Salem Methodist

Atkinson County
Org 1889
Photography by Randall Davis

Salem Church was built in 1889 on an old Indian pathway, the Kinnaird Trail, considered the oldest public road in Wiregrass Georgia. It later became a stagecoach relay station when the stagecoach route followed the old Kinnaird Trail.  The route was used by Indians and traders traveling from St. Mary’s to an Indian trading post on the Flint River operated by Jack Kinnaird.   Martin S. Corbitt, the founder of the church, was born here in 1840 and married his cousin, Leonora Wealtha Pafford in 1867.  Their home was just south of the cemetery.  Mr. Corbitt donated materials and 2 acres of land for the Salem Church and Cemetery, and it was built by him, Waver Roberts, and other family members.  According to family history, the pews and benches were built by two of their sons – William and Martin.  The church was used as both a church and a school, with some of the Corbett children and grandchildren serving as teachers.

The Corbitt roots run deep at Salem Methodist.  In 1861 Martin, along with brothers William and Manning, enlisted with the 50th Georgia Volunteer Infantry early in the war in 1861.  Manning was wounded and captured at Antietem.  He died two months later of infection and is buried in Maryland.  William was shot in the head at Fredericksburg and died of his wounds several days later.  He is buried in Richmond.  Only Martin survived and returned home to the Georgia pineywoods to begin his life anew in a ravished land.  He married his cousin, Wealtha Pafford in 1867, and carved out a life in a troubled time. Mr. Corbitt lived here all but the last 11 years of his life, when he moved to Pearson and became its Mayor.  Wealtha was the first person buried in the Salem Church Cemetery in 1896.   Martin died on July 1, 1913, and was buried with full Masonic Rites in the Salem Church Cemetery beside Wealtha.

On the last Sunday in September each year, the Corbitt descendants have reunion services in Salem Church to pay tribute to the memory of their ancestors.   Two of the Corbitt descendants, Joe and Donnetta Wilkinson, still live nearby and are responsible for the loving maintenance and care of this backroads jewel.  Thank you, Joe and Donetta, for your stewardship of this sweet little church in the rural wiregrass pineywoods.