current owners are proud of it often being referred to as “the wedding chapel of the South” but quick to point out that it may now qualify as “the wedding chapel of the world since couples often come from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East who do not want to become married in the glitter and glamour of Las Vegas, Nevada at a considerably higher cost of speaking their vows.

For couples interested in tying the knot at a reasonable price and avoiding the glitz of Vegas the Ringgold Wedding Chapel is a favorable alternative.  However, the current owner says they can accommodate the potential brides' and grooms' desired level of the ceremony with a wide variety of services at various costs.

Getting married in Ringgold can be achieved by a couple in “one day” by going to the Clerk’s office early in the morning (check hours of service) and then come to the chapel to have the nuptials shortly thereafter and start the honeymoon all in less than 24 hours.  Although, once required, it is no longer mandatory to have a blood test in Georgia prior to marriage.

The original wedding chapel began as an Episcopal Methodist Church in 1845.  During the Civil War it was destroyed in the winter of 1863 by Union General William T. Sherman in the Battle of Ringgold Gap.  In 1925 the federal government paid a pittance of $600 toward rebuilding the Episcopal Church and it moved to a new and larger location in 1972.

From 1972 until 1986 the old church was used for storage when a lady by the name of Helen Boyd re-instituted the practice of marrying couples in the old building.  After another change in ownership, new management took over in 2017 and they have updated the facilities as well as increasing the type of services available during the exchange of wedding vows.  They are committed to following the tradition of Helen Boyd who said, “I think people deserve a nice wedding, and a good start.  We serve those who do not have the money to afford an extremely nice wedding.” 

So if you and your beloved want to get married you might consider the Ringgold Wedding Chapel as an alternative to Las Vegas at 7683 Nashville Street, Ringgold, Georgia 30736 (706) 935-8199.  It is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday-Sunday by appointment only. 

You might run into a couple of this generations county music stars who want to follow in Dolly and George’s footsteps down the aisle.

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com  

Dolly Parton at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel
Dolly Parton at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel

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