According to records held by the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, little is known of the early history of this church, but it is accepted that it grew out of the disbanded congregation of Grant’s Meeting House, the oldest Methodist church in Georgia which was organized in Wilkes County in 1787. The original location was three miles from the site of the present church. The first known structure was built here circa 1851 on land deeded by Daniel Fouche and was replaced by the present structure in 1905.
Tag Archives: Churches of Wilkes County GA
From the historical marker placed in 1978: Old Independence Church, built for all denominations, was situated near the campground across the road from its present site. The Methodists organized a membership and claimed the church. The matter was carried to the courts. A young lawyer, Robert Toombs, defended the Methodists and won the case. The beginning of the Old Independence was around 1783, and it became a Methodist Church in the 1830s. In 1840, Thomas L. Wooten deeded the lot on which the Old Church building stood to the trustees. In 1870, this church building was sold to the black people who moved it to land given them to them in Tignall. A new church building was erected, and in 1871 Bishop George F. Pierce preached the dedication sermon. A Sunday school celebration was held in 1879 with almost 1,000 attending. Dr. A. G. Haygood, President of Emory College delivered the address. The church has been remodeled many times. In 1930 the Church School Annex was added and a Fellowship Hall was built in 1974. Many prominent families in the county have been identified as members of this church. Several have been licensed to preach at her altars, the more prominent being, Reverend J.W. Hinton, D.D., a preacher and writer of national fame.
It is known that enslaved persons attended services here, as well.
This historic African-American church is located between Washington and Tignall. It sits on a beautiful ridge near the site of Walnut Hill Academy (1788), one of the most prominent schools in Georgia in its time, on the plantation of the Reverend John Springer.
The headstone of centenarian Lillie Weems-Cohen, showing her family tree.
An elephant adorns a recent gravesite.
From a history by the Very Rev. Dr. John Via: Continuing the historic and catholic witness of the Church of England, Anglican worship has been a part of the Washington experience from the town’s earliest days. Families would gather in homes to share Morning and evening Prayer and to celebrate the Holy Communion when a priest was available. The Episcopal Church of the Mediator was founded as a worshipping community in 1868 under the leadership of the Reverend Joshua Knoles, a missionary priest from Massachusetts, with services at first held in the Masonic Hall. The first church building was on West Robert Toombs Avenue. When that building was destroyed in the great town fire of 1895, pine pews, the eighteenth-century altar, and the baptismal font were saved and are in use in the present church structures. The new church building, built as some parishioners felt “too far out of town,” was consecrated in 1896, and is a fine example of the Victorian Gothic style. The church is graced by remarkable stained-glass windows, thirty-three panels designed by and executed in the studio of the internationally-known Wilbur Burnham.
East Robert Toombs Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
The Washington Presbyterian Church of Washington, Georgia, was organized in early 1790 (exact date unknown). In April, 1790, the Providence, Smyrna, and Washington Presbyterian churches issued a call to John Springer to be their pastor, which he accepted. At that time he was president of Cambridge College in Ninety-Six, South Carolina and a supply preacher in South Carolina and Georgia. On July 22, 1790, Springer became the first Presbyterian minister to be ordained in Georgia. The ordination took place under a poplar tree one mile east of the present church building. The tree has become famous as “the Presbyterian Poplar”. Wood from that tree was used to make the cross that now hangs in the chancel as well as the offering plates. Presentation gavels for distinguished speakers in the pulpit are made from the same wood. The Sanctuary was erected in 1825. It was a single room building with two front doors. The vestibule and steeple were added in 1839 and the front porch was added in the 1890’s. The fellowship hall was added in 1940. Rev. Alexander Hamilton Webster was stated supply, 1824-1827. He was serving as rector of the Academy (in Washington) during that time and accepted a call to be pastor, but died in an epidemic before he could be installed as pastor. He was buried between the two front doors of the church. When the vestibule was added in 1839, his grave stone was elevated to its present position in the narthex. The Hook & Hastings organ, Opus 1382, was installed in 1888. It was manually pumped until this century when an electric blower was added. It was completely reconditioned in 1990.
Frances Benjamin Johnston made this interior shot of the church for the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1939.
This excellent history is from Washington Presbyterian’s Facebook page. For a list of the congregation’s ministers over the years, and more about the church, visit the link below.
National Register of Historic Places