Clarks Chapel

Burke County
Org 1847
Photography by John Kirkland

Generations of Clarks and their relations have worshipped on this same spot since Charles Clark, the patriarch, built the little wooden chapel on his Burke County plantation in1847. The church passed into the hands of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1878 but the family resumed responsibility for the chapel’s care after the last active circuit preacher left in 1977. Today, the Clark clan returns to the little chapel for weddings, reunions or funerals in the cemetery plot adjacent to the church.

Charles Clark, along with his two wives, are buried near the original farmhouse, about two miles away. Charles Clark was a good planter and the family prospered in numbers as well as financially. Between the two wives, he fathered 25 children, most of whom survived into adulthood. According to family lore, he built the chapel because it was too difficult to take such a large family into town for services.

Some of the family’s history is recorded in the the chapel’s beautiful opalescent glass windows with their striking pastel colors. There are three windows across the front of the church and four down each wall. The windows were probably installed sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s. The center window in the front of the church is dedicated to Charles Clark, who left New Jersey as a young man and headed to Savannah. There he met and married a southern beauty named Eleanor Carswell and they began the plantation lifestyle in Burke County. He and Eleanor had a full life and before she died she had borne him nine children. She is memorialized by the window on the left. He then married a young lady named Sarah Murphey and she bore him 16 more children. (That is correct…..16 more children). She is memorialized by the window on the the right.

Despite the rigors of the early agrarian lifestyle and the lack of modern medicine, 23 of the 25 children reached adulthood. The names of various members of the first generation along with later ones and their spouses are inscribed on the eight side wall windows.

Despite some fire damage in the late 1800’s the heart pine floors, pews and most of the furnishings are original. The chapel is maintained in it’s original primitive glory. There is no inside toilet and water is piped from a neighbor’s well. The little sanctuary has a capacity of 200. A capped chimney pipe in the ceiling and a black smudge mark below mark the the spot where a pot bellied stove once stood. Dividers on the center pews separated the sexes in the old tradition with rows of short pews on the outside and a wider set of pew down the center. This is truly a step back in time and we are privileged to see it.

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