Independence Methodist is located in the little Town of Tignall in Wilkes County, once a crossroads known as Independence Campground. Camp meetings were held across the road from the present church location. These campground meetings were non-denominational gatherings of people who came together over several days to enjoy the social sense of community and to hear multiple ministers preach the gospel of Christianity. It began in the late 18th century and became known as the Second Great Awakening. Some of the old campgrounds still exist and are meeting and thriving today in much the same manner. It was a powerful movement in Georgia and you can learn more about it here.
In the beginning, the history tells us the church was built for all denominations, and perhaps the name Independence was chosen as a result. There is another school of thought that the Independence name stemmed from our recent victory in the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Either way, some sort of dispute arose in the 1830’s and, as a result, the Methodists claimed the church. This claim was disputed and taken to court, where the Methodists were represented by noted Wilkes County lawyer, Robert Toombs. The Methodists prevailed and the church has been Methodist ever since.
In 1840, Thomas L. Wootten deeded the lot on which the old church building stood to the trustees. After the Civil War, this church building was “sold to the black people who moved it to land given to them in Tignall”, by John S. Poole. This African American church became known as Black Rock AME and the church thrives today after almost 150 years. A new church was then erected across the road and dedicated in 1871 by Bishop George F. Pierce. The history tells us that a Sunday school celebration was held in 1879 with the President of Emory College, Dr. A. G. Haygood presiding, that attracted almost 1,000 attendees.
Over the years, the church has been remodeled several times. The original entrance had the traditional two doors for men and women with two aisles and a three foot high partition separating the two sides. There is now a single door and a single aisle with pews that were installed in the 1950’s. Gas heaters were installed in 1949 to replace the wood heaters. In 1953, some renovation work was done to make the exterior look like the original and the beautiful green shutters were restored.
Over time, many prominent Methodist ministers have preached in the old Tignall church that was begun six years before George Washington was elected president. We are fortunate that Independence Methodist has had a vibrant and loving congregation serving the local community for well over two hundred years. Thank you for your stewardship that will allow many more generations to appreciate this wonderful part of rural Georgia history.