St. Marks Lutheran was organized in the late 1860s by German immigrants who moved in from South Carolina. The church was built in 1870 in the community of Botsford, located about five miles west of Plains. The little village of Botsford no longer exists but fortunately, the church has recently been acquired and restored by private owners and moved a short distance away. More about this later. The cemetery is still there of course and we are fortunate that our photographer had previously documented the old church before the move. The before and after shots are quite striking. St. Marks as been saved from an uncertain future.
There are very few Lutheran churches in rural Georgia. Most of Georgia’s early pioneers were English and Scots Irish and were predominantly Baptist and Methodist with Presbyterians running a distant third. The early settlers of Botsford were immigrants of German decent and were all from the Dutchforks area of South Carolina, located around what is now Newberry and Lexington counties. They had migrated to South Carolina as a result of the state’s efforts to lure Europeans to the back country with offers of free land in the mid 1700’s. Some descendants of these early German Lutherans are still in the area. Mt. Zion – St. Luke is a large and prosperous Lutheran congregation in Oglethorpe with direct ties to the little church of St. Marks in Botsford.
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These are interior pictures taken several years ago prior to the church being moved. As you can see the interior was quite modest but comfortable. The building is the classic rectangular box with unadorned gable ends and a spare interior but still was a lovely and functional site. The congregation had scattered, and the church was no longer functional. The interior furnishings remained and the church sat fallow.
This view from the chancel to the front entrance confirms that the church was a very simple construction with no frills. The green paint and carpet were obviously modern improvements. The building itself, though not imposing, was an attractive, authentic style and in excellent condition for a one and a half century old structure… no leaks, no rotting superstucture no foundation problems.
This is the current view of the rear of St Marks from the cemetery. It has been placed on a lovely lot and completely restored and refurbished. The paint is fresh, the foundation solid and apparently ready to hold up this restored church for another 150 years or so. What a beautiful rural setting for the church and the cemetery.
The cemetery is just about as old as the church with several graves in the 1870’s. There are 71 interments with the oldest being that of baby Joseph Jennings who died after one year of life. This was a common theme when looking at the old cemeteries and the stories they tell. Of the 71 interments, there were 13 belonging to the Jennings family and seven of these were children who died at an early age. Life was never easy on the Georgia frontier.
This photo of the finished restoration shows what lovely changes for the better have been made. The old wall covering and ceiling tile was removed revealing the original wide pine ceiling and wall boards. The carpet that had covered the original heart pine floors was removed as well. All of the interior pine surfaces were lovingly refinished. St. Marks is now in good hands and has been lovingly restored. This is a good example of private owners acquiring the church property and doing whatever is required to stabilize and preserve the history of these historic treasures.
This close-up allows us to better appreciate the remarkable transformation that has taken place at St Marks. The walls and floors are now “as they were”… authentic. The beauty of these period pews in the foreground with the natural beauty of the Georgia rural countryside speaking to you through the generous use of the nine over nine windows is stunning. What a friend we have in Jesus.
This is a great example of a private owner taking responsibility for preserving this majestic example of rural Georgia history. We applaud these and other efforts across the state to save these treasures. Thank you so much for your stewardship.
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My husband and I went to the former location this afternoon. We would love to see the church, could someone tell us where it has been moved.
Janet, the map on the website must be the old location where the cemetery is. We will get you the new address asap.
Thank you for this site! I’m watching Saving Grace right now. I knew about the Lutherans in Macon County- some of my families married into the Lutheran families there-but I didn’t know about this church. It sounds like the same large group had several churches, at least three. Are there more in nearby areas?
Hi Ginger. We think there are several Lutheran churches that were formed in that part of Georgia by the same German immigrants from South Carolina. But we are not sure where they are located now. Some online research should help. Thanks for the support and good luck.
Just visited this beautiful old church near Bradford. My ancestors were some of the founders of the church including George and Fanny Jennings Addy, who were my great, great grandparents. They are buried in the cemetery at the original site. Beautiful restoration!
Yes it is. Thank goodness some of these old treasures are being saved.