In all of recorded history, humans have bonded and banded together with others of like mind to worship their Creator. In little settlements all over America, early settlers joined with each other in forming congregations and erecting structures where they could meet for worship and praise, and for fellowship with other believers. Before there was a town of Woodstock, a “central business district” so to speak, communities in the area were being settled and churches established. Bascomb Methodist may have been loosely organized even before 1830, and Little River Methodist dates to 1832. In 1837, near the confluence of the Little River and Rube’s Creek, 12 men and women met to establish Enon Baptist Church, sometimes referred to in church minutes as Enon Church of Christ, or Enon Baptist Church of Christ. The location is the site today of Enon Cemetery, “left behind” in 1879 after the Civil War ended and the church relocated. The railroad had been built and the little village of Woodstock began to materialize. Enon moved to town that year, and changed its name, in 1884, to Woodstock Baptist Church. That campus is now the property of the city of Woodstock, and the 1913 sanctuary, called The Chambers, is used for City Council meetings and other events.
Enon/Woodstock was not the first “in-town” church. Allen Temple African-Methodist-Episcopal is said to have been organized in 1863. That church today boasts more than 1,000 members and has a new campus on Arnold Mill Road. Mt. Olive Baptist, another African-American church, was organized in 1866. Its congregation meets in a 1955 building at the original location. This church holds the distinction as the oldest in-town church to remain at the same location. The Woodstock Methodist Church building, dating to 1889, is still in use today by that congregation. In the 1920s, Presbyterians assembled and built the picture-perfect sanctuary occupied today by Cherokee Seventh Day Adventists.
In recognition and honor of the importance of these establishments, Preservation Woodstock, Inc. is hosting “Steeples, Bells and Pews: An Exhibit Celebrating Woodstock’s Early In-Town Churches.” The exhibit, featuring photos and memorabilia, will open on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Dean’s Store. A reception will be from 1 to 4 p.m. A walking tour to the four nearby church buildings will begin at the store at 1 p.m. Allen Temple will not be included in the walking tour, but will be a part of the exhibit. Reservations for the tour are suggested, and may be made by calling Kyle Bennett at Dean’s Store, (770) 924-0406. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Deadline to register is Sept. 24.
The exhibit will be on display at Dean’s Store through Nov. 19, the date of the monthly Main Street Sessions, a series of programs presented by the Woodstock Visitors Center. The Session, which begins at 1 p.m., will feature old-timers and their church-related memories. These storytelling events are popular as more and more residents become interested in Woodstock’s history and the preservation of the city’s heritage and culture.
Preservation Woodstock’s devotion to this cause is evident in their projects which include the installation of memorial plaques, the recording of oral histories, assistance with publication of books and articles, recognition of preservation efforts by individuals, research of sites and families, commemorative events, accumulation and display of photos, and the presentation of exhibits and programs connected to the history of the area. A bi-monthly newsletter, Traces, is published to keep members informed about events and projects. The group works with Cherokee County Historical Society on a number of projects as well, including exhibits and preservation activities at their office and museum location in the old County Courthouse building in Canton. Their help with “Steeples, Bells and Pews” has been valuable, and is just one example of the success of organizations working together when they have common goals. Don’t miss this exhibit! Amen.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.