Pleasant Hill is our first church in Towns County, located along the North Carolina border in the beautiful North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. The church you see above was founded by James Calvin Ellis, born in 1826 in Iredell County, North Carolina. He moved to Cherokee County, Georgia around 1847 and married Elizabeth Susanna Wallace in 1850. He eventually moved to Towns County where he became a successful farmer and a leading citizen. The little church sits on land that was part of the Ellis farm and was donated to the church at its founding in 1875. Until 1964, the property was owned by the Methodist Church, but it then became inactive and went through a series of land transactions involving multiple owners. In 2003, 128 years after the original land donation, the church was returned to the Ellis family who have done a superb job of restoration and maintenance.
According to the family, the church burned sometime around the turn of the century but was rebuilt to its original condition, including the shake roof you will see in one of the subsequent photos. The most recent renovation was done in 2004 by the present owners, Jerry and Lucy Ellis. The church had been inactive for decades and was being used for the storage of hay until Mr. Ellis was able to acquire it and bring it back to it’s original condition. This simple structure was typical of the mid 19th century rural church architecture in this part of Georgia. Most of them are gone now and all of us owe the Ellis family our sincere gratitude for their loving stewardship of this wonderful example of our Georgia heritage. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and the above photo will attest to that. The simple structure along with the fieldstone markers is a fitting tribute to the tough and hard working people who moved into this part of Georgia so long ago to carve a life out of the mountain wilderness.
Here we see what a wonderful job Jerry and Lucy Ellis have done in restoring the Pleasant Hill sanctuary to its original condition. The interior is authentic and typical of rural Georgia churches of the mid 19th century. The walls rise toward the suspended truss roof framing then slant inward to the ceiling to create a cathedral-like atmosphere. All the interior surfaces are sheathed with pine boards. The horizontal wall boards contrast with the vertical floor and ceiling boards providing a pleasant decorative element within. It is hard to believe that this charming, rustic space had been abandoned for years and often used as a dry storage area for hay before the Ellis’ took the church under their wings!
The original sanctuary appeared not to have a special, raised chancel and pulpit area, and the restoration reflects that fact. Benches and chairs and maybe a movable pulpit as well, were probably used by the preacher and other officials. The present contemporary lectern and communion table are used now for special events and services. The pews, though not original, are antiques and of the period.
This view from the pulpit area is reflective of the same view that would have been seen within the original meeting house. Wide double doors would welcome in the congregation. Similar pews would sit to the right and left of the main isle. And, gas lights such as the one above would be strategically hung to augment the ambient light streaming from the windows. The period oil lantern you see provides the present lighting for this sanctuary since no electricity is available.
The six over six sashed windows are contemporary but cased in the original openings. Since the church is so small, these windows provide adequate light within for any present events and reunions. Worth noting is the man-hole space in the ceiling that allows entry to the open attic above created by the suspended truss roof support design.
James Calvin Ellis (1826 – 1911) and his wife Elizabeth (1834 – 1911), original founders of the church, are interred here. They had twelve children and died one week apart in June of 1911. According to the family, Mr. Ellis served with the Home Guard during the war. We cannot find a record of the service but this would not be unusual. We do know there was very divided opinion regarding secession in this part of Georgia and both sides were represented in this manner, sometimes leading to violent conflict. Findagrave has documented only ten graves in the little cemetery but the field stone markers will attest to many unmarked graves.
We are always pleased to be able to present earlier views of the rural churches we are presently documenting. The one above was taken as Pleasant Hill was slipping into abandonment during the mid-20th century. This photograph reflects the lack of maintenance that could be provided by its dwindling congregation. The building needs repainting, the church yard is not well kept and the shake roof is definately showing signs of very old age… curling and missing shakes and problems with its ridge. Somehow, the structure remained dry and sound enough so that the Ellis family was able to complete a successful restoration in the early 21st century. Aside, from a good painting and interior repairs that they accomplished, their replacing the shake roof with a tin one provides a guarantee of many more years of faithful service by this historic relic.
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