Carroll’s Methodist is one of those churches that doesn’t give any indication from the exterior that you are looking at a structure that has been standing here since 1833. The exterior has been covered with asbestos siding and the original footings and support beams are not visible now. In addition, some “restoration” work was done in the 1950’s resulting in redesigning the doors and several of the windows. A portico and banisters were added as well. While this restoration work was well meaning and added decades of life to the church in other ways, it certainly modified the historical character of the church. Only from the interior can you appreciate the primitive beauty that was established here almost 200 years ago.
The very earliest church history states that the church was founded in 1797 and named for the William Carroll Family, who were early settlers in Franklin County. This goes back to the earliest years of Methodism in Georgia and America. Most of the credit for the early establishment of Methodism in the state goes to Bishop Francis Asbury, who was born in England and migrated to America in 1771. At the age of 18, John Wesley appointed Asbury as a ‘traveling preacher’, which was a very apt title. Asbury preached in myriad places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares, wherever a crowd assembled to hear him. For the remainder of his life he rode an average of 6,000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences. The early success of the Methodists in Georgia are largely due to his personal efforts.
By 1814 Methodist membership in Georgia exceeded 10,000, a figure that almost doubled during the next fifteen years. By 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, over 97,000 Methodists lived in Georgia. The significance of all of this for Caroll’s church is that Bishop Asbury preached here on November 22, 1799. From Bishop Asbury’s diary, ‘Here on Friday November 22, 1799, we drove 16 miles to Carroll’s Meeting House, a new log cabin in the woods. Some of the congregation are from the East and West parts of Maryland. I felt the Lord was with them. We have the kitchen house and chamber all in one and no closet but the woods.’
The present building you see was erected in 1833 and was restored in 1951- 1952 as mentioned above in memory of Rev. Nelson Osborn (1797-1873) who served Carroll’s for many years. The church history states that ‘He preached 470 funerals and married 540 couples. This old church has paved the way to spread the Gospel over our beloved County and State. Let us ever keep alive the memory of those Pioneers who settled here and left such a wonderful heritage to us.’ To which we can only add…Amen.
As stated on the preceding Carroll's Methodist history page, the exterior view of this old church does not give a hint of the delightful, primitive interior within. The fit and finish is rough, decoration and furnishings are simple and the pulpit is cobbled together by hand. The wood burning stove stands alert and ready to warm the congregation on rainy, cold winter days. This view from the pulpit reveals a church whose interior seems to have been frozen in time since its earliest days in the 1830's. Aside from the electric lights and ceiling fans, the view is similar to the one that greeted Reverend Nelson Osborn every time he stepped to the pulpit to …'preach 470 funerals and marry 540 couples' before his death in 1873.
These pews did not come from a manufacturer in Savannah and were not designed by a professional. They were designed by a carpenter who knew how to saw and plane local heart pine boards and then shape these utilitarian benches for maximum stability while joining them in a way that they would last for decades. These have been in place at this church for over one and three quarter centuries and still have lots of useful life in them.
The Gothic side and front doors and altar, along with other minor modifications, were added in the mid 1950's. But, we are told that the heart pine floors throughout the church were laid in place when the building was erected in 1833. The pump organ was a late 19th century addition but the primitive, V-shaped storage box next to the organ has probably done its humble duties since the church's beginnings. When the photojournalist, Randy Clegg, described it to us he stated, "I saw it as a manger and assumed it was used for Christmas scenes. It does have hay in it like you'd see in a scene with Jesus lying in a manger." We do not know its original use or origin, perhaps it has served that purpose and others since the 1830's! "Waste not, want not"
Simplicity remains the order of the day throughout this museum-piece of a sanctuary. The pulpit has been assembled from flat-sawn walnut logs, a noble wood for a noble cause. The simple decorative elements are attached molding. The cross was probably hand carved and mounted on a flat, recessed panel in the mid-1950's.
Armed with both a pump organ and a Victorian era piano, the Carroll's Methodist's are clearly part of a 'singing' church. Though there are no elaborate windows, chalices, decorative embellishments, etc. to be seen, their services were celebrated and decorated with hymns sung by the congregation. Favorites from the United Methodist Hymnal are Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, The Old Rugged Cross, and A Mighty Fortress is Our God , on pages 378, 77, 504 and 110 respectively. Make a joyful noise.
It is easy to see the repair work that was done in the 1950's and realize how it compromised the original doors and windows. However, thousands of congregants from the past 175 years as well as those who pass through these doors and trod these ancient floors today and tomorrow will be familiar with and recognize this view of the sweet Georgia foothills. Congratulations to Carroll's Methodist for succeeding in preserving their sanctuary 'as is' and leading this church to continuing success in carrying out its mission. Selah.
Carroll Cemetery contains the graves of parishioners ranging from soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War in the 18th Century to simple citizens interred in the 21st century. Many of the earlier graves are unmarked but there are quite a few gravestones from the mid 1800's. For a complete documentation of Carroll's known interments click here.
It is always interesting to look beneath the stones and imagine what the lives of these parishioners were like. Here lies John Adam Miller who rests beside his wife Nancy Casey Miller and close to his father and mother, Uriah and Sarah Miller. They were married in January of 1854 in this church and had seven children. We imagine John was a typical Franklin County farmer and life in this part of Georgia was good for seven years or so until the Civil War swept everyone into the abyss. John served with both the 9th Ga Infantry and the 37th Ga Infantry and managed to survive the war. He returned to Nancy and they had four more children after the war. The church was always the anchor and source of comfort in these troubled times.
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