In 1859 Jasper County resident Mathew Whitfield conveyed a two acre tract of land on the Monticello-Madison road to a group of Shady Dale settlers for the sum of $20 to be used for building a church and cemetery. The church built there was Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church and still stands today over 150 years later. The church had been founded in 1857 and was originally located on the Madison road about two miles north of Shady Dale. There is still an old cemetery there with the graves of early Jasper County pioneers and church founders.
Shady Dale is one of those lovely East Georgia villages and well worth a visit. It lies nine miles northeast of Monticello in Jasper County. Shady Dale was originally a Creek Indian village long before the English first arrived. Later it became a local trading post and is the only other incorporated city in Jasper County. In the early 1899s the Seven Islands Road passed only a few miles to the north and west of Shady Dale. This was a very important land route from Augusta to New Orleans and brought in many traders and travelers to the town. Later a railroad from Augusta to Milledgeville to Covington and on to Atlanta passed through Shady Dale. Being in the middle of this rail line made it a very popular tourist and trading site.
About the time of the War Between the States, Shady Dale was on the road from Covington to the state capitol in Milledgeville. This provided a lot of traffic from the now growing Atlanta, formerly Marthasville, to Milledgeville. Two of the wealthiest men in the state lived in Shady Dale at that time, Mathew Whitfield and J. W. Walton. Whitfield owned the Shady Dale Hotel at that time. General Sherman spent the night in the Shady Dale Hotel during his infamous March to the Sea but, fortunately, the village emerged relatively unscathed.
In 1887, the Macon-Covington railroad venture passed through Machen and Shady Dale on its way to Athens. It had originally been planned to go to Covington but at Mineta Crossing plans changed and it proceeded through Monticello and Shady Dale, crossing the other railroad already in Shady Dale. This helped the local trade tremendously. Shady Dale later developed into a major shipping point for cotton, peaches and farm machinery but the bubble burst in the 1930’s with the coming of The Great Depression. Many beautiful old homes are left in this proud community. Come visit Shady Dale and attend a service at Calvary. Sunday services are at 9:30 and 11:00 am. Visitors are always welcome.
The Calvary United Methodist church building in a modified version of the gable end style with an elaborate right steeple shown above. As you can see, the complex tin roof structure is in perfect condition indicative of the congregation’s pride, love and care expended on maintaining this old structure for a century and a half. According to the church history, the Carillonic Bells in this original steeple were Dedicated to the Glory of God in memory of Lillian Davidson Bromley by her son in 1953.
This view from the pulpit illustrates how compact and cozy the sanctuary is at this little church. Every attendee is guaranteed a good seat with no sight-line barriers. You can also see that the wall boards at Calvary are vertically mounted, not horizontally as would be typical for earlier meeting houses. This add a unique, structural decorative element in the sanctuary. The window frames and doors are also made of wood and reflect excellent fit and finish. The quality construction of Calvary is apparent everywhere. This was obviously a very prosperous congregation whose beautiful church just preceded the chaos of the Civil War.
The church stands as it was originally built with the same handsome, wooden window frames and the heavy hand-made pews. One of the decorative highlights at Calvary are its lovely, stained glass windows. Each rests in a massive, hand carved frame that is crowned by a decorative carving. You can also get a glimpse of the ever present, heart pine floors that are ubiquitous in these early, rural churches.
The carpets are not original but everything else is. Nothing like good old Georgia heart pine.
This memorial stained glass window is placed behind the chancel and pulpit. Unlike the other windows at Calvary, this window is custom made and of excellent quality and workmanship. God and country, along with the pride of good craftsmanship.
What a great vision of a beautiful Historic Church in a rural Georgia village. Untouched by the hand of time for over 150 years.
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Calvary is part of the Shady Dale Circuit. We still have service on the first and third Sunday each month at 11:00 am. Pastor David Williams. We recently became Calvary Methodist Church. We welcome visitors.
Thank you for your comment, Jana.
I really enjoyed going there with my father when he was alive. A beautiful old church with the stained glass windows. I am seldom in Jasper County on Sundays any longer, but have fond memories of Calvary. I am aware that the church has disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church, something my home church hopes to do this year too.
You mention there is a cemetery; is in indexed with Find-A-Grave? I am seeking a relative, Harmon Horlbeck Geiger, who may have been buried in that cemetery.
Don’t beieve there is a cemetery associated with the church. However, there is a large community cemetery in Shady Dale that is available on Findagrave.
Is this church still in existence? Where is it located? Is it the same church as Calvary United Methodist Church 8n Stlsnta?
Yes, going strong in Shady Dale. The map was missing for some reason. Fixed now.
Yes. This was my father’s church before he died in 2021. I went with him every time it met. Since it was part of a circuit, it met on 1st and 3rd Sundays. Recently several of its members have either died or moved away. When I went with my father, we had 15-20 in attendance until Covid.
Hello my name is Melanie E Lowry I’m a Christian author and I came across your Chapel. My fiance and I have been looking for somewhere holy to get married we just didn’t want to go to the Justice of the Peace can we get married at your lovely Chapel?
Melanie, we don’t have a contact number for the church but you can probably find it with an online search. Good luck.
We served this church and 5 others while my husband was in seminary at Emory. We had two children while living In Shady Dale! LOVED this chUrch and the people in it! Have many precious memories about this church and this place!!!