Dorchester Presbyterian

Liberty County
Org 1854
Photography by Wayne Moore

Dorchester Presbyterian was built in 1854 on a lot of four acres donated by B. A. Busbee, and was initially used for summer services only. It was the last of the three “retreat churches” that were born of the mother church in Midway. The two most important towns nearby were Midway and Sunbury, a port city rivaled only by Savannah at that time. There were also many plantations throughout the county. In 1843 , the Rev. T. S. Winn, who was at that time a private teacher in the home of Dr. C. C. Jones, suggested the expediency of building a community in some area half way between Midway and Sunbury. According to a local history “This particular spot, being high and dry, was favorably considered and the people followed Rev. Winn’s suggestion very shortly. Twenty eight one acre home sites were placed around a four acre “square” in the center of the Village given by Mr. Busby for a school and church by deed dated June 14, 1852. The school was built in 1852 and Sunday School was held there until the Dorchester Presbyterian Church was built in 1854. Church services were held once a month, and 162 years later services are still held there once a month”.

In The Children of Pride, which details the lives of a Liberty County family during the Civil War, Robert Manson Myers said “the record of the Midway district was both astonishing and unique for a small rural community that never had a population of more than a few hundred people and that was dispersed little more than a century after its founding. Besides the obvious contributions these relocated Puritans made to the early history of Georgia, especially through service in the Revolutionary War, there was the broader impact of plantation society on the fledgling economy. This fostered an agrarian pattern that persisted well into the 20th century. Moreover, many of the Puritan ideals which the Midway settlers brought from England were instrumental in framing our modern social and legal structure. That the three retreat churches remain influential forces in the social and spiritual life of Liberty County today is proof enough of their enduring legacy”.

At first the church was only used for summer services. Soon, however, due to the general dispersion and impoverishment of the people of the area caused by the Civil War, the people of this area sought to organize their own church. On January 6, 1871, a committee went before the Savannah Presbytery and the Dorchester church was officially organized. The church was organized with one ruling elder and fourteen members. From 1871 to 1881, the Reverend J. W. Montgomery served this church, serving at the same time the sister churches at Walthourville and Flemington. Records show that in 1898 there were forty-nine members. The ministers served Walthourville one Sunday, Flemington the next, and Dorchester the third. The fourth Sunday was also rotated so that every three months each church would have the minister two Sundays.

According to the history, “Prior to the War Between the States, slaves attended the services and sat in the balcony. Even after the war, Negroes attended the services until they acquired a building of their own. The Reverend James Thomas Hamilton Waite, who ministered to the blacks, for many years resided in Dorchester. Arthur Waite carved the wooden hand pointing to heaven which was on the steeple of the Negro Presbyterian church in Midway. When this church was razed and a new building erected across the road, the Negroes gave this hand to the Midway Museum”.

We feel the present congregants of Dorchester Presbyterian deserve our gratitude for their loving stewardship for the church itself and the surrounding history of Liberty County, a history that is rooted in the earliest days of the Colony. Dorchester and the little academy have been carefully maintained and respected. We are so grateful that this beautiful place, a reminder of days gone by, can now be enjoyed by future generations………well done.

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