The congregation of Greenville Presbyterian was organized in 1829 and the church you see here was built around 1836 in this rural location. Presbyterian churches were traditionally located in the towns and villages that were emerging in the early 1800s. When Greenville was laid out in 1828, lots were deeded for a Methodist, a Baptist, and a Presbyterian church. The Presbyterians sold their lot (lot 71) and subsequently built the Greenville Presbyterian Church just north of town on the Greenville Rocky Mount Road. It has been extremely well-maintained in its original state for over 175 years. The simplicity of the small structure belies its rich interior and the beauty of its original furnishings. It has been on the National Register of Historic Properties since 2011.
Meriwether County was created out of Troup County land in 1827 shortly after the Cherokee cession of land in the Indian Springs treaty of 1825. The county prospered and grew rapidly until 1850, with much of that growth in and around the county seat of Greenville. The Greenville Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. Edward Lanier and Rev. Jesse Stratton on Friday, March 27,1829 and eight charter members were enrolled. The first recorded report of the church to the Presbytery was in 1837, when that body held its spring session in Decatur, Georgia.
The cemetery contains many of Meriwether County’s early prominent citizens. Of the 115 documented interments in the cemetery, seventeen have the sur name Gaston, Including John A. Gaston, who died in 1866 and was known as “The Giant”. He was a state legislator of some repute whose tombstone records his height as 7 ft. 6 in. and his weight as 430 pounds. Not surprisingly, he died at the early age of 45. The National Register history, compiled in 2001, also tells us “the cemetery, in the southwest portion of the property, contains the remains of slaves and other African Americans, two of which markers have the dates 1890 and 1898. Some of these grave sites have collapsed. There are remnants of marker stones scattered throughout the woods. A cemetery survey reported 141 stone markers in the African-American section”. This is a very historic African American cemetery reported on the National Register document but sadly, there remains little visual evidence of it today (2019). To read the document click here.
In 1943, the Atlanta Presbytery merged the Greenville Presbyterian Church with its city counterpart, the Stacy Presbyterian Church in downtown Greenville. The church had been constructed in 1886, destroyed by tornado in 1893, and rebuilt that same year. The Greenville Presbyterian Church was cited as the mother church and the Stacy church her “child.” The relationship between the two churches was maintained for the next five decades until the Stacy sanctuary was sold to the Methodist Church in 1998.
We are grateful to the loving congregations who have taken such superb care of one of Georgia’s most historic rural churches. She is a beauty that can now be preserved for generations to come.
Here we have a view from mid-church of the chancel and pulpit area looking much as it did in the mid-19th century. Greenville Presbyterian, and its graveyard, are on the National Register of Historic Places for many reasons. In architecture the church is, “An excellent example of a simple one-room, wooden country church which retains its original wooden walls, windows, floors ceilings, hand-hewn benches and support posts.” In religion, it is a “Presbyterian Church, in a rural setting in Georgia, a state which in the 1850 Census reported 90% of all persons reported were either Baptist or Methodist.” If you are seeking authenticity in an existing rural church in Georgia, this is the place to visit.
Much of the furniture seen here has been gradually introduced by the congregation over the many years since its construction. None of the pieces are believed to be less than 125 years old. You are looking at wide, sanctuary floorboards, chancel base/flooring, doorframes and doors all made of heart pine cut, hewn and installed over a century and a half ago. Its presence and pristine condition speaks well to the quality of the stewardship of this congregation since its beginnings.
This is a closeup photo of the high-backed, Victorian clerical chairs added in the 19th century. They are colorful, authentic antique treasures from the high water period for the church.
Here we see a Pulpit left view of the chancel from the choir area. The entire chancel, pulpit and apse area is in view along with the organ.
We are looking from the Pulpit to the rear of the sanctuary in this photo. Other than the chandeliers and electric lighting, this scene would be quite close to a photo taken from the same vantage point in the mid-19th century. We see the original slatted pews and hand chamfered, ceiling support columns, all made of longleaf Georgia heart pine. The columns have ledges on which oil lamps were placed in the earliest days. These columns have been a part of this sanctuary from its inception.
Here we see special, hand hewn benches which were originally for the choir that sit today on both sides of the pulpit. There are very few of the earliest Georgia rural churches such as Greenville Presbyterian remaining and even fewer in such remarkable, authentic condition. The church is a true historic treasure. We are privileged to be able to enjoy it today and for years to come thanks to the loving care of its devoted congregations for over 160 years.
What a peaceful place to spend eternity. Some of Georgia's earliest settlers reside in this wonderful setting. We say it all the time..........this is where we came from, this is how we got here, this is who we are.
The U. S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule for Meriwether County shows Jane Maffatt died of dropsy in September, 1850. She was 74 years of age. She was a wealthy widow at the time of her death and left a will in Meriwether County. In her will she mentions her beloved son Ephraim C. Maffet, daughter Margaret Caldwell, son by law Peter Leslie who married her daughter Sarah, daughter Elizabeth Gaston wife of Judge Joseph Harper Gaston, and children of John Maffett, deceased.
Billington M. Leverett was born in Lincoln County, Georgia December 16, 1818. He married Rebecca Patterson December 31, 1841 in Marion County, Georgia. They had nine children. Judge B. M. Leverett was very prominent in the politics of Meriwether County and exerted a strong influence there. He served in the state legislature 1853-54. He served as magistrate and as a member of the county commissioners for many years. He had been a member of the Presbyterian Church since September 9, 1886. He was sick the last two years of his life and died June 24, 1890.
Joseph Douglas was born April 4, 1773 in Chester County, South Carolina. The 1810 Chester County, South Carolina census shows 12 members in his household. Joseph Douglas left a will in Meriwether County where he named sons James, John, David and Robert M. Douglas. He also named daughter, Rosannah. He died June 16, 1845.
John Alexander Gaston was born April 4, 1821 in Chester County, South Carolina. He was married twice, first to Amanda M. Harris on April 15, 1857 and second on August 6, 1862 to Anna P. Williams. The 1864 census to re-organize the Georgia Militia gives his age as 42 and he is exempt for disability. He was appointed a delegate to the Southern Rights Party Gubernatorial Convention in Milledgeville on May 8, 1851. In some of the records he was referred to as Col. Gaston. He was a giant of a man at 7’6” and weighing 340 lbs but he only lived to be 45 years old.
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I’m wondering if the condition of this church is because it is Presbyterian. I have heard it said, though I don’t know if true, that Presbyterians are usually business people and professionals and more educated people.
That certainly is part of it. Generally speaking the Presbyterian congregations were more prosperous and tended to be in urban rather than rural areas. Their clergy were more educated and had stricter requirements for ordainment.
This is a beautiful church. I look forward to your next book.