Stanly Church of Christ is one of those quaint old mountain churches located in the Chattahoochee National forest in a remote part of Fannin County, close to the Toccoa River. It was organized by the Stanley family who came from Avery County in NC sometime in the early to mid-19th century. This church was built in 1886, according to family member Ralph Stanley, but there was a church of some sort before that. The creek that the settlement was built on was named after Elisha Stanley and his grave is the oldest in the cemetery. Elisha and brother in law, Elv Evan Hughes were both shot as deserters by Confederate soldiers in September of 1864. This part of Georgia was not plantation country and had few slaves. Much of North Georgia remained on the side of the Union and many like Elisha and Elv, paid a terrible price. More on that in the cemetery photos below.
A book written by family member, Lawrence Stanley, in 1971 tells us the church started out as a Primitive Baptist church and also served as the community schoolhouse serving up to 40 children. Sometime in the early 1900’s it became a Church of Christ. The church Regular services ceased in 1957 but there is still an annual church reunion on the fourth Sunday in August. According to an article in the local Blue Ridge newspaper, the reunion attracts hundreds of descendants from far and wide.
We found some good history of the Stanley family on various online sources, including The Wander Luster Blog by Shane Hampton who referred to an ongoing feud with the Tilley family who were also very prominent and located nearby. This feud is a story for another day and we will research it further but it adds to the always interesting stories of moonshine, murder etc. that seem to emerge from many of these North Georgia mountain cemeteries. This one even includes some witchcraft.
Another interesting story that emerged from the cemetery is that of Moses Johnson. According to Findagrave, two brothers were returning to Fannin County, Georgia from Atlanta during the Civil War. In Fairmont, Georgia they found a black baby in the ruins of the Johnson Plantation. They brought the baby to Fannin County and he was adopted and raised by Mr. Rickels Stanley as Mose Johnson. He was the first African American to attend school in Fannin County. His headstone in the cemetery simply says “Mose Johnson – Colored”. More on Moses below.
Finally, there is the headstone for the arm of Buel Stanley. That’s right…..his arm only. The rest of Mr. Stanley is buried at the nearby Macedonia Church of Christ. According to the headstone, Mr. Stanley, lost his arm while fishing with dynamite in the nearby Toccoa River in 1915. The arm was amputated and buried at this spot in 1915.
The church itself is well cared for by the extensive Stanley family, and sits at the top of a knoll looking out over the beautiful Blue Ridge vistas that have been home to the Stanley clan for almost 200 years. There are 282 recorded interments in the cemetery and well over 100 of them contain the Stanley surname…….great North Georgia history.
Be sure to click and scroll on the photos below for more of the stories and Stanley history.
As noted in the initial, exterior photo and caption, our knowledge of Stanley’s history as well as its present status is minimal. Though it was built in 1886, we see in this photo from the pulpit that its sanctuary and interior has undergone significant remodeling a number of times during its 130 plus year history. Its original walls and ceiling were most likely sheathed with rough cut, heart pine boards that were finished and installed by church members. We know that electricity was not originally available until the 1930’s by the REA days. Lights and fans were probably added first around 1935 but later replaced in the late 20th century with the late 20th century fixtures seen in this photo.
This is a photo of the sanctuary taken from the rear of the church. Modern ceiling and wall finishes are apparent. But, it appears that the pews could be original to Stanley. This type of manufactured pew was available and often seen in late 19th and early 20th century sanctuaries. The wainscot was clearly a later addition, but the window frames (not panes) could have been part of the original building. We need to point out that the overall condition of the interior seen so far is remarkable given the church’s age and lack of an active congregation for over 60 years!
Here we can get a closeup look of the pews and floors at Stanley. Though we think the pews may have been commercially manufactured, on the other hand we do think that it appears they could have been crafted by church members in 1886 and patterned after a popular design. We hope to discover that they are authentic and part of the original sanctuary. As you can see, the floors appear to be original and cut and installed when the church was built. By all measurements, these elements of the church design are authentic and handsome.
Here again we have a photo that presents a perfectly maintained, clean and orderly sanctuary … but there are no regular services, only an annual homecoming event held every 4th Sunday in August. Someone must be taking excellent care of this old church. Who? According to the Blue Ridge newspaper, this event, now in its 63rd year, “annually attracts hundreds of descendants from far and wide.” Our guess is that a number of these dedicated descendants insure that “their church” remains rock solid as it always has been and will serve as a living monument to all of the congregants in the past as well as those to come in the future.
Aldolphus Buel Stanley was born February 7, 1864 in Fannin County, Georgia and died August 3, 1943 in Fannin County, Georgia. This marker shows the place his arm was buried after it was amputated in 1915 after an explosion caused by fishing with dynamite in the Toccoa River. He married Sophronie “Froney” Anna Garland in 1884 and they had several children. Buel was just a seven month old infant sitting in his father’s lap (Elisha Stanley) during the Civil War when Elisha was shot and killed by members of the home guard.
This grave marker erected some years after the burial here marks the graves of Elisha Stanley, born October 6, 1822, died September 6, 1864; Elisha’s wife, Jane Garland Stanley, born December 25, 1828, died May 9, 1905; and Elv Evan Hughes (brother-in-law of Elisha, born ca 1834, died September 6, 1864. This family and many others suffered greatly during the terrible days of war in the 1860s. A band of Confederate home guards made a raid into the Stanley Creek community and shot and killed Elisha Stanley and his sister’s husband Elv Evan Hughes on the same day. Elisha and Elv were buried in the same grave dug by the women of the family. Elisha and Elv were both born in North Carolina. Elv’s wife, Vian, went back to North Carolina and apparently never came back to Georgia.
When Mose Johnson was found by two soldiers returning from the Civil War he was so weak he couldn’t make a sound when he cried. The soldiers made camp for the night and boiled some of their hardtack and fed him with a cow horn spoon. He was too young to know his own name so they named him Moses after Moses in the Bible. He was raised by the Rickles Stanley family. Rickles Stanley died in 1903 and when Mose was near death, he asked to be buried near Rickles Stanley. Rickles Stanley remembered Mose in his will. His will reads “Item 6 – Now in justice to humanity and justice to the same I give and will to Moses Johnson colored, a comfortable home and living with my wife Jane Stanley and my daughter Talitha during their lives, and at the death of my wife and daughter my executors should and by this my will must count him and give him an equal share with the male heirs in all of my estate provided the said Johnson remains true to trust. The 1910 Fannin County census shows Litha Stanley, age 71 and Mose Johnson, age 70 living together. He is listed as her servant.
The Stanley church sits at the top of the hill overlooking the cemetery that has over 100 Stanley interments. Even though she is inactive, she is well cared for by many of the Stanley family descendants.
Church of Christ
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!
Amazing article. Would love to visit this cemetery…Ga. history we don’t usually hear about and so interesting. Thank you for posting!
Went by the church today. It is in amazing shape for one with no active congregation. New burials may account for its good shape. Keep up the good work.
All my granny family here
What a fascinating story! I never saw a gravestone for an arm.