Smyrna Church was organized by two Presbyterian ministers in 1785. For a number of years there was no church building and the members worshiped in their homes or under brush arbors. Sir John Talbot, an Episcopalian, had moved to Wilkes in 1783 to occupy his land grant of 50,000 acres. During the 1780’s he had been disappointed to find no Episcopal Church to attend. In 1788 he decided to affiliate with the Presbyterians and worship with them. In 1793 he deeded two acres of land to the Presbyterians. A church made of logs with a gallery for slaves was erected that year, and Reverend John Springer, the first Presbyterian minister to be ordained in Georgia, became its first pastor.
By 1820, the church had not thrived and membership had fallen to just 15. Those congregants decided it best to transfer their membership to the more successful and active Washington Presbyterian church and offer their building to the Methodists who soon had a flourishing Society there. During the 1840’s, the Presbyterians and Methodists held union camp meetings annually on the church grounds under brush arbors.
In 1860 the Methodists decided to demolish the log structure and build a larger frame structure. That church was remodeled in 1883 and stood until 1911 when the present structure was built. Smyrna is still, in the 21st Century, an active and vibrant member of the community. The Smyrna cemetery is one of the most historic in this section of the state. Here lie Sir John Talbot and his son Matthew, President of the Georgia Senate in 1811, 1817-22 and briefly as Governor of Georgia in 1819. Also present are Revolutionary War officers and War of 1812 officers as well as soldiers of every other war in which the United States was engaged in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.
After the Presbyterians moved out in 1820 to join the Washington congregation, the Methodists used the old log church until 1860. In that year, a frame church was built and later remodeled in 1883. In 1911 a more significant, center steeple(which added in the mid 20th century) structure was erected on the site of the 1860 church. It still stands… in remarkable condition… today.
A mid-20th century annex was added at the rear of the church to serve the needs of the growing congregation. Its placement and design was carefully calculated so as not to conflict with Smyrna’s historic burying grounds from which ts photo was taken.
Thanks to an active, committed congregation and support group over the many, many years, Smyrna’s present interior is in remarkable condition and accurately presents a properly traditional, 20th century sanctuary. The lovely gothic windows provide maximum natural illumination today just as they did before Edison invented the electric light bulb. The two stained glass windows flanking the entryway are particularly fine and elaborate.
Smyrna burying ground was laid out in 1788, just 5 years after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, and well before George Washington was elected the first President of the United States! That treaty had confirmed the independence of our new country. The grave yard provides an opportunity to ramble among the historic grave markers… obelisks, tablets, false crypts, wall vaults, table or box tombs, ledger markers and many other later monuments/markers typical of the Victorian era. The Smyrna cemetery is one of the most historic in this section of the state. Here lie Sir John Talbot and his son Matthew, President of the Georgia Senate in 1811, 1817-22 and briefly as Governor of Georgia in 1819. Also present are Revolutionary War officers and War of 1812 officers as well as soldiers of every other war in which the United States was engaged in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.
Above we see the Harper Family lot enclosure. It is quite elaborate and made of iron, cast and wrought. This type of enclosure indicates that it was erected around or after the 1850’s when decorative iron was available and affordable(by the elite) from Georgia and Alabama foundries!
This a large multiple family enclosure made of quarried, Georgia granite blocks. Each of the large blocks of granite were quite heavy and cumbersome, expensive to quarry, deliver and lay. Because of these problems, smaller plots enclosed by iron and dedicated to use by one extended family became the norm. There are 240 documented interments in the Smyrna cemetery.
Your tax-deductible donation to Historic Rural Churches will help keep history alive through digital and physical preservation efforts for Georgia’s rural churches, their history and the communities that support them.
Full Name *
Sign me up for the newsletter!
Donald Durden, a former member of your church, has passed away, November 2nd, 2019.