Organized in 1786, Bethany was the first church in Greene County (Washington County at the time). This is the third permanent church home near this location. In 1886, Dr. James Woodrow, an uncle of President Woodrow Wilson, was tried for heresy here in the first of the so-called “monkey trials” regarding the teaching of evolution. He was exonerated. The community which grew around the church was the setting for Tom Watson’s popular 1904 book, Bethany: A Story of the Old South. William Henry Sparks’ popular 1870 autobiography, The Memories of Fifty Years, begins around this church, as well.
Its historic cemetery seems almost magical in the presence of a majestic old oak, which has stood here for well over a century. (Seen to the left of the church, above). Below are examples of some of the oldest headstones, dating to the early 19th century.