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Johnny Vardeman: Hall’s 200th year prompts a glance into county’s past
Johnny Vardeman

In Hall County’s bicentennial year, more churches and other organizations are recalling their history.

There are few churches in the area that can say they’re 200 years old, but there’s at least one that celebrated that milestone four years ago.

Antioch United Methodist Church was organized between 1812 and 1815, but it celebrated its 200th year in 2014. Its history relates that the first building was where the Chattahoochee and Chestatee rivers meet, an area traditionally called “the fork.”

One account suggests the church’s first name was Dunagan’s Chapel, but another version says “King’s Chapel,” after founder Robert King.  Ephraim Johnson, known as the father of Methodism in Hall County, also figures in the history of Antioch. He was Robert King’s son-in-law and prominently identified as among the founders of First United Methodist Church in Gainesville.

King’s Chapel was relocated in 1820 and became known as Antioch. The log building was used until 1846, and the succeeding building served members 120 years until the present Antioch United Methodist Church was built in 1968, naturally, on Antioch Church Road near Sardis Road.

Incidentally, there is a Dunagan’s Chapel United Methodist Church in East Hall County at the intersection of Timber Ridge and Joe Chandler roads.

Another church with a long history in Hall County is Flat Creek Baptist, which will be featured in a later Times article. Beth Suggs’ great-great-grandfather, Nicholas Propes, was involved in the church’s establishment in 1818. It began as a mission to Indians near the shores of the Chattahoochee River and Flat Creek. Lake Lanier cut off direct access for half the church’s members, but it continues to worship on Flat Creek Road.

There’s more than one St. Paul Church in Northeast Georgia, among them St. Paul Methodist north of Murrayville at Ga. 60 and Martin’s Ford Road, St. Paul on Summit Street in Gainesville and St. Paul on Washington Street in Gainesville.

St. Paul on Summit Street in Gainesville started out on what is known today as North Bradford Street. The street earlier was known as Rice Hill, and the church was near where an office complex stands today across from Paul Smith Cleaners. Because most members lived in the Summit Street area, the church relocated there on land donated by one of its founders, Nelson Jackson.

The church, originally known as the Northern Methodist Church, organized in 1876.

Another Gainesville St. Paul United Methodist Church at the corner of West Academy and Washington streets, originally was known as Myrtle Street Methodist. It evolved from a Sunday school meeting at the home of Mrs. R.E. Montgomery at the corner of Pine and Myrtle streets. It had organized in 1888 because what is now known as First United Methodist Church had grown so large.

The actual Myrtle Street Methodist Church was built on a lot on Myrtle Street donated by Thomas A. Panel. The name was changed to St. Paul when the church moved to what was then Grove Street, now West Academy, at its intersection with Spring Street in 1908.

It moved to its present location in 1937 after the April 6, 1936, tornado destroyed its building. A witness said the twister lifted the whole building into the air, demolishing it. 

St. Paul on Summit Street also was ravaged by a tornado, that one in 1903.

Ironically, the church building on Grove Street originally had served as an early Episcopal chapel, built by member Hervey Hall. Hall moved away after the Civil War and the Presbyterians eventually bought it. They sold it to St. Paul Methodists when they moved from Myrtle Street, and the Presbyterians moved to the corner of Green Street and Brenau Avenue.

The Episcopalians had organized in 1828, and when their chapel was sold moved to College Avenue and South Bradford Street.  Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville bought the home of W.A. Roper for $3,750 in March 1911. The home at the corner of Washington Street and Boulevard was rolled to one side to make room for the church building and for use of the rector, the Rev. E.A. Sherrod. The building on College Avenue and South Bradford Street was moved to the present location in 1913.

The 1936 tornado also victimized the Episcopalians as its building was destroyed and its custodian killed. The 82nd anniversary of that storm is Friday, April 6.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times whose column appears Sundays. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; e-mail.

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