Jackson Chapel Methodist

Polk County
Org 1856
Photography by Dan Roper

We don’t have much history on Jackson Chapel, located in a bucolic mountain valley close to the Alabama Border.  The sign in front of the church says it was founded in 1856 which is compatible with Findagrave’s cemetery documentation.  The cemetery contains almost 500 graves, the earliest dying in 1856, the year the church was founded.

All of this land was originally Cherokee land until several events occurred that resulted in the confiscation of these traditional hunting grounds.  The discovery of Gold in Dahlonega in 1828 was the first, followed by President Andrew Jackson’s signing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830 and finally, the forced removal of 17,000 Cherokees on the Trail of Tears in 1838.  This forced removal to Oklahoma resulted in the death of almost a third of the participants. 

The little church sits in a peaceful setting but stories buried in the cemetery describe what a hard life it was in these north Georgia mountains. Infant mortality was a serious problem in 19th century Georgia back country, and the Jackson Chapel cemetery reflects this.  There are 61 deaths prior to 1900 and almost one third of them are children. 

One of the sad cemetery stories is James Burton, murdered in Alabama by his son William who was convicted and sent to the penitentiary   Another is that of McAllen Wiggins, who married Nancy Marbut in 1856.  They had three children before he went off to war with five of his brothers.  He was the only survivor.  He and Nancy had seven more children after his return.

Perhaps the saddest story is that of Hattie Starnes.  She married Jim Starnes at the age of 12 and died of typhoid fever just before her 13th birthday.  In the 1900 Federal census, Jim is listed as being 12 years old and working in a cotton mill.  Census records show that Cotton Mill Worker was the largest employment category in the census district where he lived at the turn of the century.  As we said, the setting is peaceful but life in 19th century Polk County was difficult.