The history in the North Georgia Methodist archives tell us that Big Springs is one of the oldest in the conference. The history was “given first hand in 1933 by Mrs. Laura Hall, wife of the late John R. Hall, a Confederate Veteran…….In 1828 , a young man by the name of Young Hall settled on the plantation that is now known as the John R. Hall home in Troup County, and about this time a log church was built on this place, East of the house and was named Big Springs, because of five big springs on natural water nearby. This was the first and only church at that time in this community.”
“In 1840 the church was moved to its present site and was a frame structure with plain wooden shutters for windows. Then in 1861, the present church was built on land donated by Nathanial Howell…..Dr. Beasley got the contract for the church and slaves were used for labor. All the lumber in the church was kiln dried and prepared by hand…….you may still find places on the backs of some of these pews, where a dividing line was used when the slaves worshiped with the white people. Sometimes the slaves would have their own service with the white pastor preaching and with the white congregation taking the back seats.”
The church you see above has been improved over the years and you would not think it had been built in 1861. However a look underneath, as you will see in the photos below, would tell you otherwise. The original flooring, although covered up now, is still there supported by rough logs that bear the axe marks from 160 years ago. Several events have tried to bring the old church down but the congregation has always built her back. In 1928, the church was re-roofed with pine shingles. In 1935 it was painted inside and out and wired for electricity in 1937. The church was almost burned in 1943 when the roof shingles caught fire and the church was then re-roofed with asbestos shingles. In 1947, a cyclone blew the roof and gables completely off and left just the walls standing. In 1947, additional improvements were made at a cost of $4,000.
We are fortunate that the original structure is still with us. A faithful congregation let by several generations of Halls, Jones and other founding members have been good stewards of Big Springs and her history. Be sure to click and scroll, the photos below for more information.
As you saw in the exterior photo, though the church was built in 1861 at the outbreak of the Civil War, it has been the subject of many physical alterations during its 150+ years. Dead giveaways are the modern steeple, concrete porch floor, a handicap ramp, single entry door, sheet rock walls and other out of period elements. But, as proof of the authenticity of this old church we offer the photo above of some of the original floor joists and sub-floor. Revealed for our view are the original long leaf pine tree trunks that were cut to length with primitive saws, then shaped by hand with axes and adze. Hard work.
In this shot we can clearly see the marks made when a man was stripping the tree of its bark with a sharp axe. Resting on this joist are some of the original, four inch floor boards also fashioned from rough-sawn heart pine. The ready availability and common use of this remarkably strong and rot-resistant wood is one of the reasons these old structures are still standing today.
Inside the church we find a sanctuary typical of other mid 19th century rural Georgia churches. It is a simple, oblong, rectangular, single gabled structure. This design requires interior columns to be used to support the roof above. We think the columns are original. Though the sanctuary furniture and architectural, decorative elements have been modified somewhat over the years, this still presents as an authentic Civil War era church.
This is a photo of the chancel and apse area in full Christmas dress. This is a sign of the presence of a still robust , caring congregation with dedicated membership at Big Springs. Of course the chancel and pulpit area we see have been modified over the years and the balustrade carpet, furniture , etc is not of its early period, But, the important point is the fact that this church is still thriving in the 2020’s and is a tribute to the stewardship of its many members.
The church originally had two entry doors and there was no vestibule. Because the back wall is blank and windowless, it appears that in the later 19th century, we think that back wall was pulled forward to provide for an area that could be converted to a Vestibule or other small rooms for the use of its congregation. We see the two replacement doors in this photo. This is a common reconfiguration step found in a great deal of the old churches we encounter.
We know that in 1947 a “Cyclone” had blown off the roof and entire ceiling at Big Springs church leaving only the foundation and sanctuary floor behind. Just the walls were left. But, none of the congregation decided to leave. All of the necessary repairs were accomplished and what we see in this shot is proof of what a wonderful repair job they accomplished. Now we can see here an authentic, vertical, wide-board ceiling that replaced the original. Since the replacement was carefully reconstructed to match the original, thanks to the Big Springs congregation, we get the opportunity to enjoy the site of the original plan for the ceiling at Big Springs. Thanks for their conscientiousness in protecting the authenticity of this church.
In this view we see one of the two memorial stained glass windows at Big Springs. All of the other large windows contain clear glass panes.
The original pews at Big Springs were probably hand made of long leaf, heart pine. Here we see lovely, manufactured pews of curved design, scroll end pew arms and recessed circular embellishment. These were probably placed in the sanctuary in the 20th century when the congregation felt that it could afford the upgrade.
We love it when we can provide a photograph of an old church taken in its earliest days. Here we see the exterior of Big Springs, probably before the end of the 19th century. Compared to the present church’s exterior, this view presents a more simple yet period-authentic view. We must appreciate and congratulate how far these churches have come and salute their continuing importance to their congregation and community in the 21st century.
Nancy Louisa Andrews Jones was born in North Carolina June 2, 1805. She died January 20, 1887 in Troup County, Georgia and is buried in the Jones Cemetery, Troup County, Georgia. She married Richard H. Jones in Taliaferro County, Georgia on August 27, 1826. Five of their seven children are also buried in the Jones Cemetery: Andrew Battle Jones, William H. C. Jones, George W. Jones, James M. Jones, and Henry C. Jones.
Four names are shown on this cemetery marker: Richard Andrews 1780-1863, his wife Agatha “Agnes” Brantley Andrews 1782-1863, their son William Gray Andrews, 1809-1860 and his wife Caroline, 1810-1862. Richard and Agatha were married in North Carolina. They had six children including Nancy Louisa Andrews Jones shown above. William Gray Andrews was killed by a fall from his horse.
George W. Jones was born in Georgia on September 26, 1838 and died in Troup County, Georgia on December 7, 1881. He was the son of Richard H. Jones and Nancy Louisa Andrews Jones shown on other markers here. He was the grandson of Richard and Agatha Andrews shown above. George W. Jones was in Company B, 4th Georgia Regiment, CSA. He died of tuberculosis
Richard H. Jones was born January 4, 1804 in North Carolina. He died November 14, 1865 in Troup County, Georgia. He was married to Nancy Louisa Andrews Jones shown above. He was a wealthy planter in Troup County. Richard Jones is shown as a slave owner in both the 1850 and 1860 census records.
Andrew Battle Jones was born May 30, 1827 in Georgia and died March 6, 1892 in Troup County, Georgia. He was a farmer in Mountville, Troup County, Georgia. He and his wife, Ann, had two children, Charles B. and William H. Jones.
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My grandmother, Ada Murphy, attended this church. She lived across the highway very close. The Halls lived nearby and she knew them well. I visited them as a child when I was at my grandmothers house. They had a huge dog named happy. This was in the 40’s and 50’s. These Halls mus have been relatives of the ones you mention in your history. I’ve watched your printings of these churches for several years and had given up on ever seeing my grandmother’s church. I’m so pleased I didn’t just delete before I looked. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing these stories Rayanna. We are glad you hung in there.