The first records show that “The Church of Christ at Beaverdam” was constituted on March 19, 1836. As was most often the case, a small crowd of close neighbors, seven men and seven women, wanted to start a church. The Rev. William Stokes was chosen as first pastor. Records of this first meeting have been preserved. They show columns listing the name of each member, date received into church, how received and how dismissed. These listings reflect what was a normal practice in ante bellum days throughout Georgia. Men, women, white and black all belonged in the same congregation. Many black members were received into the church until emancipation and the end of the Civil War. The regular church meeting was held on Saturday with the black members gathering on the following “Sabbath Evening.”
The end of the War found this practice coming to an end. That point came for Beaverdam in 1874 according to the church records. According to the Minutes of May 16, 1874,“Granted letters of dismission to 13 colored members for the purpose of constituting a colored Baptist Church in the vicinity.” Actions such as this took place throughout Wilkes and all other Georgia counties. In many instances, the blacks were given the older meeting house to use while the whites built a new sanctuary nearby. An example of that practice can be found in Wilkes County where the whites at Newford moved to a new church in nearby Danburg, Danburg Baptist was erected in 1879. The blacks, staying in the old sanctuary, reorganized that year keeping the name Newhope. Though heavily remodeled, that sanctuary remains intact and in use by the congregation today.
There are 108 recorded interments in the cemetery with the oldest grave dated 1861. Above you will see an assortment of grave markers common in mid-19th century burial grounds. The field-rock cradle grave, the tablet monuments and the granite enclosure with the two vaulted roof, pedestal tomb monuments are common to this post-Civil War era.
Grave site enclosures in any old Georgia cemeteries, Pre and Post Civil War, were constructed to reflect the importance, power, and, as well, monetary status of the occupants. Above you see two enclosures made of metal, cast iron, wrought iron, steel were favored. To the 21st century eye, these enclosures seem modest. Not so. Metal…cast, wrought, whatever… was a very rare commodity in the south, particularly in places not near large cities. To be able to afford and install such luxuries at one’s family grave site signified wealth and prosperity. And, if you could mount a few large marble or granite carved tombstones such as those seen above, even greater significance is added to your final resting place.
Beaverdam is a fine example of a 19th century, center steeple rural sanctuary. The fact that churches such as Beaverdam can remain in use for over 150 years after their erection is a tribute to the craftsmanship and materials…rugged, Longleaf heart pine (Pinus Palustris), that were available for use in this particular section of Georgia.
As is the case in many of these old churchyards, there are many unmarked and unrecorded gravesites. This image is a fitting testimonial to the early pioneers and the life they carved out of the Georgia wilderness.
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