The earliest record of meetings of Mt. Zion date back to 1842. The name was then called Rehoboth Church, but was dedicated as Mt. Zion in 1844. The first church on the grounds was a small, one room log cabin located across the street from its current location, beside the cemetery. The cabin was later replaced by a larger wooden frame building.
This tabernacle was northeast of the cemetery and was surrounded by 8-10 frame tents located on 6 acres of land deeded in 1862 by Benjamin Seckinger. The Seckingers were direct decedents of the original Salzburgers who migrated to Effingham County in 1735. They were some of the very earliest settlers in Georgia. The frame tents at the campground were built by members of the church and each summer, usually during the month of August, a two-week revival was held under the tabernacle. At least 6-8 pastors from different Methodist Churches in South Georgia would come and camp in one of the tents, and do the preaching. In 1925, the presiding Elder (now called the District Superintendent) felt the camp meetings should be discontinued for a while, and they have never been resumed.
In 1924, Mr, John N. Bray gave an acre of land to the Methodist Episcopal Church, and had the current church building built in memory of his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Bray Sr. John Bray is laid to rest in the Mt. Zion Cemetery. Until 1953, Mt. Zion was part of the Lowndes and Echols County Charge. This consisted of Statenville, Lake Park, Clyattville, and Mt. Zion. Services were held at each church one Sunday a month.
In July 1, 1952, members of the Mt. Zion and Clyattville Charge met together and decided to form the Clyattville-Mt. Zion Charge. The Reverend John McGowan was the pastor at that time. In 1958, the Reverend Floyd S. Berger Jr. was appointed as the pastor, and he began weekly Sunday morning services. Sunday morning services, and Wednesday night Bible studies have been held every week since then.
We found some interesting history on the Bray family in the Ancestry.com files. They can be accessed HERE.
In this exterior detail, we see that the physical condition of this old church, as well as the sanctuary interior, is also in excellent condition. The gable bargeboards, decorative arrow pointing toward heaven, the framing of the semicircular entry arch and the clapboard siding is impeccable after almost 100 years. This is another sign of the respect and superior stewardship of the congregation.
This is a close-up photo in the sanctuary of the choir area at the rear of the chancel and behind the pulpit. The pew is original and, as is the church’s entire interior, still in excellent condition. We chose this view as evidence of the still active and dedicated congregation at Mt Zion. Many older rural churches in this area have closed their doors. Mt Zion has an enviable and uninterrupted record of holding weekly services, bible studies and other events for over 60 years.
Here we see the chancel area, the offertory table, handsome pulpit and chairs and other wooden decorative elements. This view seen today would be quite similar to the same view when the church was finished in the early 20th century.
Here we are looking toward the entry area from the pulpit. The original, manufactured pews are all wood, have decorated arms, were expensive, top of the line items and remain in excellent condition. Though the simple wood framed windows and doors are somewhat plain, the atmosphere within the sanctuary is of an authentic rural church of the early 20th century.
By simply backing up, closer to the chancel, from the previous photo, we have now revealed the absolutely striking and beautiful all wood, coffered ceiling unique to Mt. Zion. The suspended ceiling creates a cathedral-like space within the walls of this church that is welcoming and reverential.
This cleverly designed chancel, choir and apse area is of a unique and eye-catching design and configuration that we have not seen anywhere else among Georgia’s rural churches. The ceiling area has been raised and sloped creating a vault-like area with a coffered ceiling… beneath which the entire chancel fits. This maneuver is made possible because of the space created beneath the high and steep slope of the church’s roof gable. We are not aware at this time of the name of the architect John Bray chose to design and build this sanctuary in memory of his mother and father. But, we all can appreciate his handiwork that still remains as a touching memorial of the past that will be enjoyed by generations to come in the future. Our thanks go out to the present congregation and those stewards in the years to come for cherishing and taking care of this charming church in the back country of Georgia.
John Lewis Bray was born March 20, 1903 and died February 21, 1989. His WWII draft registration on February 16, 1942 shows he was 5’11” tall, 140 lbs., with hazel eyes and brown hair. His wife Nell McLean Bray (1908-2013) and their son Luther Mack Bray are also buried at Mt. Zion. His father Lewis L. Bray (1856-1943) and his grandparents Jasper Newton Bray (1827-1915) and Martha L. Bray (1831-1900) are buried at this Mt. Zion Church cemetery. All of Jasper and Martha Bray’s children are buried here including their son John N. Bray who built the current church building.
Celia Newsom was born in June, 1849 in Warren County, Georgia. She died in 1929 in Lowndes County, Georgia. She apparently never married or had children. Her parents were David Newsom (1811-1899) and Nancy McDonald Newsom (1822-1888). Before her father’s death he stated that he wished to be buried in a coffin of fat lightwood planks and for his grave to be walled up with bricks.
Harvey Blount Keel was born December 7, 1815 in North Carolina and died June 30, 1890 in Lowndes County, Georgia. He was married to Elizabeth Powell in Telfair County, Georgia in 1844.They had seven children. His marker states he served in Company I, 7th Regiment, Georgia Militia, CSA.
Mary E. Carter was born February 11, 1855 and died August 24, 1914. She was Mary Ellen Seckinger and was married to Sylvanus James “Sam” Carter (1852-1932). She was a part of the Seckinger family who came from Effingham County to Lowndes County. A memorial monument in the cemetery reads “DEDICATED TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND TO THE MEMORY OF OUR SALZBURGER ANCESTORS WHO BRAVED THE ATLANTIC IN FRAIL CRAFT TO COME TO GEORGIA 1734-1750 TO WORSHIP GOD IN FREEDOM ESPECIALLY TO HONOR BENJAMIN SECKINGER WHO GAVE LAND INCLUDING THE SECKINGER SPRING TO THE MT. ZION CHURCH IN 1862”. Erected 1989 by descendants of N. A. Zipperer and Ann Eliza Seckinger. Ann Eliza Seckinger was the daughter of Benjamin J. Seckinger (1812-1886) who was born in Effingham County and is buried at Mt. Zion.
Weltha A. Phillips was born January 18, 1827 and died December 15, 1901. In census records her name is sometimes given as Welthy and sometimes as Wealthy. She was married first to John Ingram/Ingraham. He was a private in Company K, 50th GA Infantry, CSA. She married James Benjamin “Ben” Phillips on August 14, 1873 in Lowndes County, GA. He served in Company K, 32 GA Infantry during the Civil War. Wealthy Phillips is shown as an invalid in the 1900 census and Ida Dees and her two young children are living in the household. Ben Phillips married Ida Dees in 1905. Ben Phillips died in 1908 in Florida.
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Let me know about Akin Memorial UMC in Brunswick GA
https://www.hrcga.org/church/akin-methodist/ Are you asking about this one?
This is a beautiful church with a great history. The tabernacle part reminds me of Salem Campground near Conyers.