In the early 1800s, a farmer of moderate means and limited education made his way from North Carolina to Jasper County, Georgia. He believed in religion, temperance, and education for his sons and dedicated his life to these principles. In addition to farming, he built near his homeplace a church where he was steward and class leader. He built a school where he was a trustee. Then he built a temperance society of which he was president.
The little community that would emerge owed much of its existence to Mr. Hill so it became known as Hillsboro as it is still called today.
In those early days, Georgia experienced an influx of new settlers as Natives were forced out. Back then, a community like Hillsboro would’ve had to have been somewhat self-reliant as trains and steamboats weren’t accessible until the 1830s. Roads didn’t come through Hillsboro until the 1880s.
But despite its lack of reliable transportation routes, circuit-riding preachers had been serving this area since the late 1700s. And John Hill’s son, William Pinkney Hill, would continue this tradition as he entered the Methodist ministry serving this area, known as the Cedar Creek Circuit.
According to church records, the church his father John helped found in 1808 likely started meeting under brush arbor, until 1818 when the first deed for a building was issued. The next structure was built in 1852 on the former site of a Baptist Church but it was eventually moved. The records don’t state the reason, but in 1877, they called for a new structure to be built in by 1884, the third church house had been finished on land donated by Mrs. Frances McCullogh. By 1912, they had also outgrown that building too and, led by the efforts of the Women’s Methodist Society and Mrs. J.T. Garland, bought new land to expand and add Sunday School Rooms.
But the following years would bring war and depression and what was once a bustling little town became a quiet place as young people left to find work elsewhere. As the elderly members passed on, this once vibrant congregation dwindled to only 20 members by the 1960s. The church sat out of use for some time but we are happy to report that a congregation meets here again to carry on the tradition of John Hill and the early settlers to this part of Georgia.
As you saw in the exterior photograph with history comments, Hilsboro Methodist’s architecture is quite uncommon and represents the changing style of many Georgia churches built in the early 20th century. Its multiple, steep gables, a corner belltower and entry doors beneath the belltower when coupled ...with its gothic arches above the six windows of each gable ...are certainly unique. In this photo, we find that its interior design is much more conservative than its exterior. We see a semi-circular chancel, a common balustrade and prayer rail all beneath a rectangular, modest proscenium. Though the exterior and interior architecture and elements at Hillsboro are not the same, they both reflect the taste and prosperity of the congregation that chose to build it at the beginning of a new era in Georgia, the early 20th century.
This is a view from near the chancel, pulpit right. These lovely pews were manufactured and replaced any of the original pews and other furniture from the earlier churches that rested on or near this site. They are handsome and meaningful in that the curved armed pew ends were capped by the trifoil representing the Holy Trinity.
This lovely Victorian piece serves as the offertory table. In this case it has been adorned with a floral bouquet placed by the congregation. Regular services are offered for the small but devoted group of parishioners.
This is a close up view of the handsome, 5 paneled entry doors at the sanctuary. They are all made of longleaf/heart pine lumber that was still available in the early 1900’s. The quality of the incredible congregational stewardship at Hillsboro is on display when you see the condition with its crisp of these 100+ year old doors.
This is a view from behind the pulpit toward the back of the church. Here we can see most of the sanctuary and appreciate its beauty. The entire ceiling is made of heart pine as are the window frames and wainscot. We are also told that the floors are heart pine as well. Generous ambient light flows into the room through the five sets of large sashed clear glass paned windows that line the north and south walls.
This upright grand piano sits in the choir area next to the chancel at pulpit left. It is ready for use during any of the regular services or other special events that are scheduled or undertaken at Hillsboro Methodist. In this view, we do get a better chance to see and appreciate the heart pine floors at this old church and appreciate the size and effectiveness of the many large sanctuary windows.
Here we see how the bell tower sits above the two entry doors at Hillsboro Methodist. This creates a porch area outside the church. This provides a space where parishioners can be protected from the wind, inclement weather and rain on inclement days.
Here we are given an opportunity see and appreciate the exterior architectural statements at the church. To the left we have the upper half of the belltower with its gothic, louvered, lancet windows. The lower part of the tower also has a decorative gothic element.The southern gable has crisp cornice returns along with another, larger decorative Gothic element above the three central windows. Finally, on the right, the gabled elements of the chancel and apse areas are similarly treated.
Still serving the congregation and the Lord after all these years.
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This church was small in numbers but it had a great spirit.. From 1978-1981 I pastored the church as one of six on the Shady Dale Circuit
Wonder of these pews are original to the church. While they definitely are from the period, they dont seem to fit the layout of the floor.
Not sure about that Kenny. Maybe we can find out.