There is some question as to the age and origin of Lebanon Methodist church in Cherokee County among the church members. The exterior of the church is a beautiful example of a typical 19th century rural Georgia church. It has been there for some time on the edge of a very large cemetery and is now surrounded by encroaching development. Findagrave reports 698 interments, with several of them pre-Civil War. One of the more interesting markers is a tribute to “Aunt Minnie”, who was a freed slave that had no family and became an important member of the Bascomb community, located about five miles from the church. We found an article about her in the local paper – the marker and the story are located below.
Apparently there were some significant interior changes made around 1906, but we feel the church you see here was constructed shortly after the Civil War in the early 1870s. We located the original deed for the church, dated December of 1869. The property was owned by Frederick Freeman and the deed is signed by John W. Freeman, who we think was Frederick’s son. Next to the signature is the notation that the donation of land for the church was his fathers “Dying Request”. Frederick died in 1866 so obviously the deed was executed after his death. The origins of Lebanon Methodist may have been much earlier than this, but we have found no evidence of it.
The deed reads in part “Know all men by these presents that I Frederick Freeman for Lebanon M. E. Church and in consideration of the love I bear for the cause of Christ …. Lot No 636 – 15 – 2nd and from an earnest desire to promote his heritage on earth ….. I give and by these presents convey unto Lebanon Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South for the use and benefit of said church (to be used as the church may see and most benefit to the cause of Christ). And the said Church is to have and to hold two acres of land containing the Graveyard and the house thereon, the lines on the North side of the church running East and West so as to not __?__ the Graveyard and run East so far as to make a square of two acres off of lot of land No (636). To have and to hold the property aforesaid for the use aforesaid free from the claims or claims of myself my heirs my executors or administrators and from the claim of all others whatsoever.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 6th day of Dec 1869. In presence of, WW Hawkins, Jacob Haney and JS Haney. Signed by John W. Freeman for Frederick Freeman … His dying request.”
Perhaps some more history will emerge later on and we can add to it. Meanwhile, we feel we have documented that this historic little church was built shortly after the Civil War in a remote part of Cherokee County. Unfortunately, encroaching development has eliminated the remote aspect, but Lebanon Methodist proudly stands as a reminder of days gone by.
As stated on the introductory page, we have evidence that this church was founded around 1870. The original deed is dated December of 1869 and in part reads “… and the said Church is to have and to hold two acres of land containing the Graveyard and the house (church building) thereon.” But, the date of erection of the present church structure seen in the exterior photo above is clouded. Some state the present church was built in 1906. We feel that is not correct. The exterior presence (quite weathered) and design of the building are more in line with an earlier date. However, it is quite possible that the original church of the 1870’s was remodeled in 1906. That would explain why some “old timers” give it an early 20th century construction date. The photograph above certainly presents as a church from the 1870-1880’s period from both an architectural point (a classic, center gable, wood frame church with two doors, a diamond shaped, decorative feature centered above the doors and simple barge boards and cornice), and from a condition point (well worn , battered and reflecting the wind and weather impacts of many decades).
This interior photo from the pulpit shows why we are convinced the original building was significantly modified by the growing congregation of Lebanon Methodist in 1906 and probably several other times during the 20th century. The wall and ceiling panels are clearly products that did not become available until that era. The window frames and doors, wainscoting and other elements are also products of the 20th century.
This view from mid-church toward the chancel and pulpit area reveals that, the Lebanon Methodist sanctuary was modified to provide new space for the elaborate apse area seen above. The acute and eye-catching angles we see were created when the apse area was added to the back wall of the church. The result was to produce a larger, more architecturally appealing chancel.
In this view, we see the completed, total restoration and transformation (probably made over decades) of the inornate and uncomplicated, plain, 19th century sanctuary of Lebanon into the 20th century space it is today.
In this close up photo, we have a chance to view the choir area to the right of the chancel and pulpit. No doubt, this area remains very similar to what it looked like after the1906 renovation.
The pews at Lebanon are manufactured and lovely. Their scrolled, slat style was quite the rage in church furniture in the early 20th century and reflect the relative prosperity of the Cherokee county congregation at that time.
Aunt Minnie was loved by everyone in town. She was a former slave and chose to stay in the Bascomb community after being freed. She had no known family but when she died the people of Lebanon Methodist built her a pine coffin and carried her all the way from the Bascomb community and buried her in the church cemetery. A desire to honor Aunt Minnie in a special way led to a memorial service being held for her in 2004. This donated granite marker was unveiled at that service.
Levi Foster Hughes served as a private in Company D, 28th Georgia Regiment, CSA. In the same company were James L. Hughes, who was wounded February 20, 1864; and William C. Hughes, who died in a Richmond Hospital March 25, 1862. Levi Foster Hughes is listed as a Silver Smith in the 1860 census. Later census records show him as a farmer. He was married to Theodocia Fowler and they had twelve children.
William Jefferson Johnson was born March 12, 1860. He married Elizabeth Jane Carmichael. By 1910 he and his wife had eight children but only six were still living. Their daughter Ever Lee Johnson was born June 20, 1889 and died March 8, 1890. Their son William Dolphus Johnson was born March 14, 1894 and died September 7, 1895. Both of these babies are buried at Lebanon Methodist Church Cemetery.
James Martin Fowler enlisted as a private August 6, 1861 in Company D, 14th Georgia Infantry. He transferred to Company D, 28th Georgia Infantry on February 27, 1862. In this same 28th Infantry Company were John C. Fowler, who died of pneumonia February 27, 1862; Thomas T. Fowler, who was killed in South Carolina September 5, 1863; and William L. Fowler, who was elected 2nd Lieutenant and killed at Sharpsburg, Maryland September 17, 1862.
Another view that reinforces the opinion that this is a 19th century church, and one that has been well cared for by a loving congregation. More Georgia history that has been saved for future generations.
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The church has completed several repairs in the last year, 2022 and 2023. Tree pruning, roof replacement, termite treatment, siding replacement and painting. Still more repairs needed and donations can be made at the gofundme site Historic Lebonon Church. Thank you to all that have contributed.
Thanks for the update, Harry and keep up the great work!
Who owns this now and can someone provide any contact info?
Jack, did you ever discover who owns it? I would love that info as well. Cheers.
The church and cemetery are managed by the Lebanon Church Cemetery Association. They have a Facebook page. They also have a Gofundme campaign (“Lebanon Methodist Church”) to raise money for repairs and maintenance.
What a beautiful and pure building!