White Plains Methodist
White Plains, previously called both Old Wall’s Fort and Fort Nell, has a white, sandy soil where the eventual town got its name. Settlement around the town and its church congregations predate the incorporation of the town by about thirty years. White Plains Methodist has been active since at least 1817 according to a partial history provided by Mrs. T.C. Moore in 1963. The compiler of Mrs. Moore’s history writes that there are no written records that give a date for the organization of the church, but that there is a Resolution passed by the church upon the death of a Mrs. Sarah Wright in 1817. Partial records exist from 1838 to the present.
According to Mrs. Moore, White Plains Methodist membership grew rapidly during the Civil War when the Methodist Church grounds at Liberty was taken over by soldiers being trained for war. The first Methodist building was built where Helean’s store was later built at the beginning of Broad Street and Sparta Road (now Main Street and GA-15/77), which was the same building used by the Grant family as a workshop for building and repairing wagons. The Grant shop turned out buggies and wagons for customers all over Greene County.
In a scene typical of the cooperation of early settlers, the Baptist Church used the Methodist Church building in 1848 when building their new building; in 1871 the favor was repaid when the Methodists used the Baptist church while building their new church. This church built in 1871 is the one that stands today. After the Civil War, African Americans continued to worship in the same building as the white Methodists although services became segregated. Evidence of the church’s progressive membership is show by being among the first in Georgia to receive permission to create a woman’s missionary society in 1888.
In 1893 Reverend James J. Ashley, pastor of the Greensboro Circuit, had the foresight to establish some historical facts of the Methodist denomination in Greene County from some of the older clergy. Rev. William J. Cotter, one of the former pastors of the Greensboro Circuit wrote a letter back to Brother Ashley and mentions the White Plains membership. He remembers the dark days of the Civil War and the generosity of White Plains families. Cotter talks about being supplied with chickens, hams, and receiving promises of at least 200 lbs of butter over the years! His letter goes on to relay the liberal sharing and kindness of the White Plains Methodists. These rich personal anecdotes are also mixed with his memories of some of the more influential members of the church.
The church is now privately owned by one of the White Plains residents who plans to use it in various ways, including that of a wedding chapel. We very much applaud this effort at preserving this historical treasure.