The town of Powersville was first established under the name of Station #1 when it was first established when the Southwestern Railroad was being built from Macon to Albany from 1853-54. When the first train was due to arrive in Powersville in 1853, a large crowd gathered- farmers, children, and ladies holding parasols to shield themselves from the scorching sun. Most of them had never seen a train. Shortly after, the name of the settlement was changed to Powersville, in honor of Colonel Virgil Powers, who was a civil engineer for the Southwestern Railroad.
The coming of the railroad also turned Powersville into a bustling business center. Over time, it grew to be an important wood and water station and was eventually selected as the most optimal location in southwest Georgia for a cotton factory. At its height, Powersville served as a transportation center for everyone living in a 5-mile radius when people would come to town to board the train for Macon or Fort Valley. Back then, locals would travel to Macon about 3 times per year: once for Spring supplies, once for school clothing and books, and once for Christmas shopping. Farmers also relied on the trains that they would take to Macon to buy fertilizer and farm supplies.
By 1881, Powersville had two stores and five houses, a grist mill, sawmills, cotton gin, blacksmithing, syrup making, and a licensed distillery at Brown’s Mill nearby. A post office opened here in 1882 but the town never incorporated, never listed a specific population, never set boundary lines and at its peak, its population never topped 300. Despite this, Powersville was one of the most prosperous farm communities in the area at that time. The high productive soil type it was discovered that many fruits and vegetables grew well here and at one point, Powersville boasted that it was the Watermelon Center of the world. Local farmers also found success growing corn, cotton, sugar cane, peanuts, apples, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, and grapes.
The crops were so plentiful that many in Powersville were able to operate businesses around the industry. According to locals, one woman named Lena Barnes, who had previously been enslaved on a nearby plantation, would meet the trains to go inside and sell fruit to the passengers.
In 1878, Mr. M.E. Warren established a congregational church at Powersville. Warren was the first station agent for the railroad, the first postmaster, and a farmer. The first building that was constructed for the church was a simple, rectangular, frame building that was later sold to the African American community for use as an A.M.E. church. In 1884, Mr. Warren erected a small church and Sunday school building on Malmason Hill east of Powersville. He named it Allen Chapel for Civil War Captain George W. Allen.
On August 17, 1908, after the worship service, a building committee was appointed to select a new lot for a new house of worship. At the same conference, it was voted by the church membership to make an application to the Congregational Church Building Society of New York for a loan of $500 as a grant to aid in building the church sanctuary and one acre of land was purchased from Mr. W.E. Warren, the sum of $100.
Construction began in January 1909. Thomas J. Burden, the Secretary of the Church kept records of all money taken in and paid out for the building of the church sanctuary. The money was raised by donations and fundraising activities such as oyster suppers, pound parties, tacky parties, and a Valentine’s Day party. It was noted that “Every contribution was recorded from twenty-five cents to one hundred dollars. This was a lesson for us. It showed that not what you gave, but the fact that you gave was of prime importance.” Labor was furnished by members and friends, and the present-day church sanctuary building was completed at a cost of $1,233.02 during the summer of 1909. Originally, it had a big wood stove up front for heat and kerosene lights until electric lights and gas heat were added in the 1940s.
The Church at Powersville remained a Congregational Church until around 1920 when the trustees transferred the present property and building to the Methodist Episcopal Church South. The transfer of property and the change from a Congregational Church to a Methodist Church became official on November 18, 1922. The church became a member of the Byron Charge. In 1935, Georgia 49 was built – bypassing the town and marking the beginning of a decline for Powersville. By 1954, the post office was closed. But this church has continued strong over the years, making updates and maintaining this beautiful structure along the way.
Memorial stained glass windows were installed in 1949 and 1950, being dedicated on April 29, 1951, at Homecoming services. In 1971 carpet was installed, air conditioning was added, pews were refinished and padded cushions were added. Early cooling had been electric oscillating fans attached in the corners of the sanctuary. In 1981 plans were made to renovate the church’s sanctuary building, and storm windows sashes, aluminum siding on the exterior, and the sheetrock on the interior walls were all added.
Most of the residents of Powersville are retired now, they said, and few younger people have moved in. “Most of us have children who come to church here.” said Mrs. Cooper, “and I think the church will be here long after we’re gone.” The last residence built in the town was the church’s parsonage, built in 1961. Despite that, they said, “Powersville is the ultimate in small-town living. Everyone knows everyone else.”
The interior of the original church sanctuary was made of plastered walls with wood wainscot,
and wood ceiling.
The original pulpit was hand made by Mr. Thomas J. Burden in 1909.
The present day alter rail was added in the early 1930’s by Mr. Bony Hartley.
In the early 1920s carbide lights were installed. Electric lights and gas heat was added in the 1940’s.
The beautiful stained glass pieces were added in the 1950s and sponsored by families of the congregation and fundraisers.
The original pews are still in use today.
The original window panes were covered with a paper-like film giving them a stained-glass look until they were replaced with memorial glass in the 1950s.
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I am Church historian of Powersville UMC. I would love to have a hard copy of this article. Please tell me what book it is in and I will gladly order several copies. I am almost 70 years old and have gone there my entire life. Please email any information you have.
Ann, Powersville was just added to our database so it wasn’t included in the book we published a few years ago. You are welcome to print the article from our website.