The Old Stone Church was originally organized in 1837 as the Chickamauga Presbyterian Church. The organizational minutes state “We, whose names are here unto subscribed, being members of the Presbyterian Church, but having removed from our respective churches and settled in this vicinity where there is no organized church, desiring to enjoy the means of grace and the ordinances of the gospel as administered according to the Presbyterian form, do agree to associate ourselves together for the purpose of being regularly organized into a Presbyterian Church according to the principles and form laid down in the confession of faith”. The first meetings were held in a log schoolhouse approximately one quarter of a mile south, and later in a small frame house north of the present structure. Construction of the present structure began in the summer of 1850. Stone was hauled by charter church member Robert Magill and his two brothers from a nearby quarry at White Oak Mountain. The building was completed in 1852 at a cost of $1600, part of which was donated by the Rev. W.H. Johnston, who gave one year’s salary…..$200.
Catoosa County was created out of Walker County in 1853, and the Old Stone Church may be the first church that was organized in Walker when it was opened for settlement after the Cherokee Indian removal in 1838. During the Civil War, there was conflict in the area as the Federals advanced from Chattanooga toward Atlanta. After fighting at Ringold, the Federal Brigadier General, Judson Kilpatrick, reported on May 2, 1864, that he “met the Confederates one mile from Stone Church that morning and drove them to Tunnel Hill”. During the Battle of Ringgold Gap, Federal General Joseph Hooker fought Confederates under the command of General Patrick Cleburne just north of the church. The retreating Confederates used the church as a hospital and later, the occupying Federals used the church as a stable. The still visible, blood stained floors in the church attest to the use of the church as a hospital.
After the war, the structure remained as a Presbyterian Church and in 1912, the name was changed from Chickamauga Presbyterian to Stone Church due to a naming conflict with another church. The Presbyterians ceased to use the building in 1921, and it was then purchased by the Methodists. The building changed ownership several times and is now owned by the Catoosa County Historical Society which uses it as their headquarters as well as a museum. The building is architecturally significant in that it is made of native sandstone from a local quarry. We think the pre Civil War sandstone sanctuary is probably the only one in the state. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and there have been few changes to the historical integrity of the church. The interior of the church is a step back in time to the 1850’s. The pews and the alter are original…….a great piece of North Georgia history. Enjoy.
Though presently serving as the Headquarters and Museum of the Catoosa County Historical Society, the photograph above presents the sanctuary much as it was when constructed in 1852 prior to the Civil War. With the exception of the roll-top desk, bookshelves, exhibits and other office accoutrements, the original pews rest sturdily upon the same old heart pine floors and the chancel, altar balustrade and pulpit you see are original as well. The walls have been covered with gypsum wall board but the narrow ceiling boards of heart pine remain "as was". Never an elegant sanctuary, it remains an authentic relic of the times, customs and tastes of a tough and rough environment and society in the Georgia backwoods of the mid-19th Century.
This close up allows us to see that the pews were all shaped and finished with hand planes. Even though having been painted, the wavy, plane marks are evident and proof that these pews were made by hand. Similar evidence of the hand crafted nature of the chancel, balustrade and pulpit are also apparent. Of course, the wide, heart pine floor boards also exhibit the many various scars inflicted upon it during the rough and tumble life of Old Stone Church.
Looking toward the church entry from the pulpit, the extreme thickness of the church walls becomes apparent when we see the deep setback of the windows. The stone walls were,"…laid in an irregular pattern, some small, thin stones being laid together to achieve a wall thickness of between one foot and one and a half feet, and some large stones which have the entire thickness." Of course, the interior sheet rocking covers the original interior view of those walls. However, looking at the first photo of the facade, the crazy-quilt randomness of the stones and placement is quite striking. A modern feature is also apparent in this photo. The original two matching windows of the facade "...have been covered and temporary small rooms made across the back using thin wood panels." Of course these changes were deemed necessary throughout the years to accommodate the desires and needs of the congregation. We feel they do not destroy the authenticity and charm of the old church.
"If these old pine boards could talk!" Aside from the steps of countless numbers of congregants and 160 years of foot traffic from all kinds of other events, tragedies and triumphs, for a short time in 1864, these floors served the needs of both Yankees and Confederates during the Civil War. On May 4, U.S. Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick reported that,"…he met the Confederates one mile from 'Stone Church' that morning and drove them to Tunnell Hill. The Confederates had twenty-one wounded and the Federals three. Tradition has always been that due to the church's substantial construction, it was used as a Confederate as well as a Union hospital." These floors are purported to have been stained by the blood of wounded from each side.
Here lies Greenberry B. McCalla (1822 - 1889), who enlisted with Co. F, 39th Ga Infantry in 1863 as a private at the age of 40. Mr. McCalla and his wife, Nancy, had eleven children and nine of them were born before his enlistment. One wonders what it must have been like to leave a wife and nine children at home to face an uncertain future in a war that was raging across the homeland. Perhaps Private McCalla was conscripted.....maybe someone out there knows.
Cordelia A. Young was the eldest daughter of Col. J. L. Young (1808 - 1858) and the "consort" of William Whitman. We are not sure where the Col. designation of Mr. Young came from since he would have been too young for the War of 1812 and the Indian Conflicts of the early 1800's. According to FAG, Cordelia died at the age of 22. She had two sisters....Saraphenia, who died at the age of 17 and Mary, who died at the age of 25.
Wesley Kaneaster enlisted as a private in Co. B, 39th Ga Infantry on April 1, 1863 at the age of 40. He survived the war and died in 1897 at the age of 74. He and his wife Cynthia had one son.
This black and white shot of the facade clearly reflects the removal and "stoning-over" of the original two front windows of the church, probably in the early 20th century. It also highlights its charming "crazy quilt" stone pattern. The Old Stone Church is an architectural treasure and is being well cared for by the Catoosa County Historical Society. Her construction of locally quarried sandstone is very unusual for a church sanctuary in Georgia, as is the hipped roof design. She has seen much suffering during the Civil War but she stands proudly and will do so for generations to come.
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I believe the correct names for the individuals identified in your excellent write-up as “charter church member Robert Magi and his two brothers” are Robert Magill (1792-1870) and his brothers Harvey (1801-1853) and Hugh Marshall Magill (1806-1874). I am certain that Robert and Hugh are buried in the Old Stone Church Cemetery. I will need to research Harvey further. The Magills were Presbyterians. [Source: Magill, Robert M., “Magill Family Record” (R. E. Magill, Publisher: Richmond, VA, 1907).]
Benjamin C. Garrett
22 January 2023
My husbands ggrandpa fought in that battle his name was James Wesley McGill..When he was little he was raised in an Orphange and lost all contact with his siblings.