The following history write up is by HRC volunteer Richard Hillman – Knowles Chapel UMC in southern Hancock County is truly a wonderful, serene, and peaceful setting. One can literally travel back to the late 1800’s by just walking inside. You are greeted with the typical “male” and “female” doors in the front. Tall ceilings are untouched and remnants of the days of separate seating by gender are still there. The original pews are still in place and the congregation was wise enough to not cover up the original wooden floors and wooden walls. The essence of the originality is everywhere in the interior.
The church was established in 1875 in a typical log cabin on property owned by W. T. Knowles. According to Methodist archival history, “Brother W. T. Knowles was the first member of the Church. He was received on profession of faith in the fall of 1875. The Reverend George H. Patillo being the pastor who baptised him. Few men have a greater love for the Church than Brother Knowles had. When no minister was present he conducted the service. Usually he led the Prayer Meetings on Wednesday nights. Holding a small brass lamp in his left hand, and the Bible in the other, he would read the lesson and then exhort. He was also known to often feed members and guests at his own expense.”
Common to the time, the cabin was also used as a school, even after the church moved into it’s new building. Later the log cabin was torn down and the land sold to Dave Silver of Sparta. Mr. Silver had the distinction of being the only Jewish farmer in Hancock county. The congregation outgrew the cabin and, per a deed dated October 23, 1886, four and one half acres was purchased from Mrs. Matt A. Ball Ferguson for a sum of thirty six dollars. Members gave timbers, money, and labor to the construction effort. The current building was erected in 1888 and continues to serve the community. Many changes have been made over the years but the bones are original. The history did tell us that is was not until 1954 that the church received its first coat of paint.
Be sure to click and scroll on the gallery photos below to learn more about Knowles Chapel and some the early Hancock County settlers who built this part of Georgia.
As you saw in the preceding exterior photo, this church’s architecture is quite simple. We saw a very normal, rectangular, single gable structure typical of the rural churches of the late 19th century. There was a small porch and two entry doors, one for men and another for women and children. In the interior photo above we see a simple six panel door flanked by a wainscot, chair rail and the usual narrow gage horizontal wall boards found in churches of its era.
In this image, we have turned our attention away from the door and can see the majority of the interior of the sanctuary. The wooden ceiling is flat and supported by interior columns. This design makes sense in a building whose original structure in 1875 was a plain old log cabin. No fancy moldings, door frames, window frames or other architectural decorative elements, etc. We should note that the handsome, factory manufactured pews with scrolled arms were chosen by the congregation in 1888 and are a sign of the prosperity of the congregation toward the end of the 19th century.
This is a close up of the chancel and its curved wooden balustrade in front of the offertory table, pulpit, apse and other furniture. Note the folding doors to the right and left of the chancel which allow easy entry and exit from the chancel and into the sanctuary.
Here we see three of the very tall windows that exist on both north and south walls of the sanctuary. All are draped and have clear glass panes that allow a maximum of ambient light into the space. We also see some relics of older times in each row of pews. Note the wooden dividers that keep the men on one side and the women and children on the other.
This inviting black and white photo provides a view of the entire sanctuary at Knowles Chapel. The pristine nature of this old church is a sign of the excellent stewardship of its congregation during the past, 100 plus years.
Here is a view of one of the ramshackle, old outdoor privies that were in use for many, many years. Indoor plumbing is now in use but they stand as memorials of years gone by and remind the congregants of “The Good Old Days.”
Nancy Martin Pinkston was born in 1820 and died in 1891. She married Jesse M. Pinkston (1811-1866) on September 12, 1855. This was a second marriage for him. Nancy was the daughter of Ervin Gabriel Martin (1786-1880) and Rebecca Elizabeth Turner (1800-1895). Nancy’s father is buried at Knowles Chapel. Her brother, Ervin Gabriel Martin, shown below is also buried at Knowles Chapel.
Irvin Gabriel Martin was born March 3, 1823 and died May 4, 1885. A notice in the Savannah Morning News, May 6, 1885, reported “Sparta, Ga., May 5 – Irwin Martin, a highly esteemed and worthy citizen, died of pneumonia at his home near this place, about four o’clock this afternoon.” He was married to Cornelia Pinkston (1840-1915) and they had two children. Cornelia is also buried at Knowles Chapel. Cornelia was a daughter of Jesse M. Pinkston mentioned previously.
Addie Lu Herringdine Beasley was born July 24, 1869 and died August 24, 1919. She married Isaac Eli Beasley on August 30, 1893. The Isaac family Bible records state they were married at the Georgia lunatic asylum where she worked. They had seven children. Isaac Beasley was a fruit farmer and they lived in Florida for a number of years. Addie Lu was the daughter of Joseph R. Herringdine and Emma C. Pinkston. Emma was a daughter of Jesse M. Pinkston mentioned previously.
Goodwin Johnson was born August 8, 1845 and died July 19, 1934. He married Jo Anna Epps (1856-1944) on September 12, 1872. She was the mother of 21 children and 10 were still living when she died. He served in Company I, 59th Georgia Infantry. He spent time in the hospital at Charlotte, N. C. during the war.
Joshua Bailey Jackson was born in 1826 and died December 28, 1914. He served in Company E, 7th GA Calvary Battalion during the Civil War. He married Mary Ann Alford (1833-1914) on December 26, 1849. Joshau and Mary Ann are both buried at Knowles Chapel.
Eddie Ivans (I.V.) Johnson was born January 2, 1863 and died October 3, 1932. His wife Elizabeth Jackson Johnson was born in 1868 and died in 1946. Census records show neither of them could read or write. They had one son, Frank Johnson born in 1887. Elizabeth was the daughter of Joshua Bailey Jackson and Mary Ann Alford previously mentioned.
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I need to know the early history of Knowles Chapel. I see information online about a Nancy who married Jesse Pinkston, but I was not able to click on this to learn more. I would appreciate if someone would email me at [email protected]. I know there is a history at the Emory University Pitt Library written by Mrs. George Brown regarding the history of Knowles Chapel and Zebulon Church. I am doing research on the Methodist campground that was originally at this site or close by to Knowles Chapel. I would like to know if you have further information on the early Methodist Campground here. I have found the Hancock County deed regarding the sale of the land for the church to be started. This was 1808. It was originaly called Smith Cotton’s Meeting House, I believe. Apparently at one time around 4500 people attended the Camp Meeting and there were over 20 Methodist ministers there. This is amazing history that is largely overlooked as I doubt many people know about what happened at this place in Hancock County, Georgia. I look forward to hearing from you. My 3rd great grandfather Absalom Janes of Green County was one of 6 men considered founders of Mercer University in Macon.
Deryl Carswell Weaver
Deryl, we do not have any additional history of Knowles Chapel. Here is the link to the North Ga Methodist Archives….. https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/pittsarchives/mss028/pdf/KnowlesChapel.pdf We did not know about the Methodist Campground in Hancock County. Yes, a lot of the great history of early Georgia is overlooked. Let us know if find additional documentation on it.