Smith Chapel

Gone But Not Forgotten County
Org 1850
Photography by Andy Sarge

According to The Heritage of Carroll County, Ga 1826 – 2001, Smith Chapel Methodist was founded by Rev. John Thurman in 1851 on land that he owned near Bowdon in Carroll County.  We are told that Rev. Thurman had preached the first sermon in Marthasville, now known as Atlanta, shortly after it was founded but moved his family to Carroll County around 1850. The Thurman roots are deep in this part of Georgia and the cemetery next to the little church contains 47 Thurmans and their descendants.  The original name of the church was Mount Pleasant.  It was built as a log structure with two doors and a large fireplace.  Twenty eight years later, a new church was built that also served as a school.  The history then states that the Methodist Conference “replaced” Rev. Thurman with Rev. Seaborn Smith, and the church members decided to rename the church Smith Chapel in honor of the new pastor.  Rev. Thurman then sold the church and the cemetery to the church trustees for five dollars on September 10, 1892.  This is the third church at this location as the present structure was built in 1896. 

Below is a history of Smith Chapel Methodist Church from “The Heritage of Carroll County, Georgia 1826-2001” published in 2002:

Around 1850, John Thurman bought land and erected a church where the road from the Thurman house crossed Buchanan Road. It had a rock chimney and logs covered with hand hewn boards. Logs for the floor, which was leveled with an adz, had holes in each end for hickory pins. No nails were used. Posts on each side of the pulpit held tallow candles.  Admitted to the Methodist Protestant Conference in 1852, it was named “Mount Pleasant” by Rev. Thurman’s wife, Martha Ann McDaniel Thurman. Membership included: Thurmans, Parkers, Gambles, Davenports, Jeters, Stamps, Holmes, Alexanders, Moons, McCrays, Robinson, Brown, Ragans, Crawfords, McBurnetts, Thompsons, Upchurches.

In 1875 a more modern structure using iron nails replaced the original. Pastor Anderson Smith renamed it “Smith Chapel” honoring his deceased son, Rev. Seaborn Smith. It also became a school. Nannie Thurman, wife of John Nance was a teacher.  Eventually, people attending other churches reduced membership. Descendants of early members comprise the present Memorial Association. James L. Thurman, son of Rev. John Thurman, directed construction of the existing structure in 1896.

Rev. Anderson Smith, pioneer of Christianity in Western Georgia, and Rev. John Thurman, distinguished early Georgia Methodist minister who organized Methodist Protestant churches across Georgia, are buried here. Rev. Thurman preached the first sermon in Marthasville, now Atlanta. Reportedly, he moved to Carroll County to avoid rearing his family near the railroad’s negative influences.  Emory and Wilma Marlow purchased and restored Smith Chapel in 1988.”  Mr. Marlow cited sources for the article as the papers of Dr. J.C. Griffies, Rev. Seaborn D. Campbell, tradition, and memories of older citizens.

Smith Chapel is a wonderful tribute to the vibrant community that was established here over 150 years ago.  We are grateful to the Marlows and their children for their loving restoration and care of the sanctuary and the cemetery.  It is another good example of Georgia’s rural history that can be passed on to future generations.

We have a sad update about this special church. 

On January 4, 2021, Carroll County Sherriff’s responded to a call about a fire at Smith’s Chapel. They worked with Carroll County Fire Rescue to put out the blaze that had completely engulfed the sanctuary. Unfortunately, the structure was burned too badly to be saved and was deemed a total loss. Investigators surmised that the fire had been set by vandals, and within a month, suspects had been arrested, but the damage to Smith’s Chapel can never be undone. 

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