Almost Gone But Not Forgotten
Sadly, in May of 2018, the historic Liberty Methodist church in Jasper County finally succumbed to the elements. Many of these historic treasures are at risk and doomed unless the local community gets involved in the preservation of it. Part our our mission at HRCGA is to research and document the history while we still can, but also to encourage the physical preservation of these irreplaceable reminders of where we came from and who we are. We call attention to those that are “Abandoned and Endangered” and we say farewell to those that are “Almost Gone But Not Forgotten”. The Liberty Methodist church was in the former category for the last couple of years and now she is gone.
There is not a lot of history available on Liberty Methodist, located in Jasper County. We do know it was founded prior to 1827. According to some history found in the Northern Conference Methodist Archives at Emory University, ‘By 1820 there were enough people to band together and organize a church, services being held in the homes whenever the preacher could get around. In 1827, one of the early pioneers deeded land for a church building.’ Another account also states the church was founded in 1827 by families ‘who had originally come from Delaware and then through the Carolinas to the Hancock County area and then to Jasper county’.
According to the history, the original church on this site served for 64 years, was then torn down and the present building erected. This would date the construction of the present sanctuary around 1891, which looks consistent with the construction techniques of the time. One of the records also states that Rev. Adeil Sherwood was instrumental in the formation of the Liberty Methodist church and the school that was located nearby and known as the Liberty School. Rev. Sherwood is a well-known educator and was the founder of ‘Sherwoods Gazeteer of Georgia‘. For more information on Rev. Sherwood click here. It should be noted that he was a staunch Baptist and therefore the role in establishing Liberty Methodist is not clear. We hope to find out more about the history as we go, but it is clear that this was an important rural church in its day.
The image you see before you is a classic example of what can and will happen when a church loses its congregation has no one to provide basic maintenance and water begins to penetrate the rafters and interior of the structure. Somewhere along the way, this church acquired a composition roof instead of the traditional tin roof. When you look at these old churches that have tin roofing, you really begin to understand what a remarkable building material this is. It has kept many of these old treasures relatively secure and free from the weather for long periods of time. Good old Georgia long leaf heart pine will survive for centuries but cannot escape the catastrophic effects of water once the sanctuary has been violated, as is the case above.
However, Liberty Methodist can be saved with some crisis intervention to repair the roof and some basic repair work. The structure is actually in remarkable shape given its age of at least 125 years and the recent invasion of water into the structure. This will be an ongoing story of restoration and redemption for a classic old rural church badly in need of some help before it is too late. Fortunately, we think we have gotten there in time to prevent further deterioration and hopefully begin the process to bring her back to life. We will keep you posted as the story progresses. Meanwhile, scroll through this collection of ‘Before’ images that follow and provide reminders of days gone by.