We are told that the last regular church service was held at Pleasant Hill Methodist in 1956, but you would never guess that was the case since the little church in the woods is almost in pristine condition. To put it another way, there have not been regular services at the church for over six decades but the church looks almost pure in appearance, inside and out. We think Pleasant Hill is a remarkable success story and a good role model for what can be accomplished with love, a little money and a group of people who realize the importance of preserving these old rural treasures.
The church was organized in 1879. The property of two acres was purchased for four dollars from the Foye Lumber Company. According to the old deed the property was at the end of Ivey Clarks Mill Dam. Its first pastor was Rev. T. J. Nease. Some early family names connected to the church in the 1880’s and 1890’s were: Clark, Hendrix, Miller, Saunders and Williams. Johnathan Hendrix and Perry Hendrix were among the organizers of the church and helped build the building that stands today.
The renovations that have been made over the years show that the pine log sections on which it once rested have been replaced by concrete supports and the building has been wrapped in vinyl. This has stabilized the foundation and eliminated the need for painting the exterior. The interior is very close to the original and any renovations have been done with a strong sense of original preservation. It is a visual feast and a tribute to the members who appreciate and safeguard the 1879 heritage.
The uplifting moral of the story for us is that Pleasant Hill Methodist is another example of a very remote, rural church that has served the community for over 125 years. These churches can survive with a small cadre of people who maintain the sanctuary and feel a sacred obligation to do so. The church is used occasionally for special events we are told, and there is an annual reunion in October of each year with dinner on the grounds. We applaud the stewardship of this group of people who have taken care of this rural treasure for all these years and will pass it on to future generations. While there are plenty of remote rural churches that have succumbed to abandonment and neglect, Pleasant Hill is a shining example that shows us it doesn’t have to be that way.
Because Pleasant Hill was been dormant for so many years, its interior did not undergo modernization and provides us a look at a Methodist sanctuary from the 1880's frozen in time. The structure is truly a rectangular box with standard hidden truss ceiling and roof and structural support provided by the interior columns and exposed center beam. The ceiling and walls are finished with narrow heart pine boards with wider boards used for the flooring. Support columns are also heart pine and chamfered to slightly reduce the obstruction of the views of the chancel and altar from the pews. Ceiling hung electric lighting fixtures are some of the few items/features added within the sanctuary since its construction over 130 years ago.
This detail view of the chancel, altar balustrade and pulpit is typical of a rural church of the period. The three chairs are also period, and the lack of any decorative elements other than moulded window frames and a single picture of Jesus is an authentic presentation of an 1880's church.
This view from the pulpit lets us experience the comfortable sanctuary naturally illuminated by the light flowing through the clear paned, six over six sashed windows. We can also get a feel for the relatively large size of the sanctuary and its many original pews capable of comfortably seating 200 or more. It is no wonder that this repurposed jewel is the site of special events.
This detail exhibits how the brown, painted horizontal wallboards produce the decorative illusion of a more formal wainscoting throughout the church…a very inexpensive, pleasing decorative touch. We can also appreciate by the view out of the window that the church and its historic cemetery are nestled together in this out of the way spot. It is so heartening that a historic place like this has been preserved by interested individuals for continuing future visitation, study and use.
Look at this detail of the original pews and you will see how labor intensive hand planing and forming these benches was. Huge, wide single boards were usually shaped into dimension lumber using drawknives, shaves, scorps or bench planes. The wavy planing marks on these pews indicate they were probably shaped using a shave. Sandpaper or other fine finishing materials were certainly not available in backwoods Georgia of the 19th century to remove the gouge marks! How many strokes can you see on each of the pew sides above? The answer is "…a whole lot." We feel it is important that examples of these long-lost crafts and techniques remain for us to view, marvel at, understand and appreciate. We hope you agree.
This is the grave of Thomas H. Joiner, 5th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry - the Screven Guards. He was born in 1844 and survived until 1933. He joined young and lived a long time. He would have been one of the dwindling veterans of the conflict still alive in 1933.
There are 204 documented interments in the cemetery. Some of the original families such as Hendrix, Williams and Mincey are well represented. The above grave is that of baby Otis Lamar Mincey, who died in 1909 at the age of five months. According to the inscription Baby Otis was an only child. Infant mortality was a sad fact of life a hundred years ago and life on a rural Georgia farm in the late 1800's was witness to a lot of it. There are eleven Mincey interments in the cemetery. One of them, James M. Mincey who died in 1912, carries the following information from Findagrave: Mincey, James M. - 61st Georgia Infantry - 3rd Sergeant - September 9, 1861. Elected 2nd Lieutenant. Wounded at 2nd Manassas, Virginia, August 30, 1862; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1, 1863. Wounded through lungs, left shoulder and thigh, and captured at Monocacy, Maryland, July 9, 1864. Exchanged at Point Lookout, Maryland, September 30, 1864. (Born in Georgia, October 25, 1842.). We do not know what the family relationship was between baby Otis and James M. but there almost certainly was one.
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