In 1785, shortly after the close of the American Revolution, there were only nine churches in the Georgia backcountry – three Lutheran, two Presbyterian, one Congregationalist, three Baptist, and no Methodist. However, the backcountry was about to begin a transformation which would rapidly change this “unchurched wilderness” in a remarkable way and the Baptists and the Methodists would lead this transformation. As one of the earliest backcounty churches, the Liberty Methodist church evolution followed the usual pattern of original Brush Arbor to a frame structure, which was built sometime prior to 1797 according to a church history ( It was then named Liberty Chapel). The original Brush Arbor was built on land owned by Reid Merrit within sight of the present church. ‘Great revivals were held in this crude establishment and out of them grew the first Methodist church in Greene county and one of the first in the state of Georgia.’ The original frame structure was replaced in the early 1800’s by a building that measured ‘forty feet by sixty feet and was located a short distance back from the original church’. This structure was dedicated in 1805 by Bishop Francis Asbury, one of the stalwarts of early Methodist history. He preached at Liberty on multiple occasions.
According to a local history, the name Liberty was derived from the fact that so many of the early settlers in the area were veterans of the Revolution and members of the “Sons of Liberty”. Later the Liberty area became known as “Crackers Neck” when tobacco was the money crop. Oxen pulled hogsheads loaded with tobacco to Augusta. The rawhide whips they used had long crackers on the end to urge on the oxen. Supposedly the little boys in the street would yell out “Here come the boys from Crackers Neck”. As the Methodists began to get organized, Liberty became part of the Appalachee Circuit. The site on which Liberty now stands was owned by Reuben Smith who deeded 7.14 acres to the Liberty trustees on July 27, 1827. According to church history, the church was active for the duration of the Civil War. The little church prospered over the years and construction on the present sanctuary began in 1900 – the building was dedicated in 1903. Liberty has a proud history and one of the longest in Georgia. Long may she live.
There are few Methodist congregations/churches in our state whose pedigree equals or exceeds Liberty Chapel's. According to Greene County historian, E.B. Rice, "Most of the great men of early Methodism were identified with this church." The sanctuary pictured above was Liberty's fifth and still serves an active and thriving congregation. This double corner steeple structure is not an ornate cathedral, but inside and out, the building accurately reflects the pride, strength and values of its congregations from its founding in the late 19th century to 1903 when it was dedicated. Liberty still reflects that 200+ year tradition today… the early 21st Century. The picturesque stained glass windows and its entire interior are evidence of the quality stewardship that has been practiced by Liberty's congregations throughout its history. It is an inviting and inspiring space.
The wide center aisle is well illuminated by the filtered light flowing into the sanctuary through eight, large, rectangular and ornately decorated, stained glass windows. This aisle seems to beckon and invite parishioners to the alter for prayer. In olden days, revivalists such as Rev. Stith Mead would urge attendees to come to the front seats at Liberty so he could personally exhort and instruct them. E.B. Rice noted that, "The now common 'mourners' bench' was born at Liberty Chapel when, finally, the custom drifted into all supplicants going up to the front to be prayed for".
The entry alcove at Liberty is made particularly attractive by its over-the- door stained glass window and accompanying square, side window. For your edification, these windows, as are all the others throughout Liberty, are mid-20th century and the glass was manufactured by Kokomo. You will find examples of this design throughout the state. The medallions are hand painted New and Old testament symbols. This beautiful array of stained glass was quite affordable and helped congregations create bright and welcoming sanctuaries at affordable prices. This lovely spot is in immaculate condition even after over 110 years of service since the first parishioner entered that door. It is the local support that allows many of these treasured sanctuaries to survive and thrive.
The Copelan family was a prominent one in this part of Greene County. There are fifteen Copelan interments in the cemetery. Sarah, above, was buried in 1897 - the most recent in 2003.
Here lies M.L. Lundy who died in 1890 at the age of seventeen. You wonder what could cause such an early death, but early deaths were all too often a reality in the Georgia backcountry. For a complete documentation of Liberty Methodist interments click here.
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In doing genealogy research I discovered a bit of info that ties my 3rd great grandfather to Liberty Chapel Methodist Church. According to the information I found he was ordained to the office of Deacon by Bishop Francis Asbury in Dec. 13, 1801. I would like to verify this info if possible.
Thank You, Nona M. Floyd
We have no way of doing that Nona. You might contact the church directly and see if they can shed some light. Getting ordained by Bishop Asbury is special.
Thanks for sharing and good luck.
What is the name of your ancestor? I am the current Historian for Liberty United Methodist Church. Although written documents dating back to 1801 are scare, I am interested in trying to assist you.