Just south of the Tennessee border, in the North Georgia mountains is the little village of Cohutta in Whitfield County. According to the local history, the roots of the First Presbyterian church in Cohutta go back to 1842 when the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized by the Reverend Hiram Douglas. Whitfield County was created out of Murray County just after the Cherokee removal, known as the Trail of Tears. The United States had signed a treaty with the Cherokees in 1798, guaranteeing their rights to the land in north Georgia that included Whitfield County. However, in violation of that treaty, the state of Georgia claimed authority over the area in 1828. In 1838 the U.S. government, pressured by the state, removed the Cherokee Indians from their lands in Georgia to a reservation in Oklahoma.
According to the local history, during the next four decades the congregation met at several locations in the area, and in 1882, Reverend A.R.T. Hambright delivered his first sermon in a grove near the center of the village-community of Cohutta. In 1886, the first church was erected on land donated by Mr. S. H. Parker and was known as the Cohutta Cumberland Presbyterian Church with a membership of thirty six. In 1906, this church joined in the union of the Cumberland Presbyterian and the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, and in 1906, the Reverend John Morgan Wooten became the first minster of the Cohutta Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Rev. Wooten was pastor of the church for twenty-five years.
In 1915, a new sanctuary was built on the present site, on land donated by its former pastor, Reverend Hambright. We are told that “In the late 1950s, the congregation became discouraged with the Chattanooga Presbytery’s inability to secure a minister for the church, Reverend Wilkes Dendy of the First Presbyterian Church, U.S., in Dalton offered to help secure a minister and contacted the Cherokee Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. They sent ministers from time to time in order that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper might be observed. In the fall of 1959, after many months of prayerful planning , the Cohutta church asked to be accepted into Cherokee Presbytery, and on the first Sunday of January, 1960, the First Presbyterian Church of Cohutta became a member of Cherokee Presbytery, Synod of Georgia, Presbyterian Church in the United States. When the church was dismissed from the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. and received into the Presbyterian Church, U.S., it was given the beautiful church building that Rev. Wooten had built and the church manse. The Cohutta Church again became a part of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. along with Cherokee Presbytery after Reunion in 1983.”
The interior of the church is a beauty as you will see. The quality of the workmanship along with the beauty of the stained glass windows is remarkable. The congregation of this Presbyterian church has been serving this little village in the North Georgia mountains for generations and we applaud the stewardship of this lovely sanctuary. She is well maintained and will be serving the community for generations to come.
As you saw in the introductory photograph, the exterior of this church presents as a charming, Victorian structure embodying an eclectic style very popular during the last stages of the Victorian era. The impressive, shingled bell tower rises above the front entrance to the church. Beneath it is the vestibule. The main level of the sanctuary is sheathed in horizontal boards and dominated by gothic windows and stained glass. As you see above, the main entrance opens into the sanctuary from a back corner, a feature found often in Victorian churches of the period. The interior is in a similar style with the windows providing a warm ambient light and the predominant, gothic decorative style within. Please note the curved “theatre” styled, pews and two aisles that are often a signature feature in some early 20th century Georgia’s churches, even rural ones.
Moving down the left aisle to the front, we now see a raised chancel where the pulpit, baptismal fount and apse is located. The windows in this area are all rectangular and the wood frames contain elaborate stained glass windows of remembrance. The piano is to the left and the choir loft to the right.
This view highlights the inviting apse and chancel area and the striking windows by which it is framed. Also prominent is the beauty of the heart pine wainscoting, and the excellent fit and finish of the construction is clearly evident.
One does not expect to encounter such an elaborate and magnificent sanctuary hidden away in a small, rural town in Georgia’s northwest corner. The entire back wall contains rectangular wood framed windows filled with stained glass panes. They flank an elaborate stained glass window in the Gothic Tracery style. In this shot we can better view the entry door to the left, the curved, theatre seating of the pews and the two aisles features that we find in many churches of the era. This sanctuary is a little jewel box and has been clearly loved and well maintained by the congregation since they moved in over 100 years ago.
This photo shows off the handsome pews with scrolled arm rests and the fine, heart pine wainscot that is found throughout the sanctuary
Here we are viewing the exterior of the sanctuary’s front wall. We see the apse in the center with its flanking wall of rectangular stained windows which are part of the Victorian design scheme. We can also see that the wooden exterior of this church remains in excellent condition for its age. The welcoming bench invites congregants or passers by to stop and enjoy the sight of this old church and environs. First Presbyterian of Cohutta is a tribute to the congregation’s stewardship and a treasured historical place for all members of this community.
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