Mt. Zion was founded as a Presbyterian Church in 1813. It was sold to the Methodist Church in in 1903 and was active until 1958. The church is visible from the highway and is sited on a high piece of ground with a commanding view of the countryside. It is a proper location for a church designed in the Greek Revival style. The double door entrance leads to an interesting double aisle pew arrangement and the four large columns complete the majesty that is Mt. Zion. The community of Mt. Zion has a most extraordinary history, the traces of which have entirely vanished with one big exception……………………..Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church. Mt. Zion has a storied history as an education center beginning with Rev. Nathan Beman. Rev. Beman moved from Maine to Georgia in 1812. Shortly thereafter, he agreed to serve as the Headmaster of academy at Mt. Zion as well as the pastor of Mt. Zion Presbyterian. At the time, the community consisted of the church, a two-story schoolhouse, many houses and various other buildings. In a period of a few short years, Rev. Beman was able to turn Mt. Zion into one of Georgia’s most celebrated institutions. There has been a governor (William J. Northern, elected in 1890), as well as famous educators and writers associated with this small community. We are told that Mt. Zion barely lost out to Athens as the location for the University of Georgia campus.
Mt. Zion was originally a Presbyterian Church, organized by Rev. Beman in 1813. The present building is the original structure, constructed in 1814. This is unusual in that most churches in the rural backcountry started as ‘brush arbors’, then progressed to a log church and finally to one or more versions of a framed sanctuary. The fact that this delightful structure was built in 1814 and still survives speaks to the wealthy planters who envisioned Mr. Zion as an education center of learning from the very beginning. Mt. Zion’s reputation as such was known far and wide. After the Civil War, membership dwindled until the building was sold to the trustees of a Methodist Church for $200 in 1903. The Methodists worshiped in the building until 1958. The building is currently owned by the Hancock County Historical Trust. The Mt. Zion church was recently put on the Georgia Trust’s list of Places in Peril in 2012 and has received some badly needed repairs.
Almost nothing is left of the surrounding community but Mt. Zion was a vibrant and celebrated place of worship and learning in the early 19th century. The original community consisted of the church, a two story school house and various other buildings. Reverend Nathan Beman was the first pastor and teacher. He made Mt. Zion into one of Georgia’s most celebrated institutions. That was long ago. In this view, the dilapidated condition of this old temple is painfully evident. Currently owned by the Hancock County Historical Society, some critical repairs were effected in the first decade of the 21st century, but the money has run out. The roof has been made sound, but much more needs to be done. Perhaps the publicity brought by placing Mt. Zion on the Places in Peril List in 2012 will help bring relief to this worthy landmark.
There are two front entrances off the large porch. One door was for men and another for women and children. The resulting double aisle arrangement of pews, along with the placement of the rear windows and the wide Georgia pine floors provided a fitting entry into this House of the Lord. Note that though the interior is obviously in need of some paint and repair work, the sound roof continues to keep out the rain and no leaks threaten its integrity at this point.
The church is well built and would respond readily to some love and attention.There are no potentially disastrous problems evident at this point. In fact, one of its most striking features are the eight large 12 over 12 pane windows. These windows remain mostly sound and intact, complete with shutters on the outside, and bring in superb light seen above. There is still time.
The interior is striking in its simplicity of design as seen in this view from the rear of the church to the pulpit. We see a simple box construction sanctuary with few architectural accents and white on white motif. Even with the ragged, fainting pain job above, the interior seems to glow. Mt. Zion is owned by the Hancock County Foundation for Historic Preservation and is open to visitors. You will be glad you came.
The cemetery consists of 70 documented graves, although there are more than a few unmarked ones. The oldest interment is that of Rev. Oliver Hulburg dated 1814. We must all be grateful for the efforts of so many people to preserve this historical treasure. We need more of these wonderful efforts.
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I studied this dead town, Mt Zion, for my masters thesis at GCSU backnin the mid-1990s and spent many days reading these gravestones and learning about the people who lived herenin the early 19th Century. In fact, I’d like to be buried one day at Mt Zion Cemetery, though I’m not sure it is still operating. Beautiful place, exactly 7 miles north of the rebuilt courthouse in Sparta on GA 15.
If you walk down in the woods to the west (left) of the church, you can see bricks that supported the once thriving academy in Mt Zion, run by both Nathan and later Carlisle Beman.
Interesting Jay. We always wondered exactly where it was.
This has been one of my favorite structures found on my church hunting expeditions. I also love that it’s the original. Hard to find that nowadays. Either they’ve been modernized, or they’re gone completely. I love this one!
To learn more about this church get a book TOKENS of AFFECTIONS, The Letters of a Planter’s Daughter in the South. edited by Carol Bleser. This gives a day by day happenings of life in this community in the early 1800’s
The writer’s grave is only a few steps from the church.
I got my copy from Amazon books.
Wow. Great find here Bob.
Beautiful, stately and simplistic. Much like the LaFayette Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, AL that is now used for a library.
Beautiful church. My 3rd great grandfather, Peyton Lundy is believed to be buried there, but most of the graves aren’t properly marked. It is hallowed ground nonetheless.
Yes it is. Plenty of unmarked graves in these old cemeteries.
Olin, was Lundy creek named after your family by chance?