Historic Hebron Presbyterian Church is quite a story and it has three components i.e. the church, the schoolhouse and an extraordinary cemetery. It all began in 1797 with a log cabin as the original church structure. At that point in time, the Cherokees had recently ceded the land that became Banks county in the Long Swamp Treaty of 1783. However, the Indians were immediate neighbors to the west of Hebron’s area and, there being no obvious border between Cherokee and Georgia property, hostilities were still frequent in the Georgia back country. Everyone brought rifles to the services and sentries were posted.
The little church prospered and by 1800, the congregation needed a new church building. A new church was erected where the old one stood and in 1805, the owner of the property donated seven acres to the church for a total of ten cents. It was a simple frame structure with open windows and shutters. Glass windows and ceiling were not added until 1860. The church continued to grow and in 1884, the second structure was replaced with the one that stands today. However, some artifacts from the older church are still being used today.
To a great extent, the current church owes its long existence to the Rev. Groves Harrison Cartledge, whose portrait still hangs in the sanctuary. During the early 1800’s membership had started to decline as many of the original settlers joined the western migration into Alabama and beyond. In 1851 the membership had dwindled to 43 congregants. Enter the Rev. Cartledge. His legacy is twofold i.e. he opened a school and he reversed the decline in membership. The school was his first accomplishment. It opened in 1855 and soon had 70 pupils of all ages, including some adults. His second achievement was increasing the church enrollment, starting just after the Civil War. This is even more noteworthy when coupled with the fact that the Hebron Community lost 19 young men during the conflict. Rev. Cartledge went on to serve as Hebron’s minister for 47 years and during that time added 134 members to the church roles. He died in 1899 and is buried in the center of the cemetery.
As was typical in the Georgia back country, the church served many purposes and one of these was conflict resolution. In a land with no courthouses and few lawyers, the church was the primary purveyor of justice. For example, church minutes of 1884 show that a member was brought before his peer group having been accused of ‘unchristian conduct’. Allegedly he let a tenant farmer run, beat and dog my hog to death. A trial was held at the church and the verdict was guilty, although the consensus was the tenant probably did not intend to kill the hog. Another dispute in 1893 was far more serious. A member was accused of hosting a Christmas party where the guests allegedly danced. The host as well as seven gentlemen dancers were tried, found guilty and suspended……until they demonstrated repentance. Three lady dancers also admitted to the transgression but were forgiven without a trial. We see this particular form of sin frequently. Dancing was hard to stamp out in the back country.
It was also during Rev. Cartledge’s ministry that the current church was built in 1884, ‘of pine logs so big it took four oxen to drag them to the mill’. Over the years the church changed very little and it wasn’t until the 1940’s that electricity arrived. And it wasn’t until 1951 that the wood stove was replaced with gas heat. The road to the church was not paved until 1962, and in 1969 indoor restrooms were installed. Hebron Presbyterian remains a glorious reminder of our past and the sturdy Scottish Highlanders who lived and died here.
There is a wonderful book on the history of Hebron that was the source for much of the above brief history…Hebron Presbyterian Church: God’s Pilgrim People 1796-1996. Thank you for supporting Historic Rural Churches of Georgia and helping us spread the word.
This third building home for Hebron Presbyterian has been standing now for 120 years. Though the interior has been modernized, the original main, wide wall and ceiling boards remain and the high ceiling rises above the congregation just as it always has. The view above illustrates the simple but sturdy construction of a typical back country, Georgia rural church. It also demonstrates that this old church remains a vital part of its community.
Postings on the wall indicate a still vibrant congregation.
This is one of two communion tables, original to the first church, that are over 200 years old. Each is made of a single plank cut with a pit saw, leaving long irregular saw marks that run parallel to the grain. No nails please, only dovetail wedge joints. Relics like these are tangible reminders to the congregation of the history and humble mission of this 217 year old institution.
Here we see another relic from the original church, a simple bench formed from very wide pine boards. It provided a comfortable seat for the slaves in attendance. Yes, slaves worshiped with their owners and were welcomed at this church as well as at almost any other rural Georgia church prior to 1865. By custom, they sat in separate galleries or in the back of the church on benches like these.
The schoolhouse at Hebron was first established in the 1830’s. It was a crude log structure 20 feet by 20 feet but the school was well attended and served both the white and black community. At the time, slaves could be taught to read with the permission of their masters but in the 1850’s the Georgia General Assembly passed a law preventing education of slaves. In 1854, Reverend Cartledge began his association with Hebron but made his employment conditional on the building of a new schoolhouse. This was done in 1855 as a single story building 50 feet long and 22 feet wide with large fireplaces at each end. In 1890, that building was replaced with the present two-story structure that remains today. When it was built in 1890 the schoolhouse served a large section of the county and the second floor was used as a gathering place for the Masons. Classes at the school ceased in 1936.
The church has been a leading educator for the community since the 1830’s. This view of the church from the schoolhouse window has remained unchanged for over 100 years.
Hebron is a very special cemetery and we felt it deserved some close attention. This Presbyterian church on the northwestern frontier of Georgia is a result of post revolutionary Scots-Irish immigration into this part of Georgia. This small grave house marks the grave of a McKie child, and its size and durability marks the significance of the child to the surviving family, and the wealth of the family. Grave houses are a Southern tradition, taking all sorts of forms. Less than fifty wooden grave houses survive in Georgia, and stone grave houses, using all local materials like this, are even rarer. Note the foresight required to place supporting stones below to maintain the shape of the grave house as well as the art of the shaped stone that required mining and a skilled stone mason. In addition, a grave house like this and the logistics, including transportation and the dedicated time of skilled labor, possibly a carpenter, to carve and piece together all the different shapes. Also note the small upright fieldstone grave markers beside the grave house. There markers are common and tend to be the first interments in very old cemeteries. They survive where wooden markers have burned or rotted away, and are generally the oldest and cheapest markers of the early settlers and their families in the area. In the very early days of the Georgia frontier, it was all some of the families could afford.
Note the graves of Sarah and William Watson. Savannah, Georgia’s oldest city located 240 miles to the southeast on the Atlantic coast, still held substantial cultural and class influence on the interior of Georgia, as seen in these two grave shelters made of brick in the Savannah style. Some refer to this style of memorial as “Colonial Crypts”. These brick burial techniques were common and can be readily seen in the old Colonial Park Cemetery in downtown Savannah. Brick was a common building material on the coast where quantities of natural stone was lacking. In Franklin, later Banks county, local stone was abundant and brick was expensive, making it a conscious decision on the part of the Watson family to use brick and to employ a brick mason to make these shaped grave covers, and then to mark the graves again with the more newly popular (late-19th/early-20th-century) marble markers.
Above we see several more excellent examples of the stone grave houses that are not common outside of this area. In the foreground we see a number of grave markers for Revolutionary War soldiers who were willing to move into this part of Georgia and begin the settlement process. This process was much harder up north and required tough pioneers willing to do it. Just the ticket for these soldiers with a Scots-Irish heritage looking for a new life after the war. This is a cemetery that those interested in diverse burial monuments/grave markers would undoubtedly enjoy visiting, particularly on a lovely spring day or during fall when the leaves are so colorful.
Further evidence of the Gaelic influence that came in with these early Presbyterians. We owe a lot to these hard working pioneers who carved out lives for their families on the edge of the Georgia frontier.
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I have 3rd and 4 generation Mcentyre and McCarter grandparents buried in the old cemetery. Im looking for some one to personally direct me to the cemetery. Thanks for any information.
Have you tried the information available on Findagrave.com?