Omer Christian (Disciples of Christ) was organized and constructed in 1883 about a half mile from its current location. The history tells us that the structure was built by local settlers from trees that were felled in a storm in September 1882. The name Omer came from the Reverand R. V. Omer (1853 – 1916) who was the pastor of the church for the first two and a half years. According to the history, 125 people were baptized at the little church in the woods in the summer of 1885. However, in 1909, many of the church members joined the newly formed Carter Hill Christian Church and the Omer congregation was dissolved. The cemetery predates the church by many years, the first interment being recorded in 1820, but the members had always used it as a final resting place for the Omer Congregation. So, in 1910, the little church was moved to be on the same parcel of land, where it sits today.
Although development and highway 316 have interrupted the rural serenity, the old church is still nestled in the trees where it has remained untouched, except for basic maintenance, for well over 100 years. She is preserved as an almost perfect example of a simple, turn of the century rural Georgia church. Everything about the interior has been preserved in its original state, and is a feast for the eyes and the senses, as you will see in subsequent photos. You are transported back to 1883 in every aspect of construction and furnishings. Even though there have been no regular services for over 100 years, the trustees and descendants still meet for annual reunions and raise enough money to keep the church maintained. For this we are all grateful.
In addition to the splendid preservation aspect of the Omer church, the cemetery has been in use since 1820 and is quite a story itself. According to the local lore, a family was traveling west, following an old Indian trail through the forest. The weather turned bad and they stopped at the home of Thomas Dillard, partly to take shelter and partly to tend to a young child who had become very ill. Sadly, the child died and Thomas Dillard gave them a plot of land on which to bury the child, who was the first interment of what became Omer Cemetery. Thomas Dillard’s father, Willam, was the second interment and eventually Thomas followed him. Many Dillard descendants settled in this part of the Georgia backcountry. Both the church and the cemetery were placed on the National Register in 2000.
This is a close up photo of a seldom used side door at Omer. The door lock and its escutcheon are made of metal and are typical of the late 19th early 20th century. We do find it puzzling that this door’s hardware is mounted upside down! Perhaps we will discover why as we continue our coverage of this old church. The condition of the door hardware and wood and the multiple coats of cracked and dry, white paint are evidence of this doors age and attest to its usage for well over 100 years. But, we see that it has clearly been a long time since hands gripped and turned this handle to enter Omer.
This is the view from the wide double door entry into the church from the front porch. Though there are some condition issues inside the sanctuary, it remains dry and serviceable despite its age, lack of maintenance and spotty use during recent decades. The wide, heart pine floor boards, narrow gauge vertical pine ceiling, suspended truss architecture and horizontal wall boards are still sound and in place. We see in this photograph a perfectly authentic view of the interior of a 19th Century rural Georgia church.
The old pews rest solidly on the heart pine floors. They are made of heart pine as well and are of the simplest, primitive design. They have served countless congregants well for over 100 years. The communion table chancel and pulpit are also quite plain but authentic and of the period. Finally, note the heavy, hulking wood shutters that cover the windows. This also is a feature of many rural churches of this era throughout Georgia.
At Historic Rural Churches of Georgia we place every church we document into categories. Omer falls into the category “Just Hanging On”. Omer’s building is still sound and could be put to good use by a loving congregation if it had one. In this photo we can see the efforts that have been put forth to keep it useable. The sanctuary is clean, orderly, sound and doesn’t leak. The ceiling has issues but none that are hard to handle, and the repaired pulpit is ready for a preacher to step up to and begin his sermon. The pews stand at the ready to provide seating for a congregation. We hope the present stewards are successful in their efforts to keep her alive.
The nine over six sashed, clear paned windows allow a great deal of ambient light to flow into the sanctuary creating the lovely glow on the pews seen above. Here we are looking across those pews and see through the windows a portion of the fascinating cemetery. Since it is many decades older than the present church, it contains grave stones from the 1820’s on that were placed well before the church was moved here. We seldom find such a site. The fact that the congregation moved its structure to a lot beside the cemetery is reflective of how sacred these burying grounds were to the congregation.
Here lies Moses Dillard (1822 – 1897) who was born in Georgia, probably in the house of his father Thomas Andrew Dillard (1795 – 1884). Thomas was born in South Carolina and came to Georgia in the early 1800’s along with his father, William Dillard (1760 – 1820), who was born in Virginia. This migration pattern was fairly typical for people of English descent who migrated first into Virginia, and then south through North and South Carolina and into Georgia after the Revolutionary War. The Dillards would have been some of the very earliest settlers in this part of Georgia soon after the Revolutionary War when the western boundary of Georgia was first the Oconee River (treaty of 1790), and then the Ocmulgee (treaty of 1804). William was of prime age to fight in the Revolutionary War and, if so, he would have been given preference in the land lotteries used to settle land acquired from the Indians, in this case the upper Creeks.
Several family large family groups are represented in the cemetery, the largest being the Dillard family who were some of the original pioneers. Other large families represented are Sharpton, McDaniel and Sweat.
“Come to the Church in the Wild Wood!” This sweet little church has not seen regular services for over 100 years, but it has been maintained by a board of trustees and descendants of original members for all these years. She is a living tribute to our rural history and we are grateful for their stewardship.
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To whom it my concern I have visited the cemetery and looked at the church i would like to speak to someone who know a little more on the story. I live not far from church site and I am intrigued by the cemetery and the history of the families. I’m a native of Barrow county and always had something for Barrow county’s history. However there is a lot to learn from this site if there is anyone out there who would like to talk are tell the story of Omer Christian Church &Cemetery I would like to meet and learn more about what happened around here during those times thanks for your time and effort in preserving the history of this beautiful site. I would love to help in cleaning up and cutting grass and whatever else that’s needs to be done around the site. My name is James Mathis jr son of James and Peggy Mathis of Whistlevillie
James, the church is on the National Register. There is usually some good history associated with the write up. Thanks for your interest in Omer. Special place.
Need address to send donation. Lost letter sent in sept
Thank you so much Leatus. We very much appreciate the support and will put it to good use.
Do you know who I can contact to schedule a visit? My fiance’s family used to clean the church when he was growing up and he has family members buried there. Also, his grandparents and great-grandparents were married there. We would love to see the church and possibly get married there. I am so happy I found you all and so glad that you exist. Old churches are my favorite and I’m so glad that you are bringing awareness and preservation to them. Many Blessings.
We will have a service Oct.6 at 11:00 a.m. Bring a cover dish, lunch on the grounds after service. Clean up days all through September. Please come, we need all of you. Attendance been following over the last years.
My Grand Parents & other McDonald relatives are burried at Old Omer. ANNUAL HOMECOMING: 10/7/18
I am going to visit this church and cemetery today while I am visiting with my mother in Dacula, GA. I am a descendant from the Dillards and want to visit their gravesites. I am excited to visit this church.
Glad you are giving the old girl a visit. The church and cemetery are well worth the visit. Look at the National Register docs before you go if you can. It will give you a better appreciation for it.
WI believe this is the church I pass when traveling on 316. As a matter of fact I saw it again today and wondered as I do each time I pass- what’s the story behind this sweet site. Thank you so much for filling in the blanks. I this its beautiful!
Yes. That is the one.