Tag Archives: Churches of Hancock County GA

Bethel Baptist Church, 1828, Hancock County

By some accounts, Bethel Baptist is the oldest surviving congregation in Hancock County. Land for the first church was purchased from Benjamin Thompson in 1801 and it was constituted in October 1802 by Elders Thomas Mercer and Benjamin Thompson, with twelve members. It was located on Old Bethel Hill about three miles east of Sparta on Shoals Road.

I’m dating the structure to 1828 based on the Baptist Association Minutes of 1880, which state: This church was first located on what is now known as Old Bethel Hill about three miles east of Sparta. We are unable to tie the history of this church from its constitution, till the year 1828. In February, 1828 it was removed to its present site, six miles east of Sparta, near the banks of the Little Ogheechee [sic] river. The land for the new site was deeded by John S. Latimer, and the deed names the following trustees of the church: Jesse Lockhart, David Hitchcock, William Barksdale and Byrd W. Brazill. It’s possible that this notation only indicated that the congregation itself changed locations and the church structure came later but the minutes make no mention of this.

They also note that before the Civil War, a third of the membership was African-American, indicating that members brought enslaved people to services. After Emancipation, they formed their own church, known as Hickory Grove.

St. Paul CME Church, 1890s, Hancock County

According to Harrell Lawson, St. Paul CME traces its origins to a group of enslaved men and women from David Dickson’s nearby plantation who began holding informal services in a brush arbor in 1857. In 1870, the members purchased land on which today’s church stands in order to have a permanent meeting place but due to confusion over two different deeds (1870, 1877), Lawson doesn’t note exactly when the first church was built. Since the CME church was not founded as a national entity until 1870, it is thought that that association came later. Resource surveys date the present structure to 1890, though I have been unable to confirm the date.

Old St. Galilee Baptist Church, Hancock County

This is the original home of Saint (St.) Galilee Baptist Church, which has a newer facility in Sparta today. I’m not sure when the church was established , nor when this structure was built. It was sided with false brick siding (tar paper) before it was bricked. A very large and well-maintained cemetery is adjacent to the property.

St. Mark’s A. M. E. Church, Sparta

Founded by freedmen circa 1867, St. Mark’s was one of the first A. M. E. congregations in Hancock County and was a major social and cultural influence on the newly emancipated African-American community of Sparta. The present structure dates to either 1892 or 1901.

Horeb Baptist Church, 1824, Mayfield

Organized as Folsom Creek Baptist Church on 28 June 1792 by Adam Jones and Jeptha Vining, this church was renamed Horeb in 1798 and relocated to the present location in 1799. As was often the case, slaves were members until the Civil War and some are buried in the adjacent cemetery. Newly emancipated, African-Americans began to organize their own churches after the war. At its bicentennial in 1992, membership in Horeb had dwindled to such a low number that the church officially disbanded. It is still well-maintained and used for occasional events and services.

Mayfield Methodist Church, 1949, Hancock County

I believe this was built by the Mayfield Methodist Church to replace an earlier structure on the site dating to 1897. The property was a gift of Lena Birdsong. The congregation formed earlier in the 1890s and originally met in members’ homes and a one-room schoolhouse. Construction began on this church in 1949, but I’m not sure when it was completed. The congregation was never very large and disbanded years ago.

In recent years it has been home to a couple of African-American congregations, including the Mayfield Church of God in Christ and the Ogeechee Ministries of God.

Centennial Christian Church, 1924, Hancock County

Centennial Christian Church is located just south of the Greene County line in Hancock County. The congregation has served the families of the area for over a century and the church and grounds are beautifully maintained.

 

Smyrna United Methodist Church, Hancock County

The only history I can locate regarding this historic church was written by Sarah Waller McCleskey circa 1951. She did note that since the records of the congregation have been lost or misplaced over time she was unable to authenticate dates. What follows is abridged from her history.

A congregation first met here in a brush arbor and then a church known as Piney Grove Meeting House. Upon construction of the present structure in 1790, it became known as Smyrna Methodist Church. It is believed to be the second oldest Methodist congregation in Georgia. Bishop Francis Asbury reportedly preached here while the church was under construction. [Mrs. McCleskey’s account states that the construction date of 1790 “is attested by the foundation, which is constructed of hewn sills joined with wooden pegs”. Though it is an indicator of an era of construction, it is not a definitive way to accurately date the structure, which I believe to be of 19th century origin.]

While Mrs. McCleskey wrote that some gravesites “show the marks of time to such an extent that that the names on the markers are scarcely legible”, I only saw memorials from the late 19th and the 20th centuries. I wish I’d had time to explore further because it is a delightful spot.

Holsey Memorial C. M. E. Church, 1924, Sparta

This historic church was built in 1924 to honor Bishop L. H. Holsey, D. D. Reverend W. A. Kelley was pastor at the time. Trustees of the church were: A. D. Latimer; J. W. N. Clay; G. B. Taylor; H. L. Wynn; B. Ford; Thomas Dixon; O. L. Cain; Wilbor Clay; M. Birch; and A. H. Gilbert. R. E. White was the architect. Compass Lodge No. 160, A. F. & A. M. laid the cornerstone on 7 September 1925.

Devereux United Methodist Church, 1911, Hancock County

The first Methodist congregation associated with Devereux, Ebenezer, was located about ten miles away. It moved nearby in 1857  and was named Reynolds Chapel for its pastor. The present structure was built in 1910-1911 and dedicated by Bishop W. A. Candler in 1911. The name was changed at that time to Devereux Methodist Church. It remains a small but active congregation.