Coleman’s Chapel was organized shortly after the Civil War and named for Lindsey Coleman who had built a school there during the war. It began as a brush arbor and the church was built shortly thereafter in 1871. It has undergone extensive improvements since then. However, the church has a colorful history and the cemetery contains many Civil War vets who managed to survive the conflict.
The following history was compiled by John Kirkland from various sources.
Jefferson County, Georgia was named for Thomas Jefferson, president of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence and the first secretary of state. It has a rich history that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Near the town of Wadley, Georgia, a small town in Jefferson County is where you will find Coleman’s Chapel UMC Church which has a rich history itself.
Lindsey Coleman owned what must have been a large/profitable farm/plantation in the area because it had its own schoolhouse…no cutting school there without your parents finding out! During the Civil War there wasn’t a school in the area until Lindsey Coleman built a schoolhouse near his home for the benefit of his own children and others in the community. After the war a confederate soldier possibly from Greene County, Georgia took over the school and either incorporated Sunday School teachings into the curriculum or “talked up” Sunday School to the families of those attending school there. Soon a brush arbor was built alongside of the school building (late 1860s) and the seeds of Coleman’s Chapel were planted.
Revivals were held and gradually folks began joining the church. In 1870 a local Methodist elder, Dr. L. B. Boschell who practiced medicine in Summertown, Georgia and often preached for the congregation, organized the church and C. J. Toole was appointed as the first true pastor. In 1871 Mr. M. A. Evan deeded seven and a half acres to the church, a building committee was appointed, lumber was cut and a church was built with the help of M. B. Watkins (Private Mills Bennett Watkins, CSA, buried in the cemetery) and A. A. Fountain.
One of the local stories passed down from this dark time in our history centers around Union troops being in the area, probably Sherman’s XVII Corps and the looting and pillaging that was done. It is said that troops marched right by Lindsey Coleman’s farm and the future site of Coleman’s Chapel on their way to Savannah. While there were no reports of looting on the Coleman farm, Union soldiers did attack the home of Lieut William J Folks (buried in the cemetery) while his wife and daughters were present. They took livestock, including a mare that had recently had a colt while the family hid in the woods. The story goes on to state that during the night the mare broke loose and returned to her colt which the soldiers had left behind. To say the least whether Union, Confederate or neutral, white or black, man or beast, all were affected by this tragic war.
Rachael Rebecca Coleman Kirkland Watkins is another example of the affects of the Civil War on this community. While it is not clear if she is Lindsey Coleman’s daughter, she was a Coleman. Struck by true love (see the poem “Rachel the fair and Adam the wise”, she married a young man named Abram Kirkland (hmm…that last name sounds familiar…) who was killed in the war. Her husband is buried in another cemetery though there is an Abram Kirkland buried in Coleman’s cemetery. I suspect he may be their son but could not document it. She remarried another veteran, Mills Bennett Watkins, who was one of the builders of the church.
Another “tale from the crypt” and heartbreaking story linked to Coleman’s Chapel cemetery is the story of Anjette Lyles. Called such things as “a self-styled practitioner of black magic and voodoo”, “Georgia’s most notorious murderess” and a Georgia serial killer; Anjette Lyles was convicted of poisoning four people including two husbands, a mother-in-law and her own daughter in the late 1950s by putting arsenic in their food for the insurance money. After being convicted and sentenced to death, her sentence was commuted and she was sent to a state mental institution where she died in 1977.
There is history all around you…go out and investigate! You never know what you might uncover.