Stinchcomb Methodist

Elbert County
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Org 1794|
Photography by Randy Clegg

On July 4, 1791, a resident of what would become Elbert County, Absalom Stinchcomb, received 200 acres of property on the North Fork of Dove’s Creek, locating him in the area of the church that still bears his name. A short three years later, on December 30, 1794, Middleton Wood granted to Absalom Stinchcomb and two others, John Gatewood and John Ham, “…[the] privilege to erect a Meeting House on his land on waters of Dove’s Creek.” Written accounts of Stinchcomb United Methodist Church history indicate that it was established from a brush arbor meeting and located one mile outside Dewy Rose, Georgia. Although no legal records exist supporting the 1794 organization date, several sources prove otherwise. In 1894, The Elberton Star circulated an article celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stinchcomb, with another appearing in 1984, announcing the 190th year of the Methodist church. The present structure, the oldest building in Elbert County, was built in 1876. A 1956 presentation for the Georgia Historical Commission described aspects of the 1876 structure noting, “…the sills of the building, supported by stone pillars, are hand-hewn timbers, measuring 14 inches square. Two trees were made to make each sill. The joists are logs lying parallel on the large sills. The recessed, columned porch, with its floor at ground level, was used by the women of the congregation for shelter while dismounting from their horses during the days when people used this mode of transportation.” This type of detailed architectural description highlights the rural craftsmanship of its builders and church family. Not only does the church remain in good condition, but it also stands as an architecturally significant building for the surrounding community.  Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Stinchcomb experienced the pains of sending young men off to war. The cemetery includes veterans of the Civil War, WWII, Korean War, and Revolutionary War. Located near the entrance of the church itself are two markers locating Revolutionary War soldiers Dionysius Oliver and his son, Peter. During the first half of the twentieth century, Stinchcomb Methodist experienced steady growth, adding members to its congregation and updating its house of worship. The 1950s witnessed the installation of gas heating, with an additional renovation of the sanctuary area. That year, the cost of electricity was $12.24. By the 1970s, the church was outfitted with central heat and air. It was decided that the old cardboard fans would be kept. Throughout these changing times, an important tradition remained consistent and constant as ever. Started in July of 1939, the tradition of the church’s “Birthday Box” is unlike anything else in the state. A beloved tradition, the “Birthday Box” is a miniature replica of the church building, put together by Mr. John W. Roberts. Each Sunday, members are invited to put their “birthday money” into the box while the church sings a hymn. Following the hymn, the church joins in song again, this time to the tune of “Happy Birthday.” Often, the congregation will try and guess the age of the individual depositing money. The traditions of the congregation combined with the historic integrity of the building create an atmosphere of nostalgia and storied past at Stinchcomb. This Methodist church epitomizes the southern rural church and its tightly knit family of congregants. A church history booklet completed by John N. and Susan Rousey to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Stinchcomb in 1994 provided the information above.  

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