The story of Powelton Methodist church is really the story of the village of Powelton itself. One of the oldest villages in Georgia, Powelton was a very important town in the post Revolutionary War Georgia back country. Hancock County was formed in 1795 but Powelton was already a prominent village by then. Indeed Powelton was considered a major crossroad community in early nineteenth-century Georgia. The major east-west artery from Augusta to Greensboro ran through Powelton and one of the major north-south routes ran from Milledgeville to Washington via Sparta, Powelton, and Wrightsboro. At the other end of the village, Powelton Baptist was formed in 1786 by Silas and Jesse Mercer and was subsequently the location of the first Georgia Baptist Convention in 1822. We have seen several mentions of the fact that Powelton, at one time, rivaled Milledgeville for the location of the state capital after Louisville and came up two votes short. A recent Methodist document dated 1961 also mentioned the ‘two votes short’ story.
Many prominent citizens of Georgia resided in this village along with many merchants and commercial enterprises as well as academies of higher education for both men and young ladies. However, as early as the 1860s, Powelton could be described as a mere remnant of the vibrant community that it had once been. Liberty Hall (Alexander Stephen’s home now in Crawfordville), the Richard Malcom Johnston house, the Howell House, and others were dismantled and moved to new locations before the Civil War. Very little history of the Methodist church at Powelton is available but we believe the church was certainly organized prior to 1800. The Baptist Church in Powelton was consecrated in 1786 and the community was very prominent on all early Georgia maps. A prosperous community such as Powelton would likely have both a Methodist church and a Baptist church by the turn of the nineteenth century. The earliest documented grave in the cemetery, according the Friends of Middle Georgia Cemeteries, is dated 1817. However, a short church history in the Emory University archives, written in 1972, mentions graves with dates of 1802 and 1803. As usual, we suspect many unmarked graves are located there.
The current building is not the original but was probably built on the site of the first sanctuary since the cemetery age and location supports that. We have found some recent Methodist records which places the date of the present sanctuary as 1830 and mentions that the the structure was ‘re-roofed’ in 1946. Another brief Methodist history states that the present building replaced an earlier ‘Methodist Meeting House’. The single field stone footings and hand-hewn support timbers attest to an early origin. Regardless of the footings and timbers, the interior of the church is extremely level and stable, a testament to the building skills of early carpenters. The old church is in amazing condition, given its inactivity for over 30 years, but it is badly in need of some basic repairs.
Richard Malcolm Johnston, a prominent Georgia author, was raised and educated in Powelton. He immortalized Powelton in 1871 with his popular book Dukesborough Tales under the pen name Philemon Perch. ‘Here was once a smart village; no great thing of course but still a right lively little village. But it is no use to think about it, because the thing is over and Dukesborough is no more’.