Stapleton Methodist

Jefferson County
Org 1902
Photography by John Kirkland

In 1885, the arrival of the Augusta, Gibson & Sandersville Railroad brought new life to the town of Spread, Georgia. Previously known as Spread Oak, the town would later change its name to Stapleton in honor of Colonel James Stapleton, who was well known throughout the community and served on the Board of Directors of the A.G. & S. “narrow gauge” Railroad.  Good farmland, cotton, lumber and the railroad all played a part in the continued growth of Stapleton, and that growth convinced the town’s leaders of the need for educational and religious opportunities for its citizens. A school was built by 1888, and on September 3, 1902, Spread Methodist Episcopal Church was organized and pastored by Rev. J. N. Peacock. The church’s name was changed to Stapleton Methodist Episcopal Church in 1917.  The wooden sanctuary is the original building with additions made throughout the years, including a complete remodel in 1970. There is currently one central door to enter the sanctuary, but originally there were two doors; ladies entered and sat on the left side and men entered and sat on the right.  After years of declining membership the church was closed and deconsecrated in 2017.  However, in 2020, the building was purchased by the Stapleton Baptist Church. and is in the process of being reborn as the “Stapleton Care Pregnancy Center.”

The Stapleton Methodist and Baptist Churches are located just across the street from one another, and share a common cemetery. Many times while doing research in old rural cemeteries, we discover stories about the life and times of the settlers who are buried there. The cemetery in Stapleton is no exception. The Stapleton family has been a part of the area’s history for many years, and among the early settlers of this area  was George Lawson Stapleton, Sr., who served in the Revolutionary War and relocated from Virginia in 1784. His son, Major George Stapleton, Jr., served under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812 and in the Seminole Wars, and represented Jefferson County in the state legislature for thirty-two years, serving both as a Senator and a Representative. James, the son of George Jr., served in the Confederate Army and, like his father, was elected to the Georgia Legislature. For a period of fifty years, George Jr. and James were the Representatives from Jefferson County. Both George Jr. and  James were ordained as Baptist ministers late in life at Reedy Creek Baptist Church, which was established in 1817 and is located in the panhandle area of nearby Warren County. 

One of the most interesting events in the life of George Stapleton Jr. occurred in 1873, when Susan Eberhart was convicted of being an accomplice to a murder in distant Webster County and sentenced to be hanged for the crime.  Many prominent Georgia citizens felt she had been wrongly convicted, and there was a movement underway to have her sentence commuted.  Rev. Stapleton felt so strongly that he mounted his horse at the age of 78, and rode 200 miles to Webster County in the hope that he could somehow prevent what he considered a grievous miscarriage of justice. 

He was unsuccessful and the sentence was carried out…..Susan being only the third white woman in Georgia history at the time to suffer that fate.  Rev. Stapleton, having done his duty as he saw it, returned home and continued his ministry until he went to his final resting place the next year, in 1874.  The hanging of Susan Eberhart is a remarkable story in Georgia history and Rev. Stapleton’s great-great granddaughter, Dr. Fay Stapleton Burnett, has written a book about it as well as an article in Georgia Backroads to be published in the Spring 2021 issue.  Dr. Burnett’s book, The Hanging of Susan Eberhart, is available at 

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