1Mt Zion 8

Mt. Zion Presbyterian

aaSt Paul CME 2

St. Paul CME

Powelton Methodist

Powelton Methodist

New Smynra Methodist

New Smyrna Methodist

Rock Mill Methodist 1

Rock Mill Methodist

Jewell Baptist

Powelton Baptist 4

Powelton Baptist

Churches of Hancock County

Click thumbnail above to go to church page with additional photos and history

Hancock County, situated between the Oconee and Ogeechee Rivers in east-central Georgia, was created on December 17, 1793.  It was carved out of Greene and Washington counties; in return, it gave up portions of its land for the creation of Baldwin and Taliaferro counties.  The county seat of Sparta was established in 1795 by Major Charles Abercrombie, and after donating land for the building of a courthouse, was incorporated in 1805.

The very earliest settlers of Hancock wrote of hostile encounters with the Creek and tales of hunting Buffalo, both of which soon disappeared from the local landscape.  The unofficial and unrecognized treaty signed between the State of Georgia and the Creek Nation in 1786 that ceded all lands east of the Oconee River and provided for terms of peace was signed on Shoulderbone Creek near the site of Hancock’s Millmore Gristmill.  This “agreement” was made official as part of the Treaty of New York in 1790. The first settlers were Revolutionary War veterans from Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas.  The first populated communities were Sparta, which was centrally placed, and Powelton, located towards the eastern portion of the county near what was then Wilkes County.

Population grew steadily during the early years, and tobacco was the chief cash crop.  With the development of commercially viable cotton gins, cotton dominated the agricultural scene by 1830.  Consequently, the demographic changed rapidly from a mostly white population to being heavily populated with black slaves, which outnumbered the white population three to one.  Hancock County was known for its farmers who pioneered progressive farming techniques, such as new fertilizers that turned previously worthless pine barren lands into productive land.

During this prosperous time period where the county became the wealthiest in the state, nationally recognized schools were scattered throughout– male academies were at the communities of Mt. Zion and Powelton; Richard Malcolm Johnston had a school for boys called Rockby just east of Sparta, and located in downtown Sparta was a female academy which admitted students from as far away as New England.  This gave Hancock County a curious cultural mix of rudeness and refinement.

After developing a cotton based culture that lasted around thirty years, the county became one of the richest in the state.  In a move which may be surprising to some, all three Hancock County state representatives, staunch unionists and in the minority 209-89, voted against secession at the state convention in January of 1861.  Fate would demand the county to throw their lot in with the Southern cause.   By the next spring, cotton fields were converted to corn and other grains to feed the Confederate Army.

The end of the war brought to a close the era of King Cotton, although the cash crop was to remain important to local agriculture until the advent of the huge harvesting machines in the 1950’s.  Railroad lines that bypassed the county began to hurt its economic position also, despite the branch built from Camak to Milledgeville in 1866.  It has since been a long, slow, and agonizing decrease in population and wealth.  The ruins that stand as testimony to this written history are still there, but are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Unless a change in perspective and appreciation is made quickly, many structures will be lost forever including the rural churches.

Religious history has always been an important part of Hancock County.  The Georgia Methodists met at Sparta in 1806 as part of the South Carolina Conference.  George Foster Pierce, a Methodist bishop, and Lucius Hosley, his black counterpart in the CME church both lived in Hancock County.  New Smyrna Methodist was the second Methodist church built in Georgia.  At nearby Powelton, the constitution of the Georgia Baptist Convention was forged and agreed upon in 1822. The churches we endeavored to document in Hancock County are the physical remains of this sacred historic legacy.

To learn more about Hancock County history click here and here.

We encourage you to visit these hallowed sites in order to feel the real power of early Georgia history and the roots that we all share.  However, please remember that these sites are on private property and they are quite fragile.  Therefore please be respectful in every way.  Some of these churches are inactive and in a very delicate state, while others may be somewhat active but in a very limited fashion.  Fortunately, some of the churches are still quite vibrant and offer a full range of services to their members.  Visitors are welcome and we would encourage you to attend a service if possible.