Mt. Airy Baptist is another one of those jewels tucked away in the North Georgia mountains. The location is very remote, and it is a perfect setting for this historic structure built in the mid 1800’s before the Civil War. It has been lovingly restored and the interior is just stunning. We think it is the oldest log church in Georgia that is still in use. The exterior is a plain structure that has been covered with vinyl siding for maintenance reasons, and it leaves you unprepared for what you see when you enter the sanctuary……truly a visual treat, as you will see in the gallery photos below.
The story of Mt. Airy is really the story of the Gooch family. The church was built on land donated by Jim Gooch (b. 1829 d. 1913). He and his wife, Elvira, were some of the original settlers in Union County. The Church has been restored recently and most of its original support logs and other features were kept in place. For many years it has been the site for the annual Gooch Family Reunion that is held each year on the fourth Sunday in July. The church is still active and meets on the first and third Sundays. Many of the descendants still live in the area and keep up the church, which is located on the north slope of Gooch Gap on the banks of Mt. Airy Creek.
According to family history Jim’s father, Tillman Gooch, participated in the forced removal of the Cherokees known as the Trail of Tears. “During the winter of 1838-1839, Tillman Gooch, a Captain in the State Militia, took part in the Indian drive, later known as the “Trail of Tears”, Tillman never returned nor was ever heard of again….. Jim and Elvira had their first child in 1846. They lived in a five foot high log cabin about 18 FT by 20 FT, where he and his wife raised their family of 11 children, 6 boys & 5 girls.” Jim was older when the Civil War broke out but he served in Company E, 11th Georgia Cavalry during the civil war. He enlisted at Mossy Creek, Georgia on May 4, 1864 as a private. It was highly likely that he was conscripted at that late stage of the war. There is a great photo of Mr. Gooch in the gallery photos below.
Thanks to the Gooch family and the Mt. Airy congregation that have been such good stewards for this historic property and the history that goes with it. Be sure to click and scroll the photos below for more Mt. Airy history.
This photo gives you a sense of the bucolic location of the old church and serenity of the graveyard. The building has been improved and is well maintained. However, the interior of the church speaks for itself. An unexpected treat.
As you saw in the Introductory exterior photo, this church has been completely modernized. The exterior has been completely covered with vinyl siding and its appearance today is totally unauthentic to its mid-19th century construction date. Imagine our surprise when we stepped in the door and found that much of its original interior remains in place. In this view from the rear of the church, we are looking toward the chancel, pulpit and apse. The original rough-hewn logs remain in clear view. The ceiling support beam above the chancel is also original. The congregation of this church has modernized the exterior but remarkably insured that as much as possible of the original sanctuary remains.
This is a view of the choir area from pulpit right. This close up exposes the original walls, ceiling beams and front door. A remarkable look into the mid 19th century.
Backing away from the last perspective, we now look from the left side of the chancel, over the pulpit and directly at the north wall and west wall of the sanctuary. The present windows along the north and south walls were “recently installed” but sized so as to conform with the original windows maintaining the authenticity of this lovely space.
We are looking at an entryway door midway in the south wall. Desiring to retain as much authenticity as possible within the sanctuary, the congregation hand-built the present doors. This door is an example of the attention to detail and loving care that has gone into the preservation efforts at Mt Airy.
This photo reveals the entire sanctuary and allows us to enjoy the cozy and welcoming atmosphere that exists in this unique, old country church.
This close-up is provided to demonstrate the painstaking efforts of the congregation to restore their church in a manner exactly like the original. Here we get a comprehensive insight of how the logs were hand-hewn, laid in place and then sealed in the 1880’s manner. This church will provide insights into the 19th century for all who visit for decades to come. We salute the thriving and loving congregation and wish them well.
Benjamin Noah Ingram was born April 15, 1840 and died in 1898. He was married to Charity Gilbert in July, 1866 and they had ten children. He enlisted in Company B, 23rd Georgia Regiment, CSA in September, 1861. His wife, Charity, applied for a pension after his death. She stated it took him six months to get home after the surrender. His Civil War records show he was 24 years old, 5’11” tall, with fair complexion, grey eyes and light hair. He was captured at Winchester, VA July 21, 1864 and sent to Camp Chase, Ohio. He enlisted in the U. S. Army April 22, 1865.
This photo captures many of the older residents of this community nestled in the mountains. A beautiful place to spend eternity.
James Madison “Jim” Gooch was born February 10, 1829 and died July 22, 1913. He married Eliviry Grizzle on December 8, 1850 in Lumpkin County, Georgia. She was born April 10, 1828 and died March 13, 1910. He served in Company E, 11th Georgia Cavalry during the civil war. He enlisted at Mossy Creek, Georgia on May 4, 1864 as a private. The original tombstone for Jim Gooch and his wife Elviry was replaced a number of years ago. His original marker was placed under the church. Elviry’s original marker was left lying at the back of the church property. Jim and Elviry had 11 children.
This is the old marker for Elvira (Elviry) Grizzle Gooch described in the previous comments.
James Madison “Jim” Gooch copied from Ancestry. Caption with the picture read: “Civil War veteran and a heck of a mean old man from all accounts." Picture believed to have been taken at Sarah, GA.
Your tax-deductible donation to Historic Rural Churches will help keep history alive through digital and physical preservation efforts for Georgia’s rural churches, their history and the communities that support them.
Full Name *
Sign me up for the newsletter!
I would like to find the location of the old Mt Airy Baptist Church and would appreciate if someone could provide me with the address. Ty
619 Mt Airy Rd, Suches, GA 30572
I visited Mt Airy Baptist Church worship service today and received a great blessing. I’m glad to report that the Church is still alive and does praise the almighty God and his son Jesus Christ. The song service and preaching was really good.
I want to thank the congregation there for loving and supporting that wonderful place.
I have to be honest in the fact that many of your emails break my heart when I open them. I know your goal is to show these treasured buildings that were designed and built by our forefathers, but when I see them no longer in use for what they were built for, deteriorating or all but gone it makes me very sad. The people who built them, do so for one reason and on reason only. They were built to have a place to assemble, worship and give praise to the Lord that they loved. I praise God when I see one like Mt. Airy Baptist that is still being used for that purpose!
Yes. The old ones that have been lost are very sad indeed. All we can do is try to preserve what memories and history we can find as a tribute to those people who were there.
Such a beautiful church so lovingly maintained. I hope it will be there and still serving congregations for several more hundreds of years.
Yes. Great story and great stewardship.