Providence Methodist was founded in 1832 on two acres of land donated by Rev. David Lowe. The first structure was a log building, which was replaced by the present structure in 1859 on two acres of land across the road from the old church. The church is located in what is now Providence Canyon State Park, and was named for the church. These “canyons” are billed as a tourist attraction and a “remarkable natural wonder that is sometimes referred to as Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon”. However the canyons are, in reality, the result of poor farming practices that were common in the mid 19th century. Massive erosion in the soft, unstable sub surface became the canyons of today in a relatively short period of time. This was not uncommon in Georgia where abundant cheap land led to many years of agrarian abuse.
The church is one of the oldest in the county and has been preserved virtually intact. It has some unusual construction features that are worth a close look, including the hipped roof, which was unusual for the time period. The following photos are a visual feast and a tribute to the old settlers who populated and worked the land prior to the Civil War. The cemetery contains many of these original settlers. The old minutes also reveal that in 1861, there were thirty seven slaves who were members of the Providence Church. According to the History of Stewart County, “The road from to the church was once a prominent Indian Trail. It turned at the present site of the church, continuing on to the present site of Omaha and on to the large village of Oconee on the Chattahoochee.
To give the year of 1832 and the relations with the Indians some perspective, legal settlement began with the state’s fifth land lottery, held in 1827. Unfortunately, the treaty that wrested west Georgia from Native Americans ended in conflict. By 1836 the remaining Creek Indians began ambushing homes and communities in desperation. The settlers called on Governor Schley for protection. Schley sent state militia volunteers from Gwinnett County to establish three local forts—Ingersoll, Jones, and McCreary. On May 15, 1836, the river settlement of Roanoke was burned by a reported 300 Indians. On June 9 the Battle of Shepherd’s Plantation marked an end to skirmishes in the county and, essentially, in the state.
We are grateful to the members of the Lumpkin Methodist Church who have “adopted” this historical icon and have been such good stewards. She stands just like she did in 1859 as the south was sliding into the abyss of the Civil War. The cemetery is quite a visual treat as well, containing many of the old original settlers. These hallowed burial grounds contain many unmarked graves of the original residents that were originally marked with wooden markers and/or field stones that have disappeared over time. Old Providence is still standing tall over these grounds as she has for over 150 years. She is a real treasure.
This is a view of the sanctuary at Providence Methodist. This lovely small church presents itself much as it has always been since its construction in 1859. The congregation of Providence was made up of ordinary folks and its modesty reflects that congregational heritage. Since it was not a wealthy plantation church, there are few architectural embellishments and no slave gallery – but the records still show 37 black members in 1861. It is likely that the white and black services were held separately. As it is, it is an authentic and charming example of a typical rural church in Georgia in the mid-19th century. It is a true treasure.
We choose to include this photo since it highlights the authenticity of this meeting house. Notice the wide, heart pine floorboards on which the original hand hewn pews rest. The pews are also of long leaf pine, the dominate tree present in this area of Georgia. Notice that the pews are joined using the ancient mortise and tenon technique (notice the seat tenons that penetrate the sides of the pews and can easily be spotted in this view)… no nails or screws. Also interesting is the presence of the ubiquitous, wood burning stove originally used as the primary heat source in every one of these early churches. Very seldom do we find these stoves still present. Most were removed when central heating became available or “disappeared” when someone decided to appropriate these valuable appliances for their own use when the church shut its doors.
The chancel has likely been modified and upgraded along with the moulded window frames. But the original doors remain in use and vertical and horizontal wall and ceiling boards remain as they were installed in 1859.
These old churches were usually lit by ceiling mounted oil lanterns and wall sconces which disappeared when electric lighting became available in these remote villages. The Providence sanctuary is one of the very few where old-style lamps remain the only lighting source.
Here we see the foot pedal organ that was used in many churches from the mid 19th century into the 20th. This one is showing its age but was probably the primary accompaniment along with the piano. It doubtlessly witnessed thousands of services and events during its lifetime.
As earlier stated, we seldom find a church, active or abandoned, that still has an old wood stove in the sanctuary. We find this one particularly intriguing and have done all we could to trace its history and provenance. Usually, the manufacture’s name is clear and common, not this time. So far, we have found no answers or hints as to its place and time of manufacture. Since we are not experts, can any of you more experienced followers help us solve this mystery? The front loading door bears the cast inscription of: OK MAGIC. The air regulator vents beneath that door bear the casting “26” left and “5” right. Beneath those regulator vents appears a casting which appears to be “OK S.R. CO.” This box stove (may be a clue…as opposed to the more frequently seen pot-bellied stove) is silvered as a nickel finish/plate might be and the overall casting is rough, sand finished. Let us know if you have clues or solutions, please.
Here lies Wright Yelverton (1832 – 1890) and his older brother Moses (1822 – 1887). According to the headstone and the application for it, Wright served with Company E in the 31st Ga Inf. Brother Moses was a Mason but apparently never married and had no children. Notice the small white cross at the lower right signifying an unmarked grave. Almost all of these early rural cemeteries contain a great number of unmarked graves, that originally had either wood or plain fieldstone markers.
Here lies George W. Keith who, according to the records, served in the 24th Georgia Infantry as a musician. Being a musician sounds like a safe position but George died in 1862, as did his son, George, Jr who is buried beside him. We do not know the circumstances of George’s death and it is likely that this is a cenotaph in his memory. George’s wife, Jane, married Michael Duskin in 1865. The Duskin family plot is on a subsequent photo.
The fenced burial plot above is that of the Duskin family. The first grave is that of the patriarch, Sgt. Michael Duskin (1840 – 1911) who served with the 2nd Ga Infantry, and the second is that of his wife, Jane Keith Duskin (1841 – 1908). Jane Duskin married her first husband, George W. Keith, in 1860 (See previous photo). He served with the 4th Ga. Inf. and was killed in 1862. They had one son, George Jr. who also died in 1862. Jane and Michael were married in 1865 when he returned from the war. They then had four children, only one of whom would live beyond the age of thirteen. Life in the Georgia backcountry was difficult and high child mortality was all too common.
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It is a sham that the grave sights are not being taken care of they should be….
My 5th great grandfather John (Jack) Wilburn (Wilbourn) was a Methodist minister that came to Stewart Co from Clarke County in 1800’s. He died there as well. Have not been able to find his church or grave. Are there any records of ministers from this church?