Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church, 1814, Hancock County

Celebrating its bicentennial this year, Mt. Zion is one of Georgia’s most beloved and most visited historic churches. Organized in 1813, the congregation raised $700 to complete this structure.

Services were held here until 1903 when the membership had dwindled from 130 to less than 10. The trustees of Mt. Zion Methodist Church purchased the property that year and used the structure for services until 1958.

A Georgia Historical Commission Marker placed in 1966 gives insight into the early history of the church and its most famous member: Nathan S.S. Beman at Mt. Zion (Nov. 26, 1785 – Aug. 6, 1871) Nathan Sidney Smith Beman, Presbyterian minister, educator, editor, college president, after graduating from Middlebury College, Vermont, taught and preached in New England until 1812, when he came with his wife to Georgia to regain his health. “A man of intelligence and almost boundless energy,” Nathan Beman found unusual opportunities in Georgia where wealthy planters were banding together to establish centers of religious instruction and education for their children. In late 1812, Beman became teacher and pastor at Mt. Zion, an academy town founded by Hancock County planters in 1811. Some of the State’s leading families supported Mt. Zion Academy which became one of the most celebrated schools in Georgia. The outstanding men Beman attracted to teach contributed much to the state in educational and religious leadership. Offered the presidency of the University of Georgia, Beman accepted reluctantly and temporarily, resigning because of his wife’s illness and death in 1819. He continued to direct the Academy, to preach, and to edit The Missionary, a weekly gospel newspaper. In 1821 he married Mrs. Caroline Bird Yancey, mother of secessionist William Lowndes Yancey. In 1823, Nathan Beman and his wife moved to Troy, N.Y., where he continued his ministerial and clerical career.

Today, it’s a haven for photographers and students of history. It appeals to people of all faiths and no affiliations. It is a place of spirit.


7 thoughts on “Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church, 1814, Hancock County

  1. Christopher Paul Johnson

    I visited the Mt Zion Church a few months ago. My Father EMORY Ellis Johnson was born about a mile down the dirt road by the Church In a house, in ruins, but still standing. He was born 12-17-1930 and Baptized in Mt. Zion Methodist Church in 1934. My Grandmother, Emma Poole Johnson, was killed by lighting in 1939. It changed my family history because with her death, the Depression, and my Grandather Ellis Johnson, unable to support his family, my father and his five siblings were forced to move to Sparta – about 7 miles away. When I visited the Church and graveyard I discovered Joseph Bryan’s grave and googled it finding a whole world my family never new or shared with me about the now extinct town of Mt Zion and its rich history through his daughter’s letters published in 1996 by the University of Ga’ Press, edited book by Carol Bleser in “TOKENS OF AFFECTION The Letters of a Planter’s Daughter in the Old South. The letters describe Mt Zion in the early 19th century when Hancock County and Sparta Ga were the center of the cotton world.

  2. Bryan Hight

    I really enjoy these photos. It’s a shame the place isn’t in better shape. Many of my ancestors (Hight) are buried in the small cemetery behind this church.

    1. Christopher Johnson

      Hi, I’m Christopher Johnson – i left a post on this site below yours. I’ve been reading and doing a little History searching of the Mt.Zion area that vanished after the Civil War. It has a rich history so I’ve learned. The Grave Stones behind the Church started me looking. You mention some of your ancestors are buried there. Would you mind letting me know who they are and any information you are willing to share. My family Settled in Hancock County in the late 18 century after the Revolutionary War – William Johnson Sr. 1750- 1830 and we have a huge history in that area. It would be fun to see if our families knew each other. Thanks, Chris

      1. Bryan

        I had pictures of various headstones with the names, but can’t find them right now. They were all Hights; same as my last name. I think there are at least a half dozen folks named Hight buried in that cemetery. Thanks.

      2. Christopher Johnson

        Thanks Bryan. In my looking to find more information I will include you in my findings on this site, especially if I find any Hights information. Chris

  3. Miss Charlie

    Beautiful old church. I love the angle that you used to take the front stoop. Its as if it is turning a face to the sun to find the warmth of youth.


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