Rockwell Universalist

Barrow County
Org 1839
Photography by Randy Clegg

Rockwell Universalist is an absolute jewel of a rural church organized in 1839, in what was known as the Mulberry community in Jackson County (now Barrow). The earliest history states “considering the character and free thinking minds of those people, that the seeds of Universalism and liberal thought sown by itinerant preachers, should appeal to them and which later resulted in the organization of the church”. The historical marker at the site states that Rockwell is the second oldest Universalist church in Georgia. The church struggled in the earliest years, and especially so during the Civil War, but was “re-organized” in 1867 by a Doctor Andrews and has prospered ever since.

The church first met in a brush arbor and later in the local school located across the road in the first floor of a two story building – the second floor being used for a Masonic Hall. The church that you see above was erected in 1881 using volunteer labor and donated materials from the community. In the earliest years, the church was named the First Universalist Church of Jackson County but was renamed Mulberry Church when the new sanctuary was dedicated in 1881. In the 1920’s, the church was then renamed Rockwell, in recognition of the Rockwell School and Masonic Hall where its members worshiped for so many years. The school and Masonic lodge had also been a recruiting and training ground for soldiers during the Civil War, as well a Justice Court and a voting precinct known as House’s District.

One of the founding members of the church was John G. House, the local Justice of the Peace and school master…..a forward-thinking man who loved justice and practiced mercy toward his fellow man. John, and his wife Harriet, had four sons and three daughters. All four sons served in the war and two of them paid the ultimate price. The House (also spelled Howse) family roots are very deep in this part of what was then Jackson County………we will visit their family cemetery in later photographs.

Many Universalist state conventions were held at Rockwell and, according to the history, prior to one of these in 1895 the church was finished inside with a ceiling and interior features of lumber donated by one of the members. The historical character of the church has been well maintained over the years, even as development and highways have encroached. We are fortunate that the loving stewardship of the congregants has maintained this old treasure for present and future generations.

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