The lovely little church, nestled among the trees and surrounded by a beautiful cemetery, is a perfect example of a very historic rural Georgia church that has been lovingly maintained over the years. When Clinton Methodist was founded, it was on the very edge of the Georgia frontier. Its parishioners were Revolutionary War soldiers and rugged individuals willing to carve out a life for themselves and their families out of the Georgia wilderness.
When Jones County was partitioned from Baldwin County in 1807, it lay on the far western border of Georgia. Clinton was established as the county seat and began to grow quickly. Since it was a frontier town, early settlers were pretty “rough” and for several years, Clinton and Jones County had no organized churches. In 1810, Inferior Court records show the appropriation of one acre to the use of the “Methodist connection”, but there is no record of what type of building may have been erected or any other type of use of the land by these Methodists. However, on July 14, 1821, a deed to the Clinton Methodist Episcopal Church was made by the Inferior Court to five individuals listed as trustees of the church. It has been assumed that the present structure was built that year, 1821. This makes Clinton Methodist one of the very oldest churches founded and built along Georgia’s western border in the early 1820’s.
In Carolyn Williams, History of Jones County – written in 1957, she writes the following: ‘It is thought that the present structure was erected at this period (1821). This church is a frame house of good dimensions with substantial stone steps from the native granite. A steeple is overhead. The windows large and wide and double doors form the main entrance. A large gallery which was reached by steps from the front extended over the front part of (the interior) of the church and was for the use of negro slaves. Years after the negroes became free (1896) the gallery was removed, the church cut down and remodeled until this present structure does not appear as the up-to-date church of 1821.’ Clinton Methodist may not look the same today, but it still admirably serves its initial and permanent mission!
Particular attention should be paid to the cemetery. It is filled with unique quarried stone work by Jacob P. Hutchings. Mr. Hutchings was a former slave with extraordinary skills as a granite mason and builder, as you will see in subsequent photographs. The cemetery is also the burial ground for many Civil War soldiers. Quite a place. Thank you for supporting Historic Rural Churches of Georgia and helping us spread the word. Please be sure to click and scroll on the gallery photos below for more history about Clinton Methodist.
This exterior, frontal photo presents a lovely country church which has been somewhat modified since its construction date in 1821 when James Monroe was the sitting president of the United States of America, a pretty long time ago. Despite its age, it remains in remarkably good shape. As noted by Historian Carolyn Williams, “This present structure does not appear ‘as the up-to-date church of 1821. But it still admirably serves its initial and permanent mission.” The support and stewardship of this church by the congregation for over 200 years has been remarkable.
A lovely front porch and entry is gabled to match the single gable roof of the church as well as the steep sloped belfry that sits atop that roof. The nine over nine sashed windows, columns, pilasters and wide double doors form the main entrance.
This is a close up view of the authentic (original?) heart pine framed and doubled doored entrance.
Here we have entered the small and cozy sanctuary that, though not totally original, is a replica of similar church interiors of the era. The interior architecture creates a flat ceiling supported by three square, large, chamfered heart pine posts that that are tied into a single large ceiling joist running down the center of the ceiling. Though the ceiling is vertically sheathed with traditional narrow gage heart pine boards, the walls have been covered with sheet rocked in recent years.
This church is still active after over 200 years of existence, regular services are held. We know that this kind of resiliency is a rare occurrence. The chancel view above reflects the vibrancy of the congregation. The chancel is well kept and attractive with a lovely balustrade and knelling pillows. The offertory table and its flowers are prepared. Though the community is small and shrinking, services are well attended. Clinton Methodist is alive and well though so many of these old churches are not… a great role model.
This view of the sanctuary from the pulpit reflects the duality of Clinton Methodist. The earlier sanctuary pews are nestled amongst the original old ceiling and columns that represents Clinton’s beginnings and “the good old days”. At the same time, the modernization needed to keep the congregation attending…..fans, ceiling electricity, cooling and heating and bathrooms… have been provide within the old church.
Here is a closeup of one of the oldest pews in our state. Thanks to the Clinton congregation for insuring these old relics remain available for generations to come to see and enjoy.
This is an ornate gate to the Johnson family burial plot and contains the name F. S. Johnson and date 1859. F. S. “Francis” Johnson was born June 20, 1809 in Barnwell County, South Carolina and died June 29, 1878. His occupation in census records was shown as merchant. He was married twice and had twelve children. His obituary in the Macon newspaper stated he died of a chronic malady. It also said “His word was as good as his bond, and in all the social relations of life, few men have been more correct or exemplary.” The 1860 slave schedule shows Francis Johnson of Jones County owned 21 slaves.
Brig Gen Daniel Newman Smith was born in 1816 and died in 1872. His marker reads “1 Brig 5 Div GA Militia”. He was married to Mary S. Griswold Smith (1813-1850). Their son, Roger Griswold Smith, was a physician in Baldwin County. Their son-in-law, Robert Hardeman, married to their daughter Ellen, was a lawyer in Macon. Their sons Madison and Daniel were both farmers.
Francis Solomon Johnson was born June 20, 1809 and died June 29, 1878. His wife, Cordelia E. Morgan Johnson (1833-1912) is also buried at the Clinton United Methodist Church Cemetery. He married Cordelia in 1860 and she was his second wife. He was a wealthy merchant In his will he stated he owned a store in Macon, Georgia. He requested that the store and contents be sold as well as his books, a desk and a bookcase. In 1865 he applied for a pardon from the United States government. In his application he stated his property might be valued at $20,000 and he also stated he stayed home and never took up arms during the war. He stated he did in 1864 and 1865 act in the double capacity of agent of “tax in kind”.
Mrs. Nancy Pinson Wornum was born June 15, 1789 and died June 9, 1852. The 1850 Jones County census shows her son, William L. Wornum, age 30 and her daughter Santa M. Wornum, age 20 living in the household with her. She was a widow of Charles Wornum who died in 1834 and left 5 legatees. About 600 acres of land belonging to Charles Wornum was sold in 1835 and did not include the widows portion. Charles was a trustee of Blountsville Academy in Jones County. The 1850 Jones County slave schedule shows Nancy Wornum owned 25 slaves.
Mrs. Charlotte Mary Lowther Furlow was born August 1, 1818 and died July 19, 1838. She was married to Timothy Mathews Furlow (1814-1890). She graduated from Scotsboro Institute, June 25, 1835 where she was the valedictorian. She was the daughter of Samuel and Ann Pepper Lowther above. She had a son, William Lowther Furlow (1836-1862) who was killed in the Battle of McDowell during the Civil War. She also had a daughter born July 16, 1838. Charlotte Mary died 3 days after the birth of her daughter and her daughter only lived 3 months.
Ann Sophia Pepper Lowther was born July 11, 1793 in South Carolina and died November 10, 1829. She was married to Samuel Lowther (1788-1837) in 1814. He migrated from Virginia to Warren County, Georgia to Jones County, Georgia. Samuel Lowther was an attorney. Lowther Hall was built for Samuel Lowther and his wife, Ann in 1822. The home was lost to a fire in 1942 Pictures of Lowther Hall are available at the Library of Congress. He was a trustee of Clinton Female Seminary. This school was a forerunner of Wesleyan College in Macon. Inscription on Ann’s marker: “In memory of Ann Lowther, who lived and died a Christian; a charitable neighbor, a fond mother and affectionate wife of S. Lowther.” The inscription on Samuel’s marker: “In memory of Samuel Lowther; And there was then no meaner breast! Where in thy shaft might entrance found! Where fewer claims of nature prest. Where fewer hearts could feel the wound.” This inscription was from a poem by John Newton Brown in 1819.
Samuel Griswold Johnson was born August 25, 1838 and died June 16, 1863. His marker reads “Member Macon Vols – He gave his life in his country’s cause.” He was a son of Francis S. Johnson mentioned above. In 1860 his occupation was listed as clerk. The Macon Telegraph, June 16, 1863 contained an obituary that read “Died at Clinton, Jones County, on the 16th inst., in the 25th year of his age, private Samuel Griswold Johnson, of Company B, 2nd Battalion, Ga Vols, from the effects of a wound received at Chancellorsville.” His civil war record shows he was wounded May 3, 1863 and his leg was amputated.
Samuel Griswold was born December 27, 1790 in Burlington, Connecticut and died September 14, 1867 in Jones County, Georgia. The following statement is from the findagrave website: “Founder of the defunct town of Griswoldville near Macon Georgia. Griswoldville is famous as the site of the only major battle fought during Sherman's march to the sea in the War Between the States.” He was married to Loisa H. Forbes (1791-1870). After the Civil War he applied for a presidential pardon. In his application he stated he was for 30 years engaged in the manufacture of cotton gins, and had obtained a large amount of machinery, and had built shops, mills, foundry, etc. to carry on his business. He further stated that when the war broke out the demand for cotton gins ceased and since the work was nearly all done by his slaves the machinery had to be turned to some other channel so he began making pistols for the Southern Army. The 1860 Jones County slave schedule shows Samuel Griswold owned 108 slaves and his son, Giles H. Griswold owned 63 slaves.
Dr. Horatio Jones Bowen was born November 16, 1792 and died November 18, 1860. His wife, Mary Amanda Hill Bowen was born July 8, 1800 and died April 5, 1865. Horatio Bowen was a medical doctor in Jones County. He served with the 1st Regiment, Georgia Militia in 1812. The 1850 Jones County census shows Horatio, age 57; Mary, age 49 and four children. By the time of the 1860 slave schedule, Horatio Bowen owned 57 slaves. He left a will in Jones County where he left property to his wife and each of his children. He left two slaves mentioned by name, Russell and Eldridge. By the time Mary died there were three heirs: Thomas O. Bowen, James H. Bowen and Algernon Hamilton, husband of Sarah/Sallie Bowen. They divided among themselves the property, including slaves, from the estate of Mary and also her son John H. Bowen.
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Beautiful church and story of the people buried nearby.