This is the original sanctuary of Sardis Methodist built in the late 1840’s. As you can see, the sanctuary has had some loving care and maintenance over the last 160 years or so. Some needed improvements have been made over the years but the congregation has made a concerted effort to respect the history……and especially so with regard to the interior. The church was built by Joseph Sessions and his young nephew, Benjamin Franklin Barge. Mr. Sessions donated the land along with some of the building materials and lots of labor by the local community of Trotman. A local history states that some of the material was brought in from Richland by ox cart. Virtually all of the interior is original and a feast for the eye.
According to the local history, the church had fallen victim to termite damage and dry rot in the late 1970’s and the congregation was faced with the decision of rebuilding or remodeling the church. A building committee was appointed to look into the situation and make recommendations. Fortunately for all of us, the committee recommended the renovation and restoration of the church. With donations from members and friends of the congregation and a grant of $ 3,000.00 from the Committee on Missions and Church Extension, the major work of the renovation was accomplished in 1982. As much of the original material as possible was utilized. A narrow, wooden porch extending the width of the building and similar to the original porch was added. The interior was painted and light fixtures of a design which would have been in style during the nineteenth century were installed.
Sardis Methodist is just a wonderful role model for us all in that it is in a very rural location, surrounded by stately oaks and cotton fields. The congregation has always been small, but that did not stop them from protecting and preserving their rural heritage…..and they are still doing it, with monthly services for the congregation that is supplemented with more than a few visitors. The Barge family has been very instrumental in this effort and the cemetery contains several Barge interments. Benjamin Franklin Barge, one of the founders mentioned above, is the oldest of these (1810 – 1873). The Findagrave site states that ” Benjamin was a Soldier in the Creek Indian War in 1836, starting as a Lieutenant then commissioned as a Captain”. The Creek Indian war was the result of General Winfield Scott being sent to Alabama to deal with several episodes of violence and remove the last of the Creeks from Alabama to the Oklahoma territory. Mr. Barge also served in the Civil War, enlisting in April of 1864 at the age of 54. The Barge roots go very deep in this part of Stewart County and we are grateful for their service.
Though significant changes were made to the exterior during the 1970/80’s renovations… most notably the steeple and columned porch… the interior of the sanctuary still presents as a mid-19th century rural Georgia Methodist church. Two wide aisles originate at the male and women/children’s doors as was the custom of the period. Spacious but simple hand crafted wooden pews line the north and south walls and the center pews contain a three foot divider wall to insure the separation of the men from the women and children. Wide, parallel boards were used for the ceiling, narrow, horizontal bead boards sheathe the walls and relatively wide, heart pine boards cover the floors. Window and door frames are simple and their are no decorative flourishes within the sanctuary little or no ornamentation.
The only completely redesigned section within the sanctuary is seen above. The original raised chancel included a tall rail enclosing the usual formidable but austere pulpit. The rail was reduced and replaced with a gothic balustrade and altar rail for communion.
This view from the pulpit confirms the congregation’s intent to keep the Sardis Sanctuary as authentic as possible. Though the lighting is of the 20th century, it is pure 19th century in design and appearance. No other 20th century embellishments are present and the homey, welcoming sanctuary remains inviting and functional. Monthly services are still held here and the congregation, though quite small, remains active and dedicated to insuring Sardis continues to serve its mission for decades to come.
This wonderful shot of the pews and a vision of the flourishing cotton field outside is evidence of the traditions that remain meaningful at Sardis. The cotton field is maintained by a descendent of church founders, the Barge family. The traditional cash crop in this area is cotton. That tradition continues. Within the Sardis sanctuary other traditions continue as well. In the 20th century, many old rural Georgia churches chose to redesign and replace much of the interior and even to remove the hard-seated, straight-backed pews. Sardis stuck with tradition and proudly presents and continues to use these hand made treasures that have served their church since the beginning… over 150 years. Saving relics like these in charming period buildings throughout Georgia insures that these rich architectural, religious and social traditions and landmarks will remain and be available for all to enjoy.
This is the grave of Mark Holloman, Jr. who served with the 17th Ga Inf. and died of “wounds received at the Manassas Aug 30 1862, Aged 20 Years 3 Mos and 10 Days”. His parents and wife are buried beside him and the inscription on the marker, along with his exact age, communicates the angst of loving parents. He died on September 25 which is not unusual for Civil War deaths that often took several weeks before the resulting infection became fatal. This may be a memorial or it may indicate that he was shipped home and died there. As sad as this event was his wife Amanda, who was a year younger, also died a month later in 1862 on Oct. 25. Findagrave lists two Holloman Infants with no date of death but one of the headstones reads “Infant of Mark and Amanda Holloman”. It is speculation on our part but it would appear that Mark went off to war, leaving a pregnant wife who then died in childbirth, possibly with twins. Hard times in the backcountry but life goes on.
Here lie Ann and John Grimes. Ann died in 1860 and John in 1862. The contrast between the two markers is remarkable. Ann’s headstone is a tribute from John to a loving wife who will be greatly missed. John’s memorial is about as plain as they come.
There are ten Barge interments in the cemetery. The obelisk with the urn on top is the grave of founder Benjamin Franklin Barge (1810 – 1873). Not only did he found and help build the church, he also served in the Creek Indian War in 1836 as a Lieutenant and a Captain. In April of 1864, as things were beginning to unravel for the south in the Civil War, Benjamin Barge again felt the call of duty and enlisted as a private with the 55th Ga. at the age of fifty four.
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