Indian Springs Chapel in Butts County was originally a log Baptist Church established in 1825, and was subsequently replaced by a frame building in 1854. The present sanctuary is a beautiful example of late 19th century Queen Anne craftsmanship built from leftover lumber and construction material used to build the famous Wigwam Hotel in 1890. The Wigwam was a four story frame Victorian structure, said to be one of the largest frame buildings in the world at that time. The history of Indian Springs goes back hundreds of years. Once home to members of the Creek Indian Nation, the area was known as far back as 1717 and was noted for the life giving elements of its sulphur spring by the Indian tribes which camped there in large numbers.
According to architect Richard L. Thornton, ‘The Indian Springs Aquifer is a natural geological formation in Butts County, Georgia where Big Sandy Creek, almost the size of a river, shoots out of a rock formation then flows generally eastward to the Ocmulgee River. The ridge from which the springs flow is at an elevation of about 1200 feet (366 m). That is 200 feet higher than Downtown Atlanta and results in vegetation more similar to that found in the Blue Ridge Foothills of northern Georgia.”
To put Indian Springs in historical perspective, one must contemplate what was happening in Georgia in the early 19th century. Conflict with the Creek Indian tribes was rampant due to the relentless push westward by the state and federal authorities to eliminate native Americans and acquire their land. Treaties were negotiated that began to expand the Georgia boarders westward – river basin by river basin. In 1790 a treaty was signed that acquired the land between The Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers. In 1804 another treaty ceded the land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers. In 1821, the first treaty of Indian Springs was negotiated that ceded the land between the Ocmulgee and the Flint Rivers. William McIntosh, a chief of the Lower Creeks, was one of the primary signatories to the treaty and profited by acquiring substantial land around the springs as a result. He then built the Indian Springs Hotel in 1823, which still stands across from the park entrance. The hotel has been fully restored and is open to the public.
However the Indian Springs involvement with Chief McIntosh came to a sad end shortly after, when McIntosh and his allies signed a second treaty in 1825, signing away the remaining Creek land between the Flint River and the Chattahoochee. From a white perspective, the final push to the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama border was now completed. However, the Creek leadership council maintained that McIntosh did not have the authority to sign such a treaty and condemned him to death. The sentence was swiftly enforced. On April 29, the Upper Creek chief Menewa took 200 warriors to attack McIntosh at his plantation on the Chattahoochee River in present-day Carroll County, Georgia. They killed him and two other signatories, and set fire to the house.
As these former Creek lands were now added to the growing state of Georgia, one of the outcomes was the establishment of land lots around the springs. Georgia’s government directed these lots directly around the springs be held in perpetuity as a public recreation area, thus making Indian Springs the oldest state owned recreation area in the country. From these early days, the community around Indian Springs grew with the coming of railroad and the public access that brought visitors from all over the country. Resort hotels sprang up and from the mid 1800s through the early 1900s a variety of hotels, some as large as 700 rooms, graced the area.
Indian Springs State Park is well worth a visit and we are grateful to the Butts County Historical Society for the significant effort put forth to maintain the chapel and the other structures representing over 200 years of Georgia history. Indian Springs Chapel is still active and welcomes all visitors. Be sure to click and scroll the photos below to learn more about Indian Springs Chapel and the early pioneers in the cemetery.
In this photo, we have entered the church from its main entry door, turned left at the center aisle and then moved forward to face the Chancel area. We see some of the old pews left and right of the aisle as well as a few more pews to the left and right of the chancel that are used in the choir area (left corner) and the Amen corner (right of the chancel). This is not a large Sanctuary, but it is very functional and the colorful stained glass windows throughout create warm glow within this old house of worship.
In this picture, we have moved up the aisle and much closer to the chancel, proscenium and apse which contains two colorful stained-glass windowpanes. We can also see the ornate, kerosene light fixture (now electrified) hanging from the ceiling. We were told that this is the original fixture.
This photo is from the chancel toward the choir area. Nestled into this corner we see a handsome and rare Victorian pump organ the likes of which are seldom seen. This organ stood in the Carmichael House in Jackson Georgia for many years was recently placed in the Chapel sanctuary.
In the main sanctuary of the church, we count 10 pews of the length seen above while another 8 pews of greater length are used in other areas such as the choir and Amen corner. The Butts County Historical Society (BCHS) believes that the pews shown above are much older than the Church and may have been saved from another church. Whatever their provenance, the fact
that the church, BCHS and others are working together to protect, restore and save this Historic relic of the past for generations to come is heartwarming.
This is a wide angle shot of the interior that reveals the unique configuration of the Sanctuary at Indian Springs. Instead of the entry and chancel being on the long axis, East and West - Indian Springs longest gable is constructed on a North and South axis.
This Victorian “what not” tray table rests on the Chancel. It serves as a repository of early items that are meaningful to family and friends of the church and all others who may visit this historic Butts County landmark or attend events sponsored by the BCHS.
This view from the pulpit clearly displays the unusual configuration of the sanctuary at Indian Springs Chapel. From the pulpit toward the right, we see the lovely main entry door with its colorful transom. The main aisle commences at that door then turns north toward the chancel and pulpit area. The rear wall is nearly covered with very colorful stained-glass windows. The overall atmosphere within this charming chapel is one of calmness, peace, and serenity. Now in the capable hands of the Butts County Historical Society, Indian Springs Chapel will become a permanent reminder of the significant historical importance of this county and its citizens to the flourishing growth of the State of Georgia to date.
Josiah Beauregard Freeman was born in North Carolina November 25, 1811 and died August 5, 1882. He married Sarah White Hearn on August 16, 1849. The 1860 census shows they had five children. The 1860 slave schedule shows Josiah owned 19 slaves. Shortly after he died, the gin house that belonged to his widow, was totally destroyed by fire in November, 1882. The fire was started by some boys who were running the gin late and who tried to clean a lantern to get better light.
Richard C. Byars, Sr. was born May 27, 1813 and died November 28, 1895. He was married twice, first to Elvia Kimbrough Byars (1816-1869) and second to Emma Pritchett Byars (1845-1915). He served three terms as sheriff of Butts County, his first term beginning in 1846. His occupation shown in census records was farmer.
Nudigate O. Alexander was born August 22, 1836 and died May 24, 1885. He enlisted in Company G, 4th Georgia Regiment, CSA on April 25, 1861. He was wounded in a skirmish at Berryville, Virginia August 21, 1864. As a result his left arm was amputated above the elbow and he was discharged because of his disability. His wife, Martha F. Watson Alexander is also buried here.
Dr. Wm H. Whitehead, Sr. was born in Virginia in 1820 and died in 1878. The 1860 Butts County census shows his occupation as Allopathic Physician. In 1860 he owned 13 slaves age 1 year to age 50. His tombstone is engraved with the words Physician, Scholar, Gentleman. His wife, Mary Lucy Murrell Whitehead (1826-1878) is also buried here. Her marker reads “A faithful wife, a good woman”.
Bryan W. Collier was born December 3, 1810 and died October 13, 1894. His wife, Martha Collier (1819-1898) is also buried at Indian Springs Baptist Church cemetery. He was the proprietor of the McIntosh House, a fine hotel at Indian Springs, which he erected. The McIntosh House could accommodate more than 400 persons. The house was named for Col. McIntosh of the Creek Nation.
Jesse F. Cleveland was born November 15, 1834 and died August 3, 1888. Census records show he was a lawyer and farmer. He was married Janaury 12, 1859 to Mary P, Collier (1839-1873) and she is buried next to him. He was a captain and served in Company K, 20th Georgia Infantry, CSA. There are nine tombstones in this cemetery with surname Cleveland.
Hugh Lawson was born February 1, 1844 and died August 26, 1878. He served in a Macon Light Artillery Company during the Civil War. He was wounded and hospitalized in Petersburg, Virginia August 19, 1864. He was married to Claudia Tharpe (1847 - 1910). Claudia was the daughter of Rev. Benjamin F. Tharpe (1819-1899) who was in the first graduating class at Mercer University in 1841 at Penfield, Georgia.
We rarely get the chance to provide an old photo of the churches we present. In this case, we have hit the jackpot with the photo above taken in 1890, over 130 years ago.
We thank the BCHS for providing us this treasure. Though the old church has undergone many changes, the old bones remain the same. Let’s hope for many more decades
of her service to the citizens of Butts County.
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