In 1871, Enterprise Church and Academy was organized by Rev. W.W. Oslin and stood on land given by William and Kinchen Little. It was located on what is now Sparta Highway. In 1878, a new church was built on part of the Enterprise Church property and the name was changed to St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church South. The Pastor at that time was Rev. F.P. Brown.
In 1897, they merged with another church nearby called New Hope and built a new structure in Rockville, adjacent to the Academy. The community of Rockville was chosen because it was halfway between the old St. Paul Church and New Hope Church and was built on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. F.G. Branch, the principal of the academy.
A special perspective of the history of this church was shared by Pierce Harris, son of the circuit-riding pastor in the early 1900s:
“As a little boy, I used to ride with my father as he served the East Putnam Circuit and traveled the dusty road of that section. in the wintertime, I used to sit in the foot of the buggy hugging a lantern and wishing we would hurry and get where we were going. One Summer during a revival meeting at that little country church, I was sitting in the front seat…so I would be where Papa could watch me. One morning at the close of the sermon, I stepped out into the aisle, walked down to the altar, and joined the church. The preacher didn’t say much but it was one of the biggest days in both our lives.
A lot of years have passed since then and many of those fine old families have scattered. But the little church is still there and I can see it now as I saw it back yonder. Just a plain little wooden church sitting by the roadside, with uncarpeted floors and a simple altar. But it was the Westminster Abbey of my young life. The impressions that came to me that Summer morning as I stood, a little barefooted boy at the altar, have stayed with me. I’ve carried them all over this part of the United States and shared them with thousands of other people.” ~Pierce Harris, Pastor of the First Methodist Church of Atlanta; this story was recorded in 1955.
The Rockville Historic District, including St. Paul’s Methodist Church and the Rockville Academy, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The church is composed of a simple rectangular form with gable ends with a slender and elegant soaring steeple. The body of the church is lapped wood siding
The church is vernacular, incorporating carpenter gothic detailing, i.e., the eave brackets and dentil elements. Carpenter gothic employed jig-sawn shapes using a scroll saw. The gable ends are defined with a “rake and return” detail. Both are detailed with dentil molding and carpenter gothic brackets.
The interior follows the simplicity of the exterior – symmetrical sanctuary with 2 aisles, focused on the slightly raised alter. The pews feature craftsman molded detailing with an elegant, curved arm rest.
The elegant craftsmanship of the apse, prayer rail and podium is displayed richly in this shot. The heart pine wooden floors absorb and reflect the ambient light in a rich fashion.
The windows are double hung with “9 over 9” lites flanked by 3-part louvered shutters.
The pews feature craftsman molded detailing with an elegant, curved arm rest.
The entrance doors are unique “3 over 3” panel. Note the windows, shutters and doors are composed o multiples of 3s, perhaps relating the Holy Trinity. The heart pine floors are uncovered throughout the interior giving the sanctuary a rich and warm continuity.,
Richard H.L. Wilson married Frances E Bonner on Jul 4, 1858, at Putnam County, Georgia and they had a son, James T. the following year. In 1862, he enlisted at Madison, GA in Company D, Georgia's 3rd Infantry. He served as a corporal in his unit until their surrender in 1865.
Richard returned home from the war to Putnam County and in 1866, had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth. On his pension application in 1901, Richard reported that he suffered hearing loss during his service and that he was nearly deaf at that time.
Alexander Lafayette Nelson enlisted in 1862 in Company D, 8th Georgia Infantry. Upon his return, he married Mary Eugenia Haley in 1865.
Many members of the Bonner Family are buried in the cemetery here, but this gravestone stands out. The rest of the family stones are professionally made and more recent. This vernacular stone is special because it was hand-carved by someone who wasn't traditionally trained in stone carving. For many years, it was common practice that a stone like this was carved by the mourning husband or son after the loss of a loved one. This stone likely marks a sad time in the life of Mr. William Harry Bonner of Rockville, GA. On March 1927, his 5 year old daughter, Gertrude, died of pneumonia. William's wife had just died a few weeks earlier and the loss of his daughter left him as the remaining member of his family. It's possible that a grief-stricken William carved this stone himself to mark their burial site.
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Perhaps Pierce Harris was named for an early circuit rider of the area, Lovick Pierce. Or perhaps named for Lovick Pierce’s son, Bishop John Foster Pierce.