Wesley Chapel Methodist

Stewart County
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Org 1838
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Photography by Morgan Bryce

We do not know a lot about Wesley Chapel Methodist in remote Stewart County other than the church was organized in 1838 on 2 1/5 acres sold to the church by J. A. Everett for one dollar.  And we know that Thomas House deeded land for the adjoining cemetery.  The  SGA Conference history also tells us the the church was once the site of a two story structure that served as both a Masonic Temple and a school.  Both were destroyed by a tornado but the church was spared.  We are not sure when the present 19th century church was constructed, but the striking cemetery contains graves dating back to the 1840s.

To put the church into proper historical perspective, Stewart County was formed shortly after the Second Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825.  The Coweta headman, William McIntosh along with six other chiefs, signed the Treaty of Indian Springs ceding all remaining Creek land in Georgia and a large portion of Creek land in Alabama to the federal government in exchange for a large sum of money and territory in present-day Oklahoma.  From a white perspective, the final push to the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama border was now complete. 

However, the treaty was condemned by the Creek leadership council who maintained that McIntosh did not have the authority to sign such a treaty and condemned him to death.  The sentence was swiftly enforced.  On April 29, 1825 the Upper Creek chief Menewa took 200 warriors to attack McIntosh at his plantation on the Chattahoochee River in present-day Carroll County, Georgia. They killed him and two other signatories, and set fire to the house.  The hostilities continued until June 9, 1836 when Georgia Militia fought the Creeks at the Battle of Shepherd’s Plantation, approximately thirteen miles away.  They took heavy casualties but the Creeks finally retreated across the Chattahoochee into Alabama, ending the final engagement of the Creek War in Georgia;.

During this period, Stewart County was formed in 1830, and soon witnessed a rapid increase in population as settlers poured in.  Stewart soon became one of Georgia’s top-three cotton producers (more than 7.6 million pounds in 1850).  In spite of this initial prosperity, the county soon began a long decline due primarily to poor farming practices leading to devastating soil erosion. Underlying soil structures in the area yielded multiple gullies in place of the once-fertile crop fields. As the soil washed away, so too did Stewart County’s economic strength, and the county lost population in every decade of the twentieth century.  Providence Canyon State Park, created in 1971, is a testament to the dramatic soil erosion that created this tourist attraction.

This little church has been witness to the rise and fall of Stewart County.  The cemetery is a dramatic testament to these early settlers who carved out a cotton empire in the early 19th century.  The church as been inactive for some time, but she is still proudly standing on this site since 1838.  She is a wonderful example of the Georgia history that is personified in these old treasures.  Be sure to click and scroll the gallery photos below for more information about Wesley Chapel Methodist and people who built her.

Note:  The following history was received from James Duke.  It explains the double entrances in the back as well as the front.  It also explains the addition of the side entrance converted from a window.

My father, Rev. Earl Duke, Sr. was pastor of Wesley Chapel as part of the Lumpkin Charge from 1957-1962. At first its preaching service was one Sunday a month. Later, the congregation changed that to two 9:30 services a month, after which Dad would rush back to Lumpkin for the 11:00 am Service. At first the Church was one big room; any gatherings with food were held “on the grounds.” The congregation wanted to have a fellowship hall in the back, which was used only for funerals. Plus, the pulpit end had the same two doors; one was the way most people entered. If you were running late, you came in right by the preacher! I was an architecture student at Auburn 1959-1961 (before I answered my call to ministry). I went out with my sister, measured all the openings and then drew a plan to enclose 15 feet at the back end with a wall that included folding doors (for extra seating during funerals.) It also turned a window into a side entrance, replacing the pulpit one. A local builder used the plans, resulting in the side entrance noted in the text and a fellowship room which served the congregation well for several more years. I’m told they kept the plans, done on notebook paper, in the piano bench; not sure what happened to them after the congregation merged with Lumpkin.

Update

In 2024, we were informed that this church is no longer standing. According to a local report, the fellowship hall still stands but the church is gone and the land has been graded over.

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