The roots of Bath Presbyterian began with the wealthy planter class from Burke County who began coming to Bath to escape the deadly heat and malaria filled summers at home. They found comfort in the pure mineral springs of Bath. According to church history, the visits became longer and longer until a permanent community emerged in the late 18th century. The residents were predominantly Scots-English Presbyterians and they went through the usual progression of meeting in homes to a log structure and finally to the fine sanctuary you see here built in 1836.
As Bath began to grow as a community, the preferred builder of the fine colonial style homes was John Trowbridge, who had migrated into the area from Massachusetts. He was a skilled builder and very pleased with the southern lifestyle and business opportunities that were emerging. Soon, two of his brothers joined him in the trade. Thus began a long relationship between Bath Presbyterian and The Trowbridge family.
As the community of Bath grew, so did the need for a suitable Presbyterian sanctuary and in 1836 John Trowbridge built the first Presbyterian church in Richmond County outside of the town of Augusta. Bath Presbyterian was off to a grand start and prospered well but suffered along with the rest of the south as the Civil War spread over the south. There always seem to be some unverified stories of Yankee transgressions when Sherman descended upon the land and Bath is no exception. According to church history the Yankees ‘tried to remove the pulpit from the church but to no avail for their effort‘ since the pulpit extended through the floor and into the ground underneath. Thus ‘instead of the pulpit, they carried off the silver communion and baptismal wares’.
The church history we have is dated August 1987, and it goes to great lengths to applaud the many contributions of the Trowbridge family. Keep in mind that John Trowbridge had built the church and most of the village in the early 1800’s. ‘Harper Trowbridge will soon be 97 years old. He is present almost every Sunday in church. Only extreme illness keeps him at home’. What a great example of roots and the connection of earliest Georgia families and the churches they founded to the present time. Thank you Trowbridge family and rest of the Bath Presbyterian community for your loving stewardship of this historical treasure.
This view reveals that the interior of Bath Presbyterian has undergone many improvements and modifications during its over one and three-quarter centuries of existence. Its appearance today bears little resemblance to the probably spare sanctuary it started out as. But, the cozy atmosphere created by its small size and the plentiful light streaming in through its eleven, large nine over nine windows is probably comparable to what it was in those old days.
As you can see, this is still an active church with a busy schedule of services, weddings, funerals and community activities. One of the more important reasons that Bath has remained active can be attributed to its modernized facility and creature comforts added over the years. You can see the heating and air ducts hidden away tastefully along the walls and ceilings and the additions of electricity, comfortable cushioned pews and bathroom facilities adds to its appeal to 21st century congregants. You may want to visit and attend a worship service… you will be welcomed.
The comfortable and snug atmosphere of the Bath sanctuary is again reflected in this shot from the pulpit. Even the occupants of a balcony seat will feel close and welcomed during a ‘full-house’ service.
Since burials have taken place here for over 175 years, this graveyard contains a vast array of just about every kind of marker … simple, uninscribed rocks, granite/marble tomb stones, etc…. from every era. Above we have, side-by-side two excellent examples of contrasting practices. The rough laid, field stone grave enclosure would be one of the earliest sites in the cemetery. It surrounds a families’ burial sites. Within the enclosure we see a single 1830’s-40’s style foot stone and larger marble tablet that is inscribed with the name, birth and death dates of the deceased. Just behind and above this site we see an ornate, cast iron fence enclosure with two false crypts inside. Beyond these two rises in the background a formidable obelisk from a different era. This sacred place would be a lovely place to visit and stroll through the paths soaking up the historic air that pervades Bath Cemetery.
Beneath two handsome, marble ledger stones and slot and tab headstones, here lies John and Sarah Trowbridge, the founders of the original Bath family and the builder of the church and the village. We discussed John’s contribution in the home page history but a glance at the cemetery roster further tells the tale. There are 150 total interments in the cemetery and 26 of them are Trowbridges. The oldest of these is Miss Sarah above who died in 1889. Six of the graves are children who died within three years, a sad but typical occurrence in 19th century Georgia. The latest Trowbridge interment is 1996, over a hundred years of faithful service. Thank you so much for your stewardship.
When looking through cemetery records, it is always interesting to look for males born between 1830 and 1840. A very large percentage of these young men served in the lost cause. The Civil War left almost no family in Georgia untouched in one way or another. Ferdinand survived but a large percentage did not. The war was a demographic disaster for the south and created a lot of widows and spinsters as a result.
The photograph above confirms that Bath Presbyterian Cemetery is as well maintained and attractive as any similarly-aged cemetery in the state. And, our other photographs of the Church itself reflects an equal concern by the congregation to maintain and preserve the historic buildings just as well. This lovely landmark has been in the loving and capable hangs of generations of congregants and shows it.
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I almost got married in this church in 1999. We would have if the marriage licenses weren’t such a challenge for those living out of state. I, too, am descended (2nd great grandfather) from John Trowbridge, who built this church. Attended whenever I visited my cousin, a member and regular attendee, Marguerite McRae. It seemed like I must be related to half of the people in the congregation. I so enjoyed Homecoming whenever I could travel from wherever I was living (Atlanta, Dallas, Charleston). I recall many of my distant relatives (the Trowbridges) in attendance. The fellowship and stories were a blessing. My grandmother would talk about Bath often and I heard lots of stories growing up. So glad it is on the Historical registry. Haven’t been back since about 2007.
Yes, I wonder if anyone has the history of the lil school house on Bath Edie. (3885 Bath Edie Rd.) And or the mansion that sits just East of the school house. My son just bought the property that the school house sits on and they are thinking of tearing it down. Just wanted to know some history of the place. Tks
I was christened in this church in 1976. My lovely sister Lori Williams plays the piano for the church, and before her my mother did for many years. My brother, Jamie, is the Sunday school superintendent and elder. I have since left the church but this is confirmation for me to return. I miss it dearly. The pastor, Boyd Lien is a dear man who is filled with wonderful stories as well as the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is there and comforts us every time we visit. Thank you so much for this work you did in preparing this article. And the pictures are beautiful. Thank you. May God Bless you and keep you safe. Please come visit. Anyone who is reading or telling of this or just hearing another do so…i pray youll visit soon. With love in Christ, Jennifer Enfinger
Very heart felt. Thanks for sharing Jennifer.
I miss this church!
Beautiful place I’ve been there a few times for civil war markers dedications and a funeral service and some other things that went on there
Yes. She is a beauty.
Thanks for the article my great great grandfather build the church
Thanks Marianne. Living history.
John Francis is my 3rd GGF father of my 2nd GGM Adelaide Maria mother of my GGF Paul Edgeworth Eve.
Can’t wait till I can visit Bath, and see where our ancestors lived!
Kim Knight Austin