Providence Methodist was founded in 1832 on two acres of land donated by Rev. David Lowe. The first structure was a log building, which was replaced by the present structure in 1859 on two acres of land across the road from the old church. The church is located in what is now Providence Canyon State Park, and was named for the church. These “canyons” are billed as a tourist attraction and a “remarkable natural wonder that is sometimes referred to as Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon”. However the canyons are, in reality, the result of poor farming practices that were common in the mid 19th century. Massive erosion in the soft, unstable sub surface became the canyons of today in a relatively short period of time. This was not uncommon in Georgia where abundant cheap land led to many years of agrarian abuse.
The church is one of the oldest in the county and has been preserved virtually intact. It has some unusual construction features that are worth a close look, including the hipped roof, which was unusual for the time period. The following photos are a visual feast and a tribute to the old settlers who populated and worked the land prior to the Civil War. The cemetery contains many of these original settlers. The old minutes also reveal that in 1861, there were thirty seven slaves who were members of the Providence Church. According to the History of Stewart County, “The road from to the church was once a prominent Indian Trail. It turned at the present site of the church, continuing on to the present site of Omaha and on to the large village of Oconee on the Chattahoochee.
To give the year of 1832 and the relations with the Indians some perspective, legal settlement began with the state’s fifth land lottery, held in 1827. Unfortunately, the treaty that wrested west Georgia from Native Americans ended in conflict. By 1836 the remaining Creek Indians began ambushing homes and communities in desperation. The settlers called on Governor Schley for protection. Schley sent state militia volunteers from Gwinnette County to establish three local forts—Ingersoll, Jones, and McCreary. On May 15, 1836, the river settlement of Roanoke was burned by a reported 300 Indians. On June 9 the Battle of Shepherd’s Plantation marked an end to skirmishes in the county and, essentially, in the state.
We are grateful to the members of the Lumpkin Methodist Church who have “adopted” this historical icon and have been such good stewards. She stands just like she did in 1859 as the south was sliding into the abyss of the Civil War. The cemetery is quite a visual treat as well, containing many of the old original settlers. These hallowed burial grounds contain many unmarked graves of the original residents that were originally marked with wooden markers and/or field stones that have disappeared over time. Old Providence is still standing tall over these grounds as she has for over 150 years. She is a real treasure.