Center Methodist Church was constituted in 1813. It was founded on the strategic ridge the separates the Broad and Oconee Rivers in Oglethorpe County (created 1793). The founders were David McLaughlin, David Patrick, George Williamson, George Moore and John Beasley, prominent early citizens of Oglethorpe. The county of Oglethorpe was known as ‘the Mother of Statesmen‘ because of the number of Georgia leaders coming from it prior to 1850.
The church site was near what would become the town of Stephens (after Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States and Governor of Georgia) but was originally known as Antioch or Antioch Depot. Center was originated as a non-denominational, shared, general meeting house for the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians.
Center was aptly named when it was first constructed. This church was the center of activity in this sparsely settled, pioneer community. Neighbors met here for fellowship with each other, couples courted in the church yard. The men and women separated as they entered the rough log cabin. The men were seated on one side of the church on puncheon benches placed on the hard-packed, earthen floor. Women sat on the other side. To break the intensity and boredom of the long sermons and hard, backless pews, parishioners often made use of the gourd dipper in the cedar bucket of water sitting to one side of the room.
The current sanctuary, above, is the third house of worship to be erected on the original site. The first had been the usual, hand-hewed log structure and it served the denomination(s) until 1852. During those first forty years, the denominations shared the log building until the Baptists removed themselves to the burgeoning community of Antioch and their Antioch Baptist Church only a mile or so away in 1820. Not much later, the Presbyterians drifted to Beth Salem/Lexington Presbyterian and Cherokee Corner churches by the mid-1820’s. The Methodists continued to occupy the original building until they decided to raise a new church on the site in 1852.
The beautiful frame structure that graces the one acre site today was constructed in 1914. This building is just a few miles from the historic location of China Grove, the home built by Ferdinand Phinizy near his businesses at Bowling Green. Bowling Green was the name of a famous race track he operated there. These days, a small group of dedicated worshipers still gather at Center Methodist each month to continue the practices of their predecessors. Thank you for preserving this important piece of Georgia history.