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 Slavery had been banned by the Trustees in the original colony but this law was rescinded in 1751.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.
As we saw in the initial exterior photo, this church is as picturesque as they come. It reminds us of a lovely, 4 tier layer cake capped by a soaring bell tower spire. Though the architecture is clearly Gothic Revival style, the church was built at the height of the Victorian era and reflects that provenance as well. In this photo, we present a closeup of the entry way with its original double door flanked by two simple pilasters. The doorframe is of molded heart pine lumber. We are told the door hardware is original… as is so much of almost all of the furniture within.
The interior of this sanctuary is one of the most authentic and lovely in the Long County area, known to the locals in the 19th Century as the pine-lands. Here the lovely lancet arched gothic windows cannot fail to catch the eye. Eight of these commanding windows line the sanctuary walls, four on each side. Because of their size and clear glass panes, they allow a huge amount of ambient light to flow into this room.
This is a view of the sanctuary from the gallery above the main floor. Here we see a large number of the original pews. We also get a good glimpse of the raised chancel and apse area, the choir and organ area and into the amen corner. The apse rests beneath and behind the proscenium-like green drapes while receiving much light from its three windows. Note the simplicity of the chancel and pulpit area furnishings as well as throughout the entire church. This is often the case in these “churches of ease” and “Retreats” throughout the 19th century.
This view of the organ from pulpit right gives us a more detailed look at the chancel, pulpit and apse. The apse window is shorter than the main lancet windows seen to the right. The uncluttered spaces and spare furnishing are prominent.
This view from the pulpit to the entryway and rear walls tells quite a tale of authenticity. To the right we see two of the gothic lancet windows and a single replica, gas lantern just like the originals used in the sanctuary. They are now wired/electric lights but are of the 19th century era. Beyond them, we are looking at steps that lead to the original gallery. Moving toward the middle we see the gallery, wainscot wall and two large columns that support the entire gallery. At the center, we see a large chandelier, it is a replica of the gas original. Looking into the left corner we can make out a piano and chest for storage. All of these elements and items are original to this sanctuary.
These two items were noted in an earlier photo, an old upright piano and a handsome library with doors. Many decades later, they still serve their purpose as is evidenced by the crowded shelves.
Here we are looking across the aisle toward the north wall. This shot allows us to see the low but continuous wooden wainscot used throughout the entire sanctuary. Above that, we see here another gas replica sconce and another replica chandelier. We also see an antique, octagonal 19th century original regulator/schoolhouse clock. Lots of history within this beautiful sanctuary.
Congregational hymn singing is one of the most important basic elements of Presbyterian worship. At this church, we know that both a piano and this beautiful pump organ were often in use. The organ was made by the Weaver Organ and Piano company of York Pennsylvania. It is not only a large size, superior quality instrument, but a beautiful work of art and craftsmanship. The company was founded in 1870 and nationally recognized by the 1880’s with a motto of “Easy to Operate, Hard to Wear Out”. This organ seems to live up to that declaration. The congregation at Walthourville was wealthy, willing and able to display its prosperity to all by buying the finest pews, instruments, furnishings and other items.
This is a view of the interior of the bell tower from the second inner floor all the way up to the top level and the bell. The bell ringing rope can be see dropping from above. Its complex and extremely effective engineering is evident and even creates an attractive visual, geometric pattern.
Capt. William DeLegal Bacon was born September 28, 1828 and died February 20, 1905. He was married to Martha Ann Hines and had a large family. He served in the 25th Georgia Infantry as a Captain in the Civil War. He was an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and was the Village Blacksmith and made buggies, carriages, and wagons. A marker at the Walthourville Cemetery reads: Strangers’ Lot – This plot, used for strangers who died in our midst without a place of burial reserved for this purpose by William DeLegal Bacon who gave the land for the original cemetery in 1872. Many are interred here.
Edward Payson Miller was born August 8, 1840 and died June 24, 1910 of acute inflammation of the heart produced by over exertion. He served in the Liberty Mounted Rangers, Company B, 20th Battalion, 7th Georgia Regiment in the Civil War and was promoted to Corporal. He was a farmer, turpentine producer, stock and cattle raiser, naval store operator and President of the Citizens Bank of Ludowici. He served as chairman of the board of the county commissioners. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. He was married to Melissa Ball Edwards and had a large family. His father David Anderson Miller was one of 16 citizens instrumental in organizing a separate Presbyterian Church in Walthourville in 1855. David Anderson Miller owned 26 slaves in 1850 and 24 slaves in 1860.
Dr. Keith Axson Quarterman was born January 12, 1837 and died in Liberty County August 10, 1900. He married Helen Louise Jones on July 30, 1862 at the Walthourville Presbyterian Church. Helen Louise Jones was born September 23, 1842 and died March 30, 1911.They had 10 children. He was an assistant surgeon to the 10th Battalion, Georgia Cavalry during the Civil War. He graduated from Franklin College in Athens in 1857 and from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1861. After the war, he practiced medicine, ran a drug store and taught school in Cuthbert, GA. In 1877 he returned to Walthourville and practiced medicine until his death. One of the brothers of Helen Louise Jones was Henry Hart Jones. He was one of the founders of Tattnall Square Presbyterian Church in Macon, GA and one time editor of the Macon Telegraph. Maj. John Jones, the grandfather of Helen Louise and Henry Hart Jones died at age 30 during the siege of Savannah during the Revolutionary War. He is buried at Midway.
George Washington Walthour was born March 3, 1799 and died August 12, 1859 of apolexy. He was baptized at the Congregational Church, Midway on April 17, 1801. He was married to Mary Ann Amelia Russell (1806-1890). They had five girls and five boys. He represented Liberty County in the State House of Representatives and in the State Senate. He was originally buried at Midway and has a marker there but his remains were later moved to Walthourville. He was a Baptist layman and the richest planter and largest slave holder in Liberty County. In 1850 he owned 206 slaves and in 1860 he owned 300 slaves. The town of Walthourville was named for him.
James Robert McDuffie was born June 16, 1823 in North Carolina. He was married to Mary Johnson (1822-1898) and they had a large family. He died October 23, 1902. His tombstone reads: Soldier of Christ well done, Praise be thy new employ, And while eternal ages run, Rest in the Saviours joy.
John Boyd Mallard was born September 18, 1808 and died March 22, 1877. He graduated from Franklin College in Athens in 1832 and attended Columbia Theology Seminary one year. He was a professor and taught at several academies. According to the History of the Midway Congregational Church he had been a professor of Oglethorpe College and the author of “The Short Account of the Midway Congregational Church”. He was a deacon at Midway for 29 years and was a ruling elder at Walthourville Presbyterian Church from its organization in 1855. He is buried next to his second wife Sarah Wilson Way Mallard. The 1860 slave schedule shows he owned 47 slaves.
Joshua Lang was born in 1833 and died February 21, 1912. He served in Company H, 61st Georgia Regiment, CSA. He was wounded near Fredericksburg on May 4, 1863. His obituary in the Valdosta Times, February 24, 1912 states: He was chairman of the Liberty County Board of Education. He was killed while driving home from the bedside of his wife in Ludowici. Her death was expected at any moment. His horse became frightened and threw him from his buggy and he was killed instantly. He was survived by his wife and nine children. His wife, Louisa Jane Horne Lang was born in 1839 and died in 1912.
Hiram Washington Mattox was born July 30, 1830 and died August 11, 1891. His wife, Sarah Jane Edwards Mattox was born January 16, 1829 and died September 11, 1912. Hiram Mattox served in Company D, 5th Georgia Cavalry, CSA. According to Sarah Jane Mattox’s indigent widow’s pension application he contracted a disease in service that eventually caused his death. She states that after his return home from war he was an invalid and unfit for duty. His service record states he left service February 1, 1863 and put in Lewis Smith as a substitute. Hiram and Sarah Jane Mattox had seven children born between 1848 and 1860.
Russell Walthour was born in 1841. He served as Sgt. in Company D, 5th Georgia Cavalry, CSA. In 1864 he served as Color bearer. He was the son of George Washington Walthour and his wife Mary Ann Amelia Russell Walthour mentioned above. He married Matilda Olivia Fleming on December 19, 1860. The Savannah Morning News on November 26, 1878 reported he died November 23, 1878 of congestion of the brain.
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Absolutely beautiful old, historical church.