One of our missions at HRCGA is documentation of some of the old churches that are almost gone, and this one is particularly interesting. Part of the mystery lies in the disconnect with the old cemetery nearby. Though neglected for some time, its hallowed grounds contain some of the very prominent early citizens who settled this part of Marion County, including one with a very close connection to President Jimmy Carter. The village of Pineville is described many times in old, out of print publications as a thriving village that prospered because of the number of successful planters located near by. There is even a book of fiction written about Pineville – Chronicles of Pineville by William Tappan Thompson written in 1853. A History of Marion County Georgia by Nettie Powell states that the fourth church in the county was established around 1830 as a Baptist Church made of pine logs and founded by Elder Andrew Hood. It also describes Pineville as “prosperous little town…..where the planters had a good deal of leisure and culture. Pineville had one of the finest race tracks in the county and crowds frequently gathered here to witness the speed of the well trained horses”.
Today, no trace of Pineville exists except the old church and the cemetery. Pineville has been clearly documented as a community populated with well to do planters and the cemetery bears this out. However, the old church above does not seem to be compatible with this story. The architecture and construction methods do not seem to be a fit with the nature of the graveyard. We are inclined to think there may have been another church nearby that burned or came to some other sad end. But if so, who did this church belong to? It could be an old African American church, and it looks similar to several we have seen. But if this is the case, where is the cemetery associated with it? And it seems unlikely that an African American church would be located between a white church and two white cemeteries.
The cemetery is a very historic one and very neglected as well. There is a sign that says it was established in 1830, and that would be consistent with the first Baptist church mentioned in the history above. The oldest documented interment, according to Findagrave, is 1838 but cemeteries this old usually contain more than a few graves that are now unmarked. There are many 19th century interments, a few 20th century and three in the 21st. One of the graves is that of Martha Nicholson (1819 – 1869), the first wife of Nathaniel Nicholson, President Carter’s Great Grandfather. There are also more than a few CSA veterans interred here. This is good Georgia history and we are intrigued with the ‘Mystery of Pineville Baptist’. Perhaps someone out there has the answer. Stay tuned.
As we look at the front entrance and side wall of Pineville Baptist Church, the contradiction between a “prosperous little town… where the planters had a good deal of leisure and culture” and what we observe is apparent. It is difficult to think that this rude structure could have been the church home of prosperous planters. It stands in stark contrast to other churches in this area that were. None of its archictectural elements… its doors, window frames, foundations, chimney, simple center gable design… reflect the kind of wealth and culture associated with the planter-class. On the other hand, where is the missing Pineville Baptist church?
Looking at the exterior of the apse, we see crude, fairly modern foundation supports and multi paned windows that do not match the others at Pineville. These features support the assumption that this feature was added to the original structure. The question here is “…by whom and when?”
As we step into the interior of the sanctuary, we see the results of what appears to be several decades of neglect. It appears that it has been, most recently, used for something other than religious services. There are no pews remaining, crude tables and debris are scattered throughout, suggesting random occupation. It is a positive observation to see that no gratuitous damage, graffiti or other vandalism is apparent.
Here is a close-up, interior view of the chancel and apse, which we believe was a later addition to the Pineville Baptist sanctuary. Instead of offering us answers to some of the questions that we have raised about this old sanctuary, it raises more! Why are there two crude, large exterior doors with strap hinges adjacent to the apse addition? Were they original or added? Mystery of origin aside, one has to appreciate the power of this image and the spiritual messages that emanated from this very spot so long ago.
The elaborate headstone you see above is that of William M. Cox (1820 – 1881). It is another example of the wealth that existed in this part of Georgia and the little village of Pineville. We know very little of William Cox but a headstone of this quality was a handsome expense, and contributes to the disconnect between the cemetery and the church.
There are eleven Mathews interments in the cemetery and these are some of them. The patriarch was William Mathews Jr. who was born in 1798 and died in 1859. His wife, Elizabeth died in 1869 and is buried beside him. The tall headstone on the left is that of son John Luther, who died in 1883 – the one on the right is daughter Eva who died in 1889.
The headstone on the right is that of John Ephriam Mayo (1759 – 1842), a Revolutionary War soldier who served in North Carolina and moved into Georgia in 1811 with his wife Orpha Elliott and seven children. It is thought that Orpha is buried in the cemetery as well in an unmarked grave. The headstone on the left is George Washington Mayo who served with the 46th Ga Inf and died in 1863. We do not know the circumstances of his death or whether this is his actual burial place or a cenotaph memorial. We also cannot find a connection with John Ephriam, although the name and the location of the grave would indicate one. Perhaps George was John’s grandson but that is just conjecture. We always wish we had more information about these people who are so prominent in our history.
Here lies Martha Johns Nicholson (1819 – 1869), the first wife of Nathaniel Nunn Nicholson, Sr. (1822-1891), President Jimmy Carter’s great grandfather. They married in 1833. Findagrave lists six children but actually they had twelve children born between 1838 and 1862. Three of the male children served in the Civil War but only one survived. According to Ancestors of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, James enlisted on June 4, 1861 in Co. C, 10th Ga Inf, the “Chattahoochee Beauregards.” He made it through many major battles, surrendering in Tallahassee in May 1865. His brother Martin enlisted in November 1861 with the 31st Ga Inf and died in Savannah in January 1862. Brother William enlisted in the same unit as James almost a year later in May 1862. He contracted typhoid fever and died in Richmond in September 1862. After Martha’s death, Nathaniel married Elizabeth Dawson and had three more children. One of these, Mary Ida, was Jimmy Carter’s grandmother.
The little church will not be standing much longer. We always have a sense of urgency to document what we consider to be a historic church when it is in a death spiral like this. Our category of “Almost Gone But Not Forgotten” keeps getting larger. An old church in the rural piney woods like this speaks to another time when Pineville was a bustling community. The old villages just melt away over time, but the cemeteries and churches remain to remind us of who we are and where we came from.
Almost Gone But Not Forgotten
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From whatI understand about the Chancel and the Aspe is that these doors were used for the Preacher to enter and exit
Also for choir people to enter in and also for funerals to enter and exit although the doors seem smaller…
Flowers were brought in and set up around casket…
You have to remember that the possibility of the pews were arranged different too…
Edward Mayo, Sr. Esquire c1650-c1700, born either Wilshire or Gloucester, England, probably Wiltshire, first married September 2,1666, at Christ Church, Barbados, Sarah Maggs b. Barbados dau of George and Ann ? Maggs from England; probably Gloucester, Four children b. Barbados; Sarah, Ann, Elizabeth and Edward Mayo Jr. Edward Sr. went to Charlestown, SC; then to Perquimans Co., NC in 1684. Edward Sr. second married EM Nixon; no issue.
Edward Mayo, Jr. c1676-c1724 first married Elizabeth ? Two children: Edward Mayo III and John Mayo who died young. Edward, Jr. Married second Mary Cleare, twin, 1686-1739 dau of Timothy Clear of England and Mary Bundy; granddaughter of William Cleare/Clare and of William and Elizabeth Bundy of Wiltshire England and RI, Five children of Edward,Jr and Mary Cleare: Mary-unmarried, Ann Elizabeth, Sara-unmarried and Joseph.
Joseph Mayo c1721-c1813 married first Elizabeth Newby. One child: Elizabeth. Joseph married second Mary Shepard, probably dau of Stephen Sheppard/Shepard of Chowan Co., NC. Eight children: Joseph, Jr., William, John, Samuel, James, Sarah, Edward and Cyprian. Joseph died in Wayne Co., NC.
John Mayo, 1759-1842, third child of Joseph Mayo and Mary Sheppard, born Perquimans Co., NC, married Orpha Elliot, dau of Joseph Elliott and Hannah Gordon. John Mayo served in the Revolutionary War. He and Orpha Elliot are buried in Pineville Cem. In Marion County GA. Children included: Elisha, Shepherd, Jesse, Nathan E., Polly, Joseph, John Ephraim, Stephen, Burrell, Axum, and Elizabeth.
Jesse 1790-1864 Third child of John Mayo and Orpha Elliott, born Edgecombe Co., NC. Married Rachael ? born probably in NC. In the Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, Jesse Mayo received lot #2217, 3rd section, 13th district in Murray County; but he sold it while still in Wilkinson Co. Jesse and Rachel moved to Marion Co. They are probably buried at Pineville cemetery or Church Hill in Marion Co. in unmarked graves. Seven known children; Penelope, Benjamin, Elizabeth, John S., Joseph Hillman, George W. and Jesse E. The will of Jesse dated September 8, 1864, mentions his grandson, George W. Mayo and Granddaughter, Elizabeth Trippe.
This is great. Thanks for sharing Terry.
I saw this Church on the YouTube channel named “Sidestep Adventures” the programs are always of this nature… documenting the past where real people have lived their lives and have gone on to their new lives in Christ.
Saw the same shiw… These old cemeteries should be maintained…this one goes back to the 1700s
What a beautiful place to worship God! You would be able to feel the cool breezes come through the open windows and see the stars at night.
Beautiful. My family is from east Texas deep in the Piney Woods. When I was younger we would search out woods near small towns and and find farm houses mills work shops barns and wells so full of history, you could almost hear children laughing. There’s a story in these old places. When you find a cemetery that go with these places then a picture starts to come together. Thank you for allowing these forgotten places and people to shine once more.
Thanks for the support Patricia. This is where we came from and how we got here. Easy to forget sometime.
Hey! First let me say I love your website! We have been visiting the churches on the abandoned and endangered list. We went to see this one today and discovered that the GPS coordinates are off. They are not by much. You actually pass the church just before the turn off that coordinates give you. I posted this in case someone else is interested in going to find this church. I have really enjoyed learning about these historical churches.
Thanks Kelli. We will fix. Glad you are enjoying the road trips.