Powelton Methodist exterior

Photography courtesy of Scott Farrar

 

  Powelton Methodist   Org 1795

Can this church be saved?

The story of Powelton Methodist church is really the story of the village of Powelton itself.  One of the oldest villages in Georgia, Powelton was a very important town in the post Revolutionary War Georgia back country.  Hancock County was formed in 1795 but Powelton was already a prominent village by then.   Indeed Powelton was considered a major crossroad community in early nineteenth-century Georgia.  The major east-west artery from Augusta to Greensboro ran through Powelton and one of the major north-south routes ran from Milledgeville to Washington via Sparta, Powelton, and Wrightsboro.  At the other end of the village, Powelton Baptist was formed in 1786 by Silas and Jesse Mercer and was subsequently the location of the first Georgia Baptist Convention in 1822.  We have seen several mentions of the fact that Powelton, at one time, rivaled Milledgeville for the location of the state capital after Louisville and came up two votes short.  A recent Methodist document dated 1961 also mentioned the ‘two votes short’ story. 

Many prominent citizens of Georgia resided in this village along with many merchants and commercial enterprises as well as academies of higher education for both men and young ladies.  However, as early as the 1860s, Powelton could be described as a mere remnant of the vibrant community that it had once been.  Liberty Hall (Alexander Stephen’s home now in Crawfordville), the Richard Malcom Johnston house, the Howell House, and others were dismantled and moved to new locations before the Civil War.  Very little history of the Methodist church at Powelton is available but we believe the church was certainly organized prior to 1800.  The Baptist Church in Powelton was consecrated in 1786 and the community was very prominent on all early Georgia maps.  A prosperous community such as Powelton would likely have both a Methodist church and a Baptist church by the turn of the nineteenth century.  The earliest documented grave in the cemetery, according the Friends of Middle Georgia Cemeteries, is dated 1817.  However, a short church history in the Emory University archives, written in 1972, mentions graves with dates of 1802 and 1803.  As usual, we suspect many unmarked graves are located there. 

The current building is not the original but was probably built on the site of the first sanctuary since the cemetery age and location supports that.  We have found some recent Methodist records which places the date of the present sanctuary as 1830 and mentions that the the structure was ‘re-roofed’ in 1946.   Another brief Methodist history states that the present building replaced an earlier ‘Methodist Meeting House‘.  The single field stone footings and hand-hewn support timbers attest to an early origin.  Regardless of the footings and timbers, the interior of the church is extremely level and stable, a testament to the building skills of early carpenters.  The old church is in amazing condition, given its inactivity for over 30 years, but it is badly in need of some basic repairs.

Richard Malcolm Johnston, a prominent Georgia author,  was raised and educated in Powelton.  He immortalized Powelton in 1871 with his popular book Dukesborough Tales under the pen name Philemon Perch.  ‘Here was once a smart village; no great thing of course but still a right lively little village.  But it is no use to think about it, because the thing is over and Dukesborough is no more‘.

For location and directions to the church click here.

43 Thoughts

  1. William Dawson Morris, Sr. · September 15, 2017 Reply

    My Grandmother, Mary Zena Herndon Morris, her parents, several brothers, , and one sister, Minnie Lee, were all members of Powelton Methodist. Minnie Lee, we always called her Sister, lived her entire life in the old home place about 5 miles from Powelton, near a little cross road named Pride, Ga.
    Her father, Bernard Herndon, built the six room house with five fireplaces and a wide hallway through the house from front to back. All the years Sister lived there she never had running water, air conditioning or heat other than the fire places and a pot bellied stove my father installed for her during the early 1960’s. Why we called the privy, Miss Jenny, no one ever told me and I never thought to ask.
    The last time I was in the church was 1972 upon the death of Sister for her funeral. She is buried in the Powelton Cemetary next to other Herndon and Chapman relatives; her mother was a Chapman, also an old Powelton family.
    I have a number of memories of Powelton, the Herndon Farm, and the Chapman family I can share if anyone is interested.
    I am also very interested in supporting with my time, talent, and resources, preservation efforts of the church.
    Thank you for this opportunity to share.

    • churchadmin · September 16, 2017 Reply

      Thank you for sharing such personal memories. The old church is still in pretty good shape but some preservation efforts will have to emerge at some point soon. Thanks for your willingness to serve when the time comes.

  2. Rusty Moses · February 15, 2017 Reply

    My wife and I enjoyed a trip to Powelton yesterday to see the Methodist and Baptist churches there, and want to visit more old churches that are in the book. Do you have a contact list for each church so we could meet them at the church to see the inside?

    Thank you.

    Rusty Moses

    • churchadmin · February 16, 2017 Reply

      Unfortunately we don’t. Some of the churches are open but most are closed and access is difficult. We hope there will be some organized “tours” in the future that will include access to all the churches on the tour.

      • David Black · April 16, 2017 Reply

        Today’s Sunrise service was very well attended. It was so good to step inside and see the interior of this beautiful old building. It was a very peaceful space

  3. Lyn Smith · December 29, 2016 Reply

    I’m wondering if you know who we might contact regarding the records for the church membership and such.
    I have deep family roots in Hancock, Greene and surrounding counties and I and a cousin would like very much to access the church records.
    Thank you if you can help us at all.

    • churchadmin · December 29, 2016 Reply

      Unfortunately there are no records that we know of for Powelton Methodist membership or minutes. We will send you what we found in the Northern Methodist Conference archives at Emory University but it isn’t much. This is a common problem when searching for church history.

    • Clayton Avery · January 4, 2017 Reply

      Greetings all . I drove past the church today at 5:15 pm and the church looked great. Weathered but great. I took a picture to show friends as I’m sure they will not travel this way. When I arrived home I searched on the web for anything and
      found this site. Is it odd that some of us feel so curious and imagine how these places looked years ago?

  4. Flower Power · September 9, 2016 Reply

    Love this “resting place’. I’ve done so many times before. What ever happened to the notebook left there? Much love abounds on those grounds.

  5. James Howell · June 30, 2016 Reply

    I am a third great grandson of Joseph Howell of Hancock County. I have been researching his burial site but without success.

    I noted that a Howell House had been moved from Powelton. Can you give me any information on this house and who its occupants were.

    I plan to purchase a copy of “Dukesborough Tales”. Hopefully I will learn something about the Howell House from this.

    Thank you for all your efforts.

    • churchadmin · July 2, 2016 Reply

      No. Sorry we don’t have that information. Good luck on your search.

  6. Mary E. Coleman-Harris · October 22, 2015 Reply

    My name is Mary, as listed above, and I am interested in having my church listed in your directory. According to the history of our church, it was organized in 1851. We will celebrate 164th anniversary this weekend at the church. Will you please assist me in the next step I should take in having this church listed as a “historic church” in Terrell County Southwest Georgia?

    Thank you for any advice you may be able to provide.

    • churchadmin · October 24, 2015 Reply

      Hi Mary. What is the name of the church? Please send us a photo of the current structure (must be at least 100 yrs old to qualify). Look at the About page on this site for more about our selection criteria.

  7. Darryl Bentley · October 4, 2015 Reply

    I recently saw an old church in disrepair (obviously not being used due to vines around the doors) in the city limits of Waynesboro. The church is on the street that leads to the old ice plant building. You can’t miss it. It should be quite an interesting adventure. Just passing this on. I live in Lincoln County.

  8. Julie · June 19, 2015 Reply

    I visited this church in March. The nicest dog accompanied me during my visit! But I couldn’t get inside, so I took lots of exterior photos. Beautiful place and really interesting cemetery.

  9. Kate Messer · January 8, 2015 Reply

    I just want to point something out to those who visit the site and make comments regarding how the communities of these churches should help to preserve these old churches. I’m sure that many of them would, but a vast majority of people living in these communities now are elderly, living on fixed incomes. Many can barely make or afford to make repairs to their own homes. Before you make comments about how the communities should be preserving these churches, first take a drive to these areas, talk to the residents and maybe you’ll have a better understanding of why some of these communities/individuals sometimes just can’t do it.

    I’m not basing my comments on what ifs either. For four years while I was in college I would drive through Powelton from Rayle, Ga to Milledgeville, Ga. This was 1985-1989 and then the town was a almost a ghost town. I noticed is was more so when I went through it on my way to Sparta, Ga a few weeks ago.

  10. F. G Albert · October 13, 2014 Reply

    The old girl stands tall and proud and she says I am still here, I salute her. I enjoyed looking at the property and graves and the very old magnolia, I could just imagine what it looked like when initially planted. Time well spent. Thank you lovely lady for sharing your bygone beauty.

  11. Brandon Hollingsworth · August 11, 2014 Reply

    This is great I love the fact that this site has taken such an interest in my family’s home church…not much more I can offer on the history other than what I’ve heard from family members…my mother had done extensive history of our family but not much on the church itself…My great, great grandparents are buried in the church yard under the Magnolia tree…as far as the physical structure there was a major overhaul to the foundation build before the movie was filmed the entire front porch was rebuilt and the entire structure given a thorough inspection…most of the physical look of the church was maintained while restoring the main stone work underneath…it was very nice to see the church cleaned and looking the way it was while services were being held there (that I remember from childhood)…i have many stories that I could tell about “our” church (a term my children use today) thanks so much for this site and the intrest…

  12. Beth Sipper · August 3, 2014 Reply

    Like many others, I have family ties to this church. My great-great grandparents, Robert Early Miller and Frances Jane McCrary Miller are buried there along with several of their children. I would like to contribute to the restoration. Could you provide me with information about any current of future projects to that effect? I am particularly interested in the replacement of the broken window near the piano. Thank you for the beautiful pictures. Beth Mimbs Sipper

    • churchadmin · August 3, 2014 Reply

      Beth,

      Thanks for your interest. We are still looking at options and I think we will come up with something, hopefully sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

  13. Karen Berg · July 20, 2014 Reply

    If I lived closer I would be helping you restore this beautiful church if nothing else fix the window and try to save as much of the interior as possible including that old piano. Praying someone steps up to the plate in Powelton to save this church. God bless.

  14. Arwena Harper · July 19, 2014 Reply

    I love these old buildings. I pray they will be restored especially the churches.

  15. Lynn McCollum · July 18, 2014 Reply

    If you have any churches that are in Habersham, Stephens, Rabun counties that you would like me to photograph for you- please email me and let me know. I document old cemeteries and would enjoy helping you too.

    • churchadmin · July 19, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Lynn. We have pretty good coverage now on the photography. We can always use some suggestions and a quick photo if you run across something you think might be website worthy. A lot of the old churches have just been too modernized to qualify, so keep that in mind. Thanks so much for your interest and support.

  16. Gary Carlberg · July 18, 2014 Reply

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the response. I live in Kennesaw ( suburb of ATL ). One of the reasons I ask is, I saw a Church here in Kennesaw that was in a state of disrepair and could have been saved, and one day I go by, and whosh………. gone.

    I agree it is a shame about these old churches, and agree, most of the ” work ” needs to be done by the local people. As if they don’t care, not many others will.

    Thanks again for the respone.

    • churchadmin · July 18, 2014 Reply

      Your are welcome. One other thought is to get involved as a volunteer with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation http://www.georgiatrust.org/. This is right up your alley and the closest thing to what you are looking for.

  17. Ronnie DeAngelis · July 18, 2014 Reply

    Hi do you have a contact email you can send me? I have a few questions to ask you.

    Thanks!

    Ronnie.

  18. Gary Carlberg · July 18, 2014 Reply

    Quick question please ……………Who is actually ” preserving ” these structures? I love the enthusiasm, the spirit, I absolutely LOVE all of the pictures, but my question is ” who is saving these structures ? “. Reason for asking is, there seems to be a lot of ” interest ” in these old structures, and aside from picture taking, I don’t see ( not trying to be negative here ), but don’t really see a lot being actually done ( unless I am missing pictures of the before and after ).

    I really think the reason and spirit of the group ( and definitely read the article in GA Backroads mag ……….. ), is there a group of enlisted carpenters, window glazers, roofers that ever work on these structures. I am probably being ignorant here asking these kind of questions, however I would think the purpose of a group like this is to actually ” save ” these structures for future generations. In other words, there seems to be a lot of ” talk ” and not much ” action”………….. Sorry to be so forward, but would like to become a part of the ” action ” piece. I do some woodworking ( as a hobby ) so I know about refinishing and rebuilding things. Are there plans to have a ‘ clean-up ” day or something like this ???????

    Please advise.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    • churchadmin · July 18, 2014 Reply

      Gary, this is a very complicated and expensive subject. There is no centralized state wide effort. Each project is locally driven and needs to be so. Where do you live? If there is a restoration project going on we will let you know. Our role at this point is to increase awareness of the problem and support local efforts. We will just take it a step at a time. Thanks for you interest and your willingness to get involved.

    • Annie Shields · July 27, 2014 Reply

      Gary,
      It all comes down to money, raising money. We are in a similar situation with Glendale Chapel, an old church on our property in poor condition in Floyd Co. We are raising money by writing letters to people and asking for donations. We are at the half-way mark to our goal. If you would like to donate, please contact us at the above email address.
      Annie Shields

  19. Deborah Johnson Jackson · July 18, 2014 Reply

    I have no documentation, but my great uncle Robert Rogers, told me that our ancestors built the church when settling in Powell on. The church cemetery is the final resting place of many of my ancestors from the Rogers family.

  20. Clark Lemons · July 18, 2014 Reply

    I enjoy the newsletter very much. Thanks for all your work.
    A question: in the latest newsletter you say ” Take some time to give this Mother church a good look by scrolling through all the beautiful images.” I can only find the one photo of Powelton Methodist in the newsletter and on the website. Are there others?

    • churchadmin · July 18, 2014 Reply

      Clark, you have a real treat coming. All you do is go to the website and then notice the “next photo” with a red arrow at the top. This allows you to scroll through the whole lineup. On average there are 7-10 photos of each church. You can now go back to the churches that appeal to you and look at all the photos. There are a lot more.

  21. Glenda · July 18, 2014 Reply

    What fascinating history and photographs! Could you please tell me where to find “Dukesborough Tales”? I’d love to read the entire book. Thanks so much. You’re a treasure trove of information!

  22. Darryl Bentley · July 18, 2014 Reply

    I recently retired from a career in Law Enforcement, and I would like to check further into assisting your efforts in documenting old churches. I have been subscribed to your site for several months, and I admire your efforts in what you are doing. Preserving history in the only way our children can continue to preserve this rich history. I am in my home county of Lincoln, and I saw that there are no churches in Lincoln County on your historic list. Feel free to contact me via e-mail or phone at 706-401-3504.

    • churchadmin · July 18, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Darryl. We just haven’t gotten to Lincoln County yet. Thanks for your support.

  23. William S. Davies · July 18, 2014 Reply

    Has anyone considered the Methodist Church in VanWert, GA. It was established as a Welsh congregation in the
    1800s. The Welsh were brought there to mine slate. The cemetery has a rich history. Much has been done to restore the church in the last few years. It was one of the last Welsh speaking congregations in America.

Thoughts