Walthourville Presbyterian

Long County
Org 1820
Photography by Wayne Moore

Walthourville Presbyterian is an architectural jewel that has been preserved virtually intact since it was built in 1884.  The church has roots that go back to 1820 when the first meeting house was established to serve both Baptists and Presbyterians.  In 1845, a new church was erected but it was destroyed by fire in 1877 and replaced by a new church the following year on land purchased from the Walthour estate.  However that structure was destroyed by a storm in 1881 and replaced by the structure you see here in 1884, .  Walthourville is one of three “Retreat Churches” associated with the mother church, Midway Congregational, organized in 1752.  The other two are Flemington Presbyterian, organized in 1815, and Dorchester Presbyterian, organized in 1854 – both located in Liberty County. 

These Retreat Churches associated with Midway represent some of the earliest history in Georgia.  Slavery had been banned by the Trustees in the original colony but this law was rescinded in 1751. The lifting of the Trustees’ ban opened the way for Carolina planters to fulfill the dream of expanding their slave-based rice economy into the Georgia lowcountry. The planters and their slaves flooded into Georgia and soon dominated the colony’s government. Within twenty years some sixty planters, who owned roughly half the colony’s rapidly increasing slave population, dominated the low country rice economy of Georgia.

The village of Midway, only sixteen miles away, was built by Puritans who migrated into the area from Dorchester in South Carolina as a result of a land grant of 31,950 acres from the Council of Georgia in 1752. The grant was given to these first settlers in order to create a southern buffer against the Creeks and the Spanish for the emerging port of Savannah.  Because malaria was prevalent in the low swamp lands in the Midway Section, the plantation owners began establishing summer homes in what they termed the pine-lands. Flemington was the first Retreat Church and Walthourville was the second.

 According to Liberty County – A Pictoral History, in 1855 thirty three members of Midway were dismissed to be organized into a separate and independent church.  They met on May 19 of that year to determine whether to remain under the Congregational form of government or Presbyterian.  Twenty four members voted and twenty two voted to join the Presbyterian Church. The following officers were elected and installed: Elders – W.Q. Paker and Thomas S. Mallard Deacons – David A. Miller and Thomas W. Quarterman”.  According to the history, in the late 1850’s “a small building was erected for the colored people where they had services and the women in the church conducted Sunday School for them”.  By 1861 Walthourville was the second in size in the presbytery and its benevolent gifts were the largest of any church in the Presbytery.  In 1872, land was donated by Captain William Bacon to be set apart for use as a public cemetery. He died in 1905 and is buried in the cemetery.

Be sure to click and scan the gallery photos below for more history about Walthourville and the prominent citizens involved in the church.  The church is inactive now  but there is a reunion every year the 2nd Sunday in October. We are grateful to James Davis for taking care of the church so long and so well.  Mr. Davis is deceased now but his daughter Linda, her husband Charles Gordon and her son Steven continue to serve as stewards of this wonderful part of Georgia history.  Thank you.

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