The more you know

Tri-County Advertiser – Nov. 17, 1927

Our curiosity about the original chapel located on the site of the Old Clarkesville Cemetery was satisfied a bit more after discovering this Nov. 17, 1927 column, penned by Misses Annie and Tattie Sutton. For ease of reading, we have transcribed it below.

So many have shown interest in saving the history of the old cemetery, or as it was once called, the old graveyard, it really merits far more than we, who came later, can put into it. Many of the graves are unmarked and many more than the history and family connection are now unknown.
The lot and church building were given to the Methodist trustees, for the use of all “orthodox” denominations. Both were so used for many years, also for speeches, lectures and other community interests, thus carrying out that inter-church fellowship that up to the present time has been a marked [and remarked on] characteristic of the town. It would now be called a “Church and Community House.
In this connection, we must mention one interesting fact. After the Presbyterian church was organized, for about 10 years previous to building their own church, they used this old Methodist church for services.
Later, when the Methodists were building their first new church they had no place for either Sunday school or church services, so the Presbyterians returned the courtesy of years gone by and offered the use of their church, which was accepted. Even after their second new church was finished, having no bell, the Methodists continued to use the Presbyterian bell to call the people to their church services, a continuation of the same old fellowship.
The old church was never a pretty building, no one would copy the plan for its beauty, but it was built according to the design of many churches of the time and for the same purpose – that was to give the negroes who had no separate organization then, a place to worship. It was high, two full stories, five or six windows on each side, below and above the galleries, two windows at each end giving an abundance of light and ventilation. The galleries were across the “door” end and along each side [what we now call a mezzanine floor] down the full length of the church. This was where the negroes sat during servings, joining in the signing and sometimes with fervent “amens.” The pulpit was not high, one or two steps up from the floor. The altar railing was also low, but set well out, making a roomy square in front and on both sides of the pulpit. The seats were measured by the rule of Webster’s Blue-back spelling book – “six boys can sit on one long bench.”
There was a row of seats on each side of the door, making a wide central aisle and of course, at least three benches up in the front corners, parallel with the altar railing making the “amen” corner.
One odd feature was, there was no vestibule or other separate entrance; you just climbed the steps, 10 o r 12 from the ground then you were right in the church.
An idea of improvement seized some of the members, so they had the galleries torn out, thus weakening the walls and making the building unsafe. Then, they said, it must be torn down. To prevent the destruction of the old church, four of the citizens, men who had no connection with the church, but were unwilling to see a place so interwoven in the history of the town removed, offered to give $50 each to restore the galleries. These men were Judge C.H. Sutton, A.J. Nichols, W.W. Berry and S.H.J. Alley. None of these men were members, but their community spirit was broad and generous. In later years, two of these men, Judge Sutton and Mr. Shad Alley, each gave a site for a church, Stonepile Church and Alley’s Chapel; both churches active in the work for making the community better and thus, making the world better.
The trustees refused the offer for restoring the church, so it was removed to the present site [Washington Street], and by so doing losing for the town a centre of interest. In these days of many churches, we do not see the large congregations assembled over there.
Since these articles were started we have learned from Mr. Hamlin Alley, the name of the occupant of the first grave which is now included in the Sutton-Byrd enclosure. The man’s name was Manson Swobbert, he lived in what we all knew as the “Red House” on the lower front corner of the Allegheny lot.
In her article of last week, Mrs. [Georgia McMillan] Pittard described so finely and definitely the old cemetery, there seems to be no reason for further mention of it, unless information regarding the unknown graves comes in. But the weaving of our “Memory-Chain” for the town and county should not be stopped. We hope the “three historians” will find other things that will be interesting and informative.

Click here for more information about Clarkesville First United Methodist Church history:

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