Concord Methodist is the oldest Methodist church west of the Oconee River and, in addition to being the oldest Methodist church in the county, was built on the oldest road in the county – the stagecoach road that ran from Milledgeville to Greensboro and Athens. There have been three structures built on the site, the first being a log cabin built by Thomas Johnston and William Pritchard in the fall of 1810 on one and one quarter acres of land donated by John Robertson. The deed stipulated that members of the church were were granted ‘free and direct pass way of ten feet wide from the said lot of land to the spring that John Wynne used and free privilege of drinking water forever‘. It was originally named Victory but was later changed to Concord. This first cabin was a crude one with no glass in the windows, a dirt floor and a fieldstone fireplace at one end. Pews were split logs with legs inserted for the proper height. This first log church was also used as a school for many years.
At this point we think it is appropriate to re-visit some of the earliest history of Putnam county in order to appreciate what it was like at this point in time to be on the edge of the frontier in the Georgia back country. From a George Gillman Smith history published in 1901, ‘Putnam was laid off from Baldwin in 1807. It was named in honor of the brave old general, and its county site for General Eaton, who had distinguished himself in the war with Tripoli. It had been on the eastern border of the Creek Nation for over twenty-five years. Hancock, which was originally Greene, had been settled since 1785, and was just across the river, and while the Whites had made no permanent settlements in the Nation on the west side of the river, many of them had their cattle ranches, and perhaps not a few had opened farms in the unceded country before the purchase was made in 1803. When the land was distributed by lottery the population in the eastern counties was already considerable, and especially on the good lands in Hancock there were thick settlements. As soon as the new purchase was opened the restless people of the counties near by pressed into it. Other immigrants joined them, many of them from Virginia and a larger number from the eastern counties of the State. None of these new counties, of which Putnam was one, could be said to have had any first settlers. They came in droves, and those mentioned are a few of many. These first people were mainly Georgians, the land being given away to Georgians by lottery. The lots were two hundred and two and one half acres in size, and when Putnam was first settled it was dotted all over with small farms’.
Mr. Smith also tells of the prosperity in the county from its inception into the mid 1850’s. ‘After the war of 1812, and the wonderful impetus given to cotton production, the people of Putnam increased their wealth very rapidly. Lands were fresh and rich, cotton was high, negroes were comparatively cheap and increased rapidly, and those who settled with a few slaves in the County in 1803 found themselves the owners of a hundred by 1830. There was little elegance but much solid comfort in the county until about 1845, when a number of handsome homes were erected on the plantations or in Eatonton. These mansions, with generally eight large rooms twenty feet square, with broad galleries and wide halls, were handsomely furnished, and the hospitality dispensed was generous. There were fine carriage horses, coachmen, footmen, maid servants and men servants, and there was nowhere a more elegant and luxurious life than was found in many of the families of Putnam.’ The Civil War will soon bring this idyllic lifestyle to an abrupt end. But the little church in the country not only survived, it continued to prosper and to serve the community for almost 200 years. Thanks to the members of Concord for their stewardship of this historic treasure.
The placement of the chancel, altar and pulpit thrust into the midst of the congregation’s pews creates an intimate and warm atmosphere for worship and prayer inside the walls of Concord. There is still an active congregation that enjoys services in their 19th century church-home. You can see above that the interior, though similar to its original heritage, has been modernized with those critical things that are needed to keep a congregation returning to this old worship house… electricity, heating and air, indoor plumbing.
The present church building was erected in November, 1886 and replaces the church’s second building which had stood on the same grounds since 1825. This is an interior view from the right of the pulpit toward the front double door. The building has been well maintained and just slightly modified several times since its beginning. An amusing anecdote from the church history reports that just prior to the construction of the new sanctuary, a memorable event took place there in August 1886 while a revival was in progress under the Reverend John Parks. Disappointed by the seeming lack of zeal among the attendees, Rev. Parks reproached those present declaring, ‘It would take something that would shake this church to its foundations to bring you to a realization of your condition’. Very soon after he made that declaration, the church began to tremble mightily. The Great Charleston Earthquake was underway and Concord was being seriously affected as, ‘People became panic stricken. Young girls were screaming’. Then, Mr. Jesse Batchelor arose with arms uplifted, begging the people to calm themselves while assuring them it was only a slight earthquake that would soon be over. The crowd slowly quieted and the revival resumed. We would bet that a record number of souls were saved that day because of the discomforting reminder of the mighty forces of nature and God.
Looking from the pulpit down the aisle toward the front doors, we see where several changes were made in recent times to the interior. There were originally two front entrances as was typical of these early churches. Men and women/children entered through separate doors and sat segregated on their side of the church. That custom was dropped years ago, but both doors remained. In 1994, the entryway was changed to one wide pair of doors to make it easier to place caskets in the church during a funeral. The original pews were lovely and hand-made of heart pine, but they were quite uncomfortable and were replaced by the pews pictured above in the 1950’s.
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