This ancient Church has served under four names and in four counties. Liberty Presbyterian Church was organized by the Rev. Daniel Thatcher, about 1788. The original place of worship, a log house, was erected near War Hill, about seven miles from the present site. The church was called “Liberty”, because, though built by Presbyterians, all orthodox denominations were allowed to use it.
The Presbytery of Hopewell, formed Nov. 3, 1796, held its first session in Liberty Church on March 16, 1798. Soon after 1800, the log house was abandoned, and a new structure erected at the top of Starr’s Hill on the old Greensboro Post Road. The name of the church was then changed to Salem. This building was used until 1834, when the location of the Greensboro road was changed, and a new church edifice was erected at the site of the present Phillips Mills Baptist Church. In 1848, the Salem church building was sold to the Baptists, and the entire Presbyterian membership moved to Woodstock, now Philomath, where a new church had been built. The church has been lovingly restored by the community and is now a great role model for us all. To get a sense of how the restoration was accomplished click here and here. Thank you citizens of Philomath for your great stewardship of this historic treasure.
Philomath was established around 1829, and quickly became noted for its beauty, hospitality and culture. By the 1830s a number of large cotton plantations had been laid out in and around Philomath. Much of the early history of Philomath centered around Reid Academy, a boarding school for young men organized in the mid 1840s. Students were housed in small cottages located in the back yards of some of the homes. The school was known throughout the state as one of the finest educational institutions of its time. Georgia Congressmen Robert Toombs and Alexander Stephens were frequent visitors to the school. The community was originally called Woodstock but the name was changed to avoid confusion with another Woodstock, Ga. Recognizing the residents’ high regard for education, Alexander Stephens suggested the name Philomath, meaning “love of knowledge.“
After the final break-up of the Confederate Government took place in 1865 at Washington, Ga., President Davis and his Cabinet separated to avoid capture. General John C. Breckenridge, Secretary of War, traveled with a body of cavalry to Philomath. Stopping at “The Globe,“ Breckenridge and his officers dined with the owner and met one last time in the parlor, deciding it was futile to continue the struggle. Parting addresses were delivered from the porch after which the soldiers received their small wages and were released from service in the Confederate Army, to return to their homes.
Woodrow Wilson was a frequent visitor to Philomath. His father, a Presbyterian minister, was often a guest preacher at the Philomath Presbyterian Church. When in town, the Wilson family stayed at “The Globe.” Woodrow Wilson was said to have loved the town so much that he and his mother often returned to spend vacations there as well.
At the edge of Philomath are The Great Buffalo Lick and The Bartram Trail. The Great Buffalo Lick is a natural expanse of mineral rich clay that was once kept bare from the licking of buffalo and deer. Indians frequented the area because the hunting was good. Buffalo Lick was so well–known as a meeting place for the Indians, that it was designated as one of the key points along the boundary line established between the Indians and the State of Georgia in the Treaty of Augusta in 1773.
This very historic church’s survival and restoration to its present pristine and authentic condition can be attributed to the diligence of its present congregation and special friends in the Philomath Community. Once again we can feature a treasure that might have been lost were it not for caring citizens. And the extent and quality of their restoration can be grasped when looking at the beautiful photograph above of the sanctuary. The concave ceiling or coving is very well crafted and the heart pine gleams. The restored gothic windows, doors and pews are lovely. The old pine floors look as new and stand as a tribute to the toughness and resilience of this no longer available building material.
The quality of the original architectural design as well as the quality of the carpentry is stunning. The wood stained ceiling, wainscoting and window treatments are on a level far above most East Georgia rural churches. The way the ceiling in the apse expresses the exterior, segmented roof is complex, interesting and(given the construction date) extraordinary.
The quality of materials is evident everywhere and certainly in the pews and Gothic arched windows. The use of bead board panelling/wainscot, which has over the years developed a warm patina seen in the photo, is a touching, authentic, decorative element that confirms that Philomath… as reconstituted… is a special site. Many thanks to the families that have joined forces to bring and then keep this old meeting house alive and available.
This view of the church sanctuary today confirms that Philomath was obviously a prosperous community and its namesake church remains true to the meaning of the word, Philomath,”Love of Knowledge”.
What a beautiful instrument to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
This close-up view allows us to see and enjoy the find craftsmanship practiced by the carpenters/builders of Philomath. The cove curves sinuously and serves as a crown mold, decorative element. The bead board wainscoting is well finished as are the stylish and unique gothic window frames. We continue to be struck by the simplicity and elegance of design, quality of materials and the loving restoration we see here.
There are 75 documented interments in the old cemetery with the oldest being that of William Daniel who died in 1858. The largest family group is that of the Nash family whose graves span the years from 1905 to 2010.
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I do you go about getting to see inside of church.
Someone there in Philomath would know who has the key. We would suggest just knocking on a neighbor’s door and asking. Wonderful folks who live there and they are awfully proud of the church.