A centennial pamphlet of the history of Pleasant Grove tells us the church was founded as Pleasant Grove Methodist Protestant in 1854. The Methodist Protestant church was established in Georgia in Newton County in 1828. It was described as “democratic Methodism” because the churches called their own pastors. Pleasant Grove, the only Methodist Protestant church in Haralson County, was eventually merged with the Methodist Episcopal church that later became the United Methodist church, although not without some dissension. The first church was a log structure with a school beside it. The beautiful sanctuary you see above was constructed in 1894. In the 1950’s the church was actually moved “back from the road and turned slightly”. Other improvements were made in this time frame, but the church has been well maintained by a loving congregation that treasures their history. Many original elements are retained in the sanctuary.
The land for the church and cemetery was donated by Seaborn Solomon McGarity and his wife, Carolyn Biggers McGarity. Seaborn’s father, Abner McGarity was born in 1780 in Ireland. He arrived in Culpeper County, Virginia, and later migrated through the Carolinas, into Elbert County, Georgia around 1797-1798. Seaborn was born in Elberton in 1814 and eventually moved to Fulton County as Atlanta and the railroads were just beginning to blossom. According to the history, Seaborn thought Fulton was becoming too crowded, so he bought a 15,000 acre landholding at the corner of Paulding and Haralson Counties and started raising a family. It is interesting to note that in the cemetery, there are 34 interments with the surname McGarity.
The cemetery contains many CSA veterans and the sad stories that emerge from that conflict. We have been privileged to document many churches across Georgia that were organized prior to the Civil War and we have seen more than a few church minutes taken in the period of 1860 through 1865. References to the war were rare. There are many that do not mention the conflict at all, and others that may have a brief referral to it now and then. We mention this because the cemeteries contain the remains of so many congregants and their families that suffered through this terrible period in our history, and we need to remind ourselves that these were just the survivors. We have no way of knowing how many never came home again to these spiritual places of refuge.
Be sure to click and scroll the gallery photos below for more history on Pleasant Grove Methodist.
As you saw in the introductory exterior building photo, this church building is relatively flamboyant. We see some late Victorian period elements but on the whole it presents as a totally, unique style. In this photo, we are looking into the sanctuary from underneath the cased arch of the vestibule. We see a lovely chancel, communion area and the pulpit. The sanctuary presents as an inviting, rectangular structure whose ceiling is of a suspended truss design. This allows for the ceiling to be raised so as to create the cathedral-like interior seen her
The sanctuary has undergone some changes over the past 120 years, but it still remains much as it was in 1898. Here we see a close-up of the lovely chancel area, the handsome communion area and its lovely balustrade. The apse area is defined by heart pine vertical boards which match the tone and finish of the balustrade, pulpit and chancel furniture.
We are not sure if the present pews seen here are original furniture or were purchased and placed during one of the mid-20th century renovations. In any case they are attractive, scrolled-arm pews that match the overall tone of all the wooden decorative furniture and fit well into the atmosphere of this church.
Here we get a good luck at the massive, attractively designed pulpit with its two decorative, pillar tables. We are told that this striking pulpit was hand made in the early days of this church by a member of the congregation, J.H.Lyle. It has remained in place for over 120 years and is a testament to the stewardship of the Pleasant Grove congregation.
In this photo taken from the pulpit, we can see the entire sanctuary and appreciate its coziness and sense of quiet grace. We can also see an open bible. This bible was printed in 1868 before the present church structure was built. It is believed to have been used in the building in place in 1868 and then taken to the new church in 1898. We find it comforting that this old bible has been in the hands of the congregation since it was printed. Having such a relic on hand is a sign of the constancy and caring of the membership down through the ages.
In this final interior shot, we can appreciate the soft ambient light that flows into the sanctuary through its dozen, tall, wood framed, sashed 6 over 6 clear glass paned windows. We also have the chance to comment on how neat, tidy, clean and presentable we have seen the church to be in every interior photo. Continuous signs of both interior and exterior preventative maintenance have been of the highest order at Pleasant Grove. We salute its congregation and thank them for providing others to a chance to appreciate this quirky, unique old monument to the past for generations to come.
George Washington Butler was born June 16, 1830 in South Carolina and died November 5, 1906. He was a corporal in Company G, 40th Georgia Infantry. He was married to Minerva Antonet Henry and they had ten children. Butler’s wife and four of their children are also buried at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church cemetery.
Robert Barton Biggers was born in 1786 and died in 1876 at the age of 89. He was the father of Caroline Biggers McGarity, the founders of the church that donated the original land. He is also the father of Rev. Thomas Jefferson Biggers seen in the next photo.
Rev. Thomas Jefferson Biggers, Sr. was born July 6, 1832 in Rockdale County, Georgia. He died April 13, 1925 in Haralson County. He died of flu and pneumonia at the age of 92. He married Catherine M. Huey September 10, 1856 in DeKalb County, Georgia. They had seven children. He enlisted as a private in Company G, 40th Georgia Infantry March 4, 1862. He was captured at Baker’s Creek, Mississippi on May 16, 1863. He was paroled at Fort Delaware July 3, 1863. He was sent home on sick furlough July 1, 1864. He was of Scotch Irish lineage and was a circuit rider Methodist preacher and pastor of Pleasant Grove Methodist. He became blind later in life and was known as "Blind Biggers" but he continued his ministry at camp meetings and revivals until a very old age.
This tombstone marks the grave of John A. Vinson, born October 9, 1828, died August 21, 1904 and his wife Juliette Matilda Broadnax Vinson, born November 15, 1837, died December 9, 1902. They were married September 5, 1855 in Alabama. John A. Vinson served in Company K, Floyd Legion (State Guards) during the Civil War. He was a Corporal and enlisted July 22, 1863.
James Henry Lyle was born November 23, 1821 and died November 9, 1896. His wife, Georgia Ann Williams was born July 17, 1825 and died October 2, 1908. He was a private in Company K, Floyd Legion, Georgia State Guards, CSA. He is listed in the 1864 census as a blacksmith. Ancestry records show he was an excellent carpenter and in 1894 he designed and built a pulpit for Pleasant Grove UMC. The wood is smoothly carved and polished to a shine. All work was done by hand. When he died he was buried in a casket he made for himself.
William Coker White was born March 12, 1827 in Panthersville, DeKalb County, Georgia and died December 7, 1912 in Haralson County, Georgia. He enlisted March 4, 1862 with Company D, 42nd Georgia Infantry, CSA. He resigned by special order at Richmond, Virginia on August 28, 1862. His family owned lumber mills in DeKalb County and helped supply lumber for the Confederacy. After the war his family moved to Haralson County where they farmed and established a successful lumber business.
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Does your team ever run across old church pews from churches no longer in use or in very bad shape. I am looking to try to find an old church pew for our log cabin. Or , do you know how I can contact any administrators of some of these churches to ask please?
Sorry, we can’t help you with this, Gary- but it sounds like a great project so we wish you the best of luck finding some!
I am thankful that you all are keeping the memory of these churches Alive.. They are the backbones of Rural Georgia.