The Sardis story must begin with the land itself and the Cherokee Indians. The church stands approximately 13 miles west of Rome on Georgia Highway 20. Sardis, with its cemetery to the west and a spring of fresh water in the woods to the east, lies at the foot of Turnip Mountain, just west of a pass between Turnip and Heath Mountains known for generations as “the Narrows.” The pass was widened to a road, then a two lane highway, and now a four lane highway with median. We do know there was a large Cherokee settlement in this area.
In 1821 the first missionaries were sent to this part of Georgia to establish the Turnip Mountain Mission to the Cherokees. Their residence was located on this site just north of the cemetery wall. The mission they established was known as Haweis and was located two miles to the east. Sardis Presbyterian church was organized in November 1836. The first building, a log structure covered with planks, stood just north of the church. The present building was constructed in 1855. During the Civil War, many young men of the congregation enlisted in the army. One group, the Sardis Volunteers, was organized on the church grounds on May 9, 1861 and became part of the 6th Georgia Cavalry. In 1863, Major Alfred Bale of the Sardis Volunteers, was killed near Dandridge, Tennessee, and his body was returned to Sardis for burial. The following year, Lt. Col. Charles Bale was killed at Resaca, Georgia, and he was buried beside his brother. These are two of the most distinctive grave markers in the cemetery which includes a total of nineteen known Civil War soldiers.
In 1877 a Sunday School was organized and church membership reached a high of 173 but with the Reverend Crawford’s departure from the church in 1878, the church began a slow but steady decline. By 1892 church membership fell to 82 members and by 1907, the church roll showed only 34 members. Church records show that many of the early members died during the later part of the 19th century and many families sought new opportunities in expanding towns and cities. The church persevered, although attendance figures continued to drop and finally, in 1979, Sardis Presbyterian church was officially dissolved. The Cherokee Presbytery permitted the building to be used for church services twice a year for several years. Fortunately, many members of the community banded together to save the church and, in 1989, the church was deeded to the Sardis Preservation Society and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in January 2005.