White Oak church with its eye-popping Sanctuary was built in 1896. This area of Georgia was enjoying a period of prosperity that came after reconstruction. King Cotton was on the rise and profits were rising as well. The Presbyterian congregations of Georgia in this era were quite often made up of the more prosperous citizens. This church is a monument to those good economic times. We are looking at one of the most spectacular church interiors south of Atlanta. The complex suspended truss, uniquely designed ceiling cost a fortune to construct.
This is a photo of the chancel, pulpit, apse and choir area. This view is probably very similar to one from the early days before the turn of the century. We see authentic chairs, tables and Victorian furniture. Clearly, the present members are active and involved. This presentation is an excellent example and proof of the dedicated stewardship of the present and all past congregations.
This is a very historic church whose roots run deep in the Newnan/Moreland area. Many important members and congregants are resting in its lovely graveyard where their gravestones mark their passing. Here we see a memorial plaque mounted within the sanctuary which honors Rev. John Lind Hemphill who served as pastor for 20 years in the late 1800’s.
This close up of the choir “loft” gives us a chance to appreciate some of the other chancel features. The first is one of the authentic ,“ Victorian era” high backed chairs behind the pulpit. It is a treasured relic of White Oak’s past. Also of interest is the heart pine wainscoting which is found throughout the Sanctuary. The maple, slat- back chairs for the choir are also of the period. History lives here at White Oak ARP.
One of the many benefits of the church’s cruciform design is that it allows the creation of alcoves within the sanctuary similar to the one above. Because of the use of suspended truss design, the enchanting area above can be created. This is also a lovely view of the wooden pews and colorful stained glass windowpanes that are present throughout the sanctuary as well.
On the day this photo was taken, the Christmas decorations were in place. Isn’t this an attractive and inviting view of the chancel area? Clearly, this church founded over 180 years ago is still going strong and, we hope, good for another 100 years or so!
We seldom find a church of this vintage that is in such remarkable shape. Dressed in its exterior, “Christmas Best”, White Oak becomes the iconic, dream image of an attractive rural church. The fact that it is real, not a dream, and does exist is so encouraging to us. Thanks to its congregation for maintaining this memorial and making it available for all to visit and experience for years to come.
Benjamin Hughes served in the South Carolina Line, Continental Army during the revolutionary war. About thirty men led by Captain James Butler and Captain Sterling Turner, after a heavy rain, went to the home of a Mr. Carter seeking a place to dry their guns and get food. It was here that the Cloud’s Creek Massacre in Saluda County, South Carolina took place. Only two patriots escaped. One of them was Benjamin Hughes who escaped when Mr. Carter’s cattle became frightened and stampeded. He hid under some driftwood against a pine log in a nearby creek and was not found. His grave and that of Drury Banks were marked at White Oak by sons of the American Revolution on June 21, 2014. In his will, Benjamin Hughes names his wife, Miley, and more than ten children.
Robert Noah Walker was born January 4, 1842 and died August 20, 1863. He served in Company K, 1st Georgia Cavalry Regiment, CSA. An account of the experiences of the men in Company K was written by W. P. Shropshire, one of the members of the company. From him we learn casualties of the company were fifty-five. There were no tents after the first month, they had wagons half the time. They traversed six states, fording and swimming the creeks and rivers as they came to them. They were under fire more than three hundred times. Robert Noah Walker died during the war. His brothers, James B. Walker and John A. Walker were also in Company K. Shropshire says James B. Walker fired the first shot on our right at Chickamauga.
Rev. John Lind Hemphill was born in Abbeville County, South Carolina on February 21, 1838. He was a graduate of Erskine College. At the outbreak of the Civil War he volunteered for service where he served until his capture and imprisonment at Elmira, New York. The ill effects of his prison life remained with him the rest of his days. He lived to see a new White Oak church erected and labored with his own hands until it was finished. He was the beloved pastor of White Oak and had served there almost twenty years at the time of his unexpected death on October 30, 1899. He left a wife, Nancy, and his only child, a son John, who was in college in Due West, South Carolina.
Robert Russell was born in South Carolina on January 8, 1788. In 1832 he took his family and as much of his property as he could transport and set out for Georgia. They made the long journey in mule wagons. They settled in the woods in Coweta County and while building their cabin they stretched a tent for shelter. Wolves were so numerous they frightened the stock and the dogs were driven under the tent for safety. Robert Russell died August 29, 1854. He, his wife, and several children are buried at White Oak
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!
Also, Rev. Hemphill’s successor as pastor was Ira Sylvester Caldwell. Caldwell was serving as the pastor when his only child, novelist Erskine Caldwell, was born in 1903.
Very interesting Winston. I will add that to the narrative.
Love this church. Went to Bible School here as a boy. Have worshipped and preached here. Lots of cousins among the current membership. Lots of ancestors buried here including Benjamin Hughes.
Lovely church. So glad you are getting into west Ga. Can’t wait for the next book!
Your efforts are really interesting and appreciated. It adds to my studies of Jewish history in Georgia. For example, did you know that Mercer was funded by Jewish money through a Revolutionary War Jewish veteran in Washington- Wilkes County – Abram Simons? Lots of little known historical tidbits abound! Milledgeville has a very old Jewish section….