This historic African-American congregation dates to 1885. Reverend Andrew Wilkerson was the first pastor.
Tag Archives: Churches of Jefferson County GA
Ways Baptist Church was organized in 1817 near the present-day community of Stellaville, about three miles east of Wrens. It was named for Bill Way, who donated the land on which it was sited. The members were originally part of Brushy Creek Baptist Church but were dismissed for some reason, perhaps because they had slaves. Enslaved persons were among the first members of the new congregation. A log cabin was built first, then a more formal structure, replaced by this church in 1851. It features what appears to be a slave gallery (common in churches with slave members) and was likely built by the slaves themselves. After emancipation, they founded their own congregation nearby, known as Ways Grove Baptist Church.
It is a beautiful church and churchyard, and there is an historic cemetery across the highway.
Ebenezer can trace its roots to the 1770s, when a group of Whigs split with the Tories at nearby Buckhead Bethel Church (known today as Bethel, in Vidette). The Whigs first met on the property of Richard Fleeting. The church was first known as Fleeting’s Meeting House, then Big Creek, before settling on Ebenezer. Reverend Thomas Beattie was the first pastor, sometimes dividing his duties between Buckhead Bethel and Louisville. He died suddenly and was replaced by a Tory, the Reverend William Donaldson, but due to the Revolutionary fervor of most members he left the congregation in 1776. The next minister, Reverend David Bothwell, cam from Ireland in 1790. Bothwell was a friend and counselor to Governor Jared Irwin. Irwin, and Governors James Jackson and David Emanuel were elders at Bethel. Erskine Caldwell’s father, Ira Sylvester Caldwell, preached here much later, as well.
The church, located between Louisville and Wrens, is still active and has done a wonderful job maintaining the church and its historic graveyard.
According to Lorraine Frederick Minton, whose great-great-great-grandfather, Francis Eugene Flanders founded the church, it was designed with a “Quaker Heart”. Flanders was a circuit rider. Her great-great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Drake, was the architect. She notes: It was originally built on the other side of the “swamp” and later pulled by oxen and placed on logs to cross the swamp and placed where it is today. The original church records are now reported to be stored at Lake Junaluska, NC.
Bartow UMC was organized on 18 July 18 1879. In the late 1890’s the church was moved into the town of Bartow. The original church building was torn down and rebuilt.
Constituted as the First Baptist Church, the congregation now simply calls itself Bartow Baptist Church. J. G. Gunter was the pastor at the time this structure was raised. The cornerstone lists the building committee as: J. R. O. Smith; A. S. Chamlee; N. A. Williams; T. C. Jordan; T. Y. Smith; G. H. Ratchford; and L. G. Smith.
Randall Davis writes that a contact in Jefferson County noted that this was a Methodist church, but attended by Methodists and Baptists as it was the only church in the community. The Baptists moved to their own church, Friendship in 1955. It was originally known as Fleming Chapel, as confirmed by the name of the nearby Fleming-Burke Cemetery. It was later known as Allen’s Chapel. At some point after that, it was converted into a private residence.
Randall is an excellent source of information on churches in this section of Georgia and provided many images for Historic Rural Churches of Georgia (UGA Press, Athens, 2016). He has been quite helpful to me in identifying not only churches but other historic structures throughout the region.
From the Louisville ARP Church website: The beginnings of Louisville Presbyterian Church date to around 1778. A Scotchman named George Galphin established a trading post at a settlement first called Ogeechee. Eventually the settlement was relocated nine miles up river to a place called New Town. In 1795, the legislative commission selected New Town as the capital of Georgia. The Presbyterian community established various meetinghouses around the area from which three main churches developed, Bethel, Ebenezer, and Louisville. When the capital was moved from Louisville in 1806, the town declined and the Louisville church became inactive. The building was given over to the Methodists. The Louisville ARP Church was formally organized in 1874 under the leadership of Dr. A.L. Patterson. During the tenure of Dr. J. C. Galloway, the first building was erected around 1878 or 1880. The first church burned in 1911 and a new building was erected in 1914.