We know that the present Kingston Church originated with the Connessena Methodist church, built in 1845, located two miles west of the present location. The name came from the Connesena Creek running nearby which is named for a Cherokee Chief of the same name, which means “Winding Serpent”. Bartow County, originally called Cass County, was formed from Cherokee County in 1832. Cherokee County had been formed a year earlier in 1831, resulting from a “treaty” with the Cherokees after gold was found in North Georgia in 1828. The land for the church was donated by Maj. B. F. Reynolds.
It is described as “an excellent wooden structure which had a large gallery for the colored people who attended the services. A huge fireplace stood at one end of the Church for heating”. The church was sustained by an “open collection box installed in the office of the old stagecoach stop at Major Wooley’s station”. After the railroad line was established in 1848, the little village of Kingston sprang up and began to thrive, necessitating the church being rebuilt on its present location in 1854. That church stood untill 1906 when the present brick structure was built, the official dedication being performed by Bishop Lovick Pierce.
The Civil war brought death, destruction and hardship to the little town of Kingston which had the misfortune to be located on the railroad line and directly in Sherman’s path. Kingston actually hosted Sherman twice – on May 19, 1864 and after the Battle of Atlanta on November 8, 1864. It was on the latter visit that Sherman requested from General Grant, permission to begin his March to the sea. As the march started, he promptly burned the town. According to newspaper article from the 1960’s, Kingston Methodist was the only church left standing. During the conflict, both sides used the church as a hospital and there is a confederate cemetery a short distance away attesting to the fatalities. After the war, the church opened its door to all denominations and became a comfort to the local population that had been devastated.
But life goes on and after the war, the church thrived, building the present sanctuary you see here in 1906. One of the significant architectural aspects of the church is the presence of a large bell, cast in England that was said to be “the best that could be had. Its clear musical chimes can still be heard for a radius of four of five miles”. The bell was presented to the church by John Pendleton King from Augusta. He was a U.S Senator and the former president of the W&A railroad, as well as being the person for whom the town is names.
We are grateful to local newspaper article from the Methodist archives at Emory written in the 60’s, from which most of this history was extracted. These church histories are both fascinating and full of historical drama. What looks like another brick church is actually full of important Georgia history – with tales of gold rushes, Cherokee land cessations, the Civil War and the firing of the town by General Sherman. We are proud to see that Kingston Methodist is still ringing that bell and having regular services after over 150 years of service to the community.
This formidable and stately church building has been standing and serving the Kingston Methodist congregation for 110 years. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, it exhibits the radical changes underway in the architectural style of rural churches at the end of the Victorian era. Gone is the rectangular wood box and in its place rises a fanciful, fortress-like structure sporting an elaborate tower and belfry… all made of dark red brick. Churches of this design became common in both city and rural areas at this time and were the style of choice up to WW2. Please note the complicated brick work that called for highly skilled craftsmen. This view accentuates the stepped brick corbels at the eaves and magnificent brick pilasters and rake at the gable ends; decorative elements that were difficult to execute in brick. The Gothic windows rest in brick frames decorated with marble keystones, accents and sills. As you drive throughout Georgia, you will see churches, courthouses, libraries, schools and even homes that embraced this fanciful, Gothic style
The radical changes in style that we earlier noted in external appearance and design at Kingston are reflected as well in the interior of the sanctuary. Gone are the center/side aisles surrounded by perpendicular rows of pews. The new style called for a theater type of arrangement of curved pews that almost wrap around and embrace the chancel, pulpit and apse.
This view from the pulpit provides us a chance to admire the lovely ceiling treatment adopted throughout this sanctuary. The curved wall rises to meet the coffered ceiling gracefully and creates an atmosphere of height within the meeting house… almost cathedral-like. The cream colored walls and ceiling reflect the multicolored light streaming in through the many stained glass windows. Kingston’s sanctuary remains an inviting place.
These attractive pews were factory made as were the handsome window frames and stained glass windows we see. Kingston Methodist was constructed during the period of optimism in Georgia after reconstruction and before the boll weevil. Even in rural areas, prosperous farmers and merchants were making the kind of money needed to build, furnish and decorate their churches in the fashion seen above. No one could have anticipated the hard times that were in store for these villagers in the decades to come.
Here, looking at the bell tower, we finally get a chance to see and appreciate, up close, the amazing brick work on display at this church. At the peak of the arch, to its sides and down at the sill we see the keystone and other decorative, marble elements found at every window in Kingston Methodist. The double, rowlock arches that frame the bell tower’s opening also are found at every other window. We also see the decorative brick pilasters at each side of the arch as well as the brick wall itself which is laid in English bond. Finally, we get a glimpse of the large bell which was given to the congregation by Senator John King from Augusta. This bell is still in use today and rings out to call the congregation to worship every Sunday as it has for over 100 years.
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