According to a church history written in 1955, the people of “Rockdodger – Halls Station – Linwood” organized the Mount Carmel Methodist Church in 1847. Many of the early members came from the Kingston Church located near by. The original church was a log house, but in 1856 Robert Nelson Kerr donated some land and the first frame structure was built “between the present drive and the cemetery. In the rear a place of this church a place was reserved for the slaves who came regularly with their masters to learn of God. After the Civil War, the Negroes who would not leave their masters still came to worship with their white folk. Services were held on Saturdays and Sundays. Some ladies came riding side saddle, holding their babies in front of them; while the father had other members of the family riding behind him on his horse. Other families came in ox carts”. Many of the original families are resting in the cemetery.
The courthouse at Cassville was burned during the war and all the records were lost, including the original donation to the church by Robert Kerr in 1856. In 1891, J.C. Kerr deeded to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, the two acres of land his father had originally donated….consisting of two acres “for and in consideration of the love I bear for the Cause of Christ and from an earnest desire to promote his heritage on earth – for the use and benefit of place of worship and burial ground”.
The church prospered after the war and a new church, the present one, was built in 1903. “Church members gave the timber for the framing, and the men went to the woods, cut the logs, hauled the lumber to the church yard. The dressed lumber – ceiling, weather-boarding, and flooring – was shipped from Dalton, Georgia , by railway freight. The windows, doors, and blinds were hauled in wagons from Rome, Georgia…..in 1947 electricity was made available and three light fixtures were installed”.
When you step in the doors at Mount Carmel, you step back in time over 110 years. Many of the older rural church sanctuaries we see have undergone an occasional “upgrade” altering the interior’s presence over the decades. At Mount Carmel, though some modern ceiling fans and such are present, we are treated to an almost exact replica of what it looked like in the first decade of the 20th century. We love it when we find one like this and can photographically document its appearance for future generations to witness and enjoy.
In this close up of the chancel and pulpit area we can see that the vertical wainscoting and horizontal wall boards are all made of narrow gage wood. In earlier times, wider lumber would have been used. This is a decidedly, late Victorian era trend. The heavy turned balusters and colorful high, gothic windows are also a characteristic of the period.
In this view from the chancel of the choir seating area, we see that the pew design also reflects the changing fashions of the times. The heavy, sturdy wood pews of the past now give way to a lighter style with horizontal, three inch, back slats a and graceful, scrolled arm rests. Some refer to these slat back pews as “railroad waiting room style benches.” Their presence at Mount Carmel is an undeniable cue of when the church was constructed and furnished.
In this view from the pulpit we see another trend of its late Victorian era heritage, the ceiling design and finish. In this era it became popular to soften the juncture of wall and ceiling. By employing narrow horizontal boards, the walls above the ceiling moulding can be curved gracefully to flow into the ceiling. Looking at this photo, we can see what a pleasant decorative effect is created using this design element.
Though unsure of the date of this old piano, it could easily have been present in this sanctuary when the church was dedicated. It is certainly of a design compatible with the era of Mount Carmel’s construction. In any case, we know it must have accompanied the Mount Carmel congregation during the singing of thousands of hymns as well as countless services.
Here lie Terrance and Margaret McGuire. This beautiful headstone was placed by their children in honor of their father, Terrance, born in 1828 and died in 1855 at the age of 27. His wife, Margaret was born in 1830 but lived until 1913. The McGuires were one of the founding members of Mount Carmel.
The cemetery contains many 19th century graves of the founding families………lots of Kerr’s, McGuires, Shermans, Wards and other early families. There are a few confederate veterans as well. The earliest interments date back to the 1850’s.
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Robert Nelson Kerr was my 3 X great-grandfather. His granddaughter was my great-grandmother Pearl Kerr Newton. This is a beautiful church with a cemetery full of Clan Kerr family history. Thanks for spotlighting it!