St. Marks Lutheran

Sumter County
Org 1870
Photography by Steve Robinson

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.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of St. Marks history is the deep connection to Rosalynn Carter.  One of our followers offers the following comments on the former First Lady’s genealogy.  “As a child she attended with her Grandmother Rosa Wise Murray. Her Great Great Grandfather David Wise was on the first church council. His son, George Calhoun Wise, lost a leg in the Civil War. So his contribution to the building of the church was hand plaining the lumber. Rosalynn had several ancestors who were charter members, including GG Grandparents, David and Rosa Wise, Great Grandfather George Calhoun Wise, and GG Grandparents John and Alethia Parker. The Parkers were not in the South Carolina migration.  Also, Rosalynn had a grandfather credited with bringing the Lutheran church to this part of Georgia. He was the Reverend Jacob Kleckley of Oglethorpe. Kleckley’s granddaughter. Fannie Coogle was the second wife of George Calhoun Wise. Kleckley’s original churches buildings in Oglethorpe did not survive.”

Many thanks to Roy Wise for the above research.  We will add to it as we go.  Be sure to click and scroll on the gallery photos below for more history on St. Marks Lutheran.  Note the photo of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale at the church.  It is from Fourth Sunday, July 25, 1976. It is homecoming for St. Marks. Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale were in Plains after the Democratic Convention and before the presidential campaign. The photo includes Roy’s mother and his daughter.  

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