Tag Archives: North Georgia Churches
The only history I can locate regarding this historic church was written by Sarah Waller McCleskey circa 1951. She did note that since the records of the congregation have been lost or misplaced over time she was unable to authenticate dates. What follows is abridged from her history.
A congregation first met here in a brush arbor and then a church known as Piney Grove Meeting House. Upon construction of the present structure in 1790, it became known as Smyrna Methodist Church. It is believed to be the second oldest Methodist congregation in Georgia. Bishop Francis Asbury reportedly preached here while the church was under construction. [Mrs. McCleskey’s account states that the construction date of 1790 “is attested by the foundation, which is constructed of hewn sills joined with wooden pegs”. Though it is an indicator of an era of construction, it is not a definitive way to accurately date the structure, which I believe to be of 19th century origin.]
While Mrs. McCleskey wrote that some gravesites “show the marks of time to such an extent that that the names on the markers are scarcely legible”, I only saw memorials from the late 19th and the 20th centuries. I wish I’d had time to explore further because it is a delightful spot.
This historic church was built in 1924 to honor Bishop L. H. Holsey, D. D. Reverend W. A. Kelley was pastor at the time. Trustees of the church were: A. D. Latimer; J. W. N. Clay; G. B. Taylor; H. L. Wynn; B. Ford; Thomas Dixon; O. L. Cain; Wilbor Clay; M. Birch; and A. H. Gilbert. R. E. White was the architect. Compass Lodge No. 160, A. F. & A. M. laid the cornerstone on 7 September 1925.
Montpelier is the oldest congregation in Baldwin County. I’m unsure as to the date of construction of the present church, but records of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist church indicate (in a document from 1972) that the structure was built before 1843. That appears to be a good possibility. Slaves attended the church with their owners in the antebellum era. The historical marker placed by the Georgia Historical Commission in 1996 gives more insight to the history of the community than it does the church itself: This church is named Montpelier after Fort Montpelier of 1794, 1/2 mi. below here down the Oconee. This fort and others were built during the Creek Indian troubles. Captain Jonas Fouche was ordered to guard the Georgia frontier from the mouth of the Tugaloo to Fort Fidius on the Oconee. 200 militia cavalry and infantry raised under Governor Telfair were placed under the command of Major Gaither, Federal commandant. A note on Fouche’s map reads: “As it is 40 mi .from Fort Twiggs to Mount Pelah where Maj. Gaither laid in garrison, it is recommended that a public station might be created by the Government (at Cedar Shoals)´
The first Methodist congregation associated with Devereux, Ebenezer, was located about ten miles away. It moved nearby in 1857 and was named Reynolds Chapel for its pastor. The present structure was built in 1910-1911 and dedicated by Bishop W. A. Candler in 1911. The name was changed at that time to Devereux Methodist Church. It remains a small but active congregation.
First Baptist Church of Forsyth was established in 1838 as Harmony Baptist Church. Their first home was constructed on this property in 1840. The congregation named was changed to First Baptist Church around 1840, then to First Baptist Church of Forsyth between 1913-1917. The old church building was retired in 1921 and the congregation moved into this structure in 1923. In the interim, services were held in the Bank Stephens Institute and baptisms performed in the swimming pool at Bessie Tift College.