A History of Inman, Fayette County, GA

Liberty Chapel/Inman United Methodist

 Members of the Congregation ca 1900

Submitted by Sara Jane Overstreet

The history of the Inman community and the local United Methodist church are as old as Fayette County. Fayette County was formed in 1821 following the Treaty of Indian Springs. At first, the land where Inman is now located was in the edge of Henry County. Within a few months the line between Fayette and Henry was redrawn and Fayette got the land where we are now located. Much later (1858) Clayton County was formed out of Henry and Fayette, and at that time the land on the East side of the Flint River (about a mile from our church) went into Clayton. During our early history, the land on both sides of the Flint River was Fayette County.

When the land here was first opened to settlers, the Methodist Church assigned circuit riding preachers to the new territory. There was a determined effort to build membership among African-Americans and Native Americans as well as settlers of European descent. Early Methodist congregations tended to start out meeting in private homes. When the congregation grew, they might build a little church on donated land. The South Carolina conference would send a preacher who would travel from one church to another on horseback, and would preach on whatever day of the week he arrived in the community. These "Circuit Riders" would sleep in the homes of parishioners. At first this church was part of the Yellow River Circuit along with the remainder of Fayette County, as well as Walton, Newton, and Henry Counties. The circuit eventually became part of a circuit covering much less area as the population became more dense. The earliest records of this church are found in the private journal of Rev. Isaac Boring, who came about once a month in 1832 to the church known then as Liberty Chapel.

This congregation registered an official deed with Fayette County in 1832, and the deed described the acre about a half mile East of the Flint River. This land is located on what is now the Woolsey/Hampton road at the dead-end of Panhandle Road. The deed pointed out that a church was already located on the land. The early trustees as per the deed were local land-owners, and some of their families are still in the community today. The deed is registered in the oldest courthouse records as follows: Fayette County Deed Book C, Page 152 deed dated Oct. 10, 1832; recorded May 29, 1834. Lot 242, 4th Dist. Grantor--Daniel R. Thomas; Grantees--Trustees of Liberty Chapel, Elisha Hill (for whom Hill's Bridge Road is named), Giles Newton, William Chambers, Jas. Cummins, Sr., John Bateman, Elias Story, and Jas. Cummins, Jr. Witnesses: John N. Hightower, Elizabeth Hightower, Hiram Dorman, J.P., Joseph Lamberth, Clerk.

By 1849 the second deed for the church was registered at the courthouse. A log church was built by members across Hill's Bridge Road from the established community cemetery--about a half mile West of the Flint River. The deed reads as follows: Fayette County Deed Book F, p. 299, dated Feb. 18, 1949, recorded Sept. 18, 1849. Lot 246, 4th District. Grantor--Roland Stubbs; Grantees--Trustees of Liberty Chapel, Elisha Hill, James Hightower, Mozee Harp, and Thomas Turner. When the church moved and this lot was sold in 1884, the Trustees were E. B. Welden, J. C. Hightower, T. W. Ballard, and D. McLucas (Deed book O, page 168).

When the church held revivals or other special events, a temporary brush arbor was built to accommodate a larger crowd. A brush arbor was a frame of logs with branches laid over the top to provide shade. A summer revival worked into the local schedule fairly well, because revivals were held in the heat of summer when the crops had been planted and were growing and the farm families could take some time out of the fields before harvest. This was called "laying by time."

The local population grew quickly, so that there was a need for a larger permanent structure for regular church services. A new white wooden church was built to the West side of the cemetery before the War Between the States. The members cut the lumber and built the church. Some of our senior members still recall attending this church.

By 1891, Liberty Chapel was separated from the Fayette Circuit and was on a much smaller circuit. The assigned pastor changed every year or two. In a deed dated 1917 (Book Q, page 509), the Trustees were listed as E. B. Weldon, W. F. Jones, W. E. M. Harp, J. T. Burch, and H. M. Tarpley. The church was first called Inman Methodist when it moved to the fourth building in about 1920. A new wooden church was built on John Street about a half mile from the cemetery, located closer to the business district. By that time Inman had several stores, a Post Office, a school, a cotton gin, and a train depot with daily service.

As the wooden church began to need repairs and modern conveniences, the congregation decided to build a new brick church in 1966. This current church faces Hill's Bridge Road and is scheduled for expansion.

At this time Inman United Methodist Church is a station assignment in the LaGrange District of the North Georgia Conference. An ordained pastor assigned by the conference preaches every Sunday. Three ordained United Methodist pastors came from our congregation in recent years--Rev. Dan Overstreet, Dr. Don Harp, and Rev. Gary Parrish. There are other ordained ministers of various denominations who are descendents of early church members.

The Inman school and Inman Gin Company have closed. The Dorman shoe shop and the McBrayer blacksmith shop have been removed. Two old McLucas stores stand silent. There is one convenience store and gas station still in operation, and the Post Office is open inside for two hours each morning. The old Ackert depot still stands and is newly renovated. Every September there is an Inman Farm Heritage Days antique tractor and engine show down by the cemetery on Rick Minterís farm, where several thousand visitors experienced our community last year. This event will be held next on Sept. 19 & 20, 1998.

The church is an active community establishment! A building program is now under way for an expanded sanctuary and a new education/family building. Membership has increased, and a preschool educational program has been established. The music department is under the leadership of professionals. There are two separate restrooms in the church, as well as Sunday School rooms. There is a part-time secretary , a computer, and a FAX machine, and a Web Page! With a proud eye on our past, we have a vision for our future!!!


Report for Charge Conference from Church Historian, Nov. 1997  

At this time the Inman Methodist/Liberty Chapel history of our first century of service in this community is almost complete. The history is about 250 typed pages long, and is divided into 4 sections:

1)Church Records--researched materials, early pastors, membership rolls, church conference ledgers, deeds, misc.;

2)Biographies of early members and their families--about 30 families represented, with articles written by a number of descendents;

3)Genealogy Section for major families represented on our early rolls from John McLucas, Sr.'s database (the family tree goes straight up anyway!); 4)Updated Cemetery Census 1998.

At this time the Church Historian would like to thank those many members and non-members who have contributed to this effort. Research for this project has been a rewarding experience as our church has such a rich history. If you would like to look over the latest print-out, or if you would volunteer to proof-read a section to eliminate any typos or errors, please see S. J. Overstreet. This history is shaping up to be a good source of church, community, and family documentation preserved for future generations.


Liberty Chapel and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South

by S. J. Overstreet, Church Historian

Our congregation has gone through a number of changes along with the denomination. While our congregation clearly began as a Methodist society, our members have struggled with divisions and mergers along with the denomination as a whole. For this reason, a brief review of the denomination as it has affected Liberty Chapel/Inman UMC is offered at this time.

John Wesley is credited as being the founder of the Methodist Church. He was an Episcopal clergyman who lived in Georgia when it was an English colony. John Wesley lived on the Coast of Georgia from 1836 until 1838, when he returned to England disappointed with his progress. He had only a small band of followers, and he and many settlers did not get along well (Hammond, 1935).

Later some of Wesleyís followers had better luck in gathering converts in America. The movement spread under Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. During the Revolutionary War, most Methodist clergy returned to England while Asbury stayed in America and continued to preach. As an Englishman, he was viewed with suspicion during the War because he was following a church leadership from England. Still, he was cautiously admired and the Methodist membership grew under his leadership (Smith, 1877; Hammond, 1935). Asbury visited Georgia several times, and in his journal he noted staying at the home of Absolom Stinchcomb (Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1801) in Elbert County (Lawrence, 1991). Absolom named his next daughter Frances Asbury Stinchcomb (1802-1894), and after she married Joseph Sanders Chambers she moved to Fayette County and was a member of our congregation until her death. Three of the coupleís daughters married Methodist ministers (Sarah married Rev. William Mills; Mary Frances married Rev. Bogan Mask; and Rebecca Ann married Rev./Capt. Daniel McLucas), and the grandson that they reared in their home and at Liberty Chapel also became a Methodist minister (Rev. James Joseph Moses Mills 1840-1929).

The State of Georgia extended itís Western border several times, and settlement of United States citizens in our area began after the 1821 Treaty of Indian Springs. Before that time, our area had been part of the Creek Nation. The Methodist church had been sending missionaries into the Creek Nation even before that treaty. The pastors came to our county from the South Carolina conference. As the State of Georgia expanded, a separate conference was set up in 1831. The conference at that time asked the congregations to get a deed to church property (Smith, 1877), and Liberty Chapelís first deed was registered in Fayette County in 1832 noting that a church building was already standing. This means that the congregation had already gone through meeting in private homes and in a temporary structure. At that time the church was referred to as a Methodist Episcopal Church.

Even in our earliest days there was a movement strong among Methodist churches in our area to have the laity share power and decision-making with the preachers. The conference (made up of the preachers) voted several times not to have the laity as voting members. Finally a group of Methodists--laity and pastors--formed their own conference and congregations called the Methodist Protestant Church. This body existed with honorable work (Hammond, 1935) until it was merged back into the mainstream Methodist body in 1939 (Lawrence, 1991). We know that Liberty Chapel members left our Methodist Episcopal congregation for the Methodist Protestant movement from our early rolls that grant certificates of membership to be moved to the Protestant church. When the bodies were merged after a century of division, the power of the laity was brought in from the Methodist Protestant movement to make our current denomination a stronger body.

In 1844, at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC), the divisions that were affecting the nation were also discussed heatedly among the delegates. At that time, most Georgia congregations left the main body and became part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) (Smith, 1877). Liberty Chapel followed this trend as documented in the church records. After the War Between the States was over, the Methodist Episcopal Church reorganized in Georgia as a separate body from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Hammond, 1935). As separate entities, the MEC and MESC may have experienced the same stress that the re-united states experienced following the defeat of the Confederacy--particularly in our area that had suffered greatly in defeat.

While Liberty Chapel continued to be a MECS congregation, there were Methodist Episcopal Church congregations in the county and some of our early members joined with those congregations. They had been reared in the main body of the Methodist Episcopal Church are desired to return to it, and did not like a division between Southern and Northern Methodist churches after the War was concluded. At least wo ministers with connections to Liberty Chapel left the MECS ministry to join the newly re-organized MEC conference. Rev. Alfred Dorman who had pastored this congregation and had relatives who were members of Liberty Chapel. Rev. John Murphy, M.D., who had married trustee Elisha Hillís daughter Nancy, was one of the leaders in the re-organization of the Methodist Episcopal church in this state and is documented in the history of that body (Hammond, 1935). Alfred Dorman gave land and John Murphy was a trustee for another church called Liberty in Fayette County (Deed book I, page 677) that was designated as a Methodist Episcopal Church in America (sometimes called Northern Methodist).

In 1939, the various branches of Methodism reviewed in this article were merged back together and referred to as the Methodist Church. Other mergers have occurred through time to make the rich body of what we now know as the United Methodist Church (Lawrence, 1991).

Resources:

Hammond, E. J. (1935). The Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia. Atlanta, GA.

Lawrence, H. (Ed.). (1991). Asbury's Georgia visits (Abstracted from his Journal). Milledgeville, GA: Boyd Publishing Co.

Lawrence, H. (1991). Clues to Methodist research in Georgia. Milledgeville, GA: Boyd Publishing Co.

Smith, G. G. (1877). The History of Methodism in Georgia and Florida, from 1785 to 1865. Macon, GA: Jno. W. Burke & Co.


View Photos of Cemetery & 1998 Cemetery Survey 

[Personal Memories of Liberty Chapel/Inman UMC Church [ Member Register - 1883   [ Member Register - 1887

[ Member Register - 1891   [Member Register - 1898   [ Member Register - 1945   [ Inman - Pastors & Infant Baptisms - 1898-1928

[Inman Circuit Church Rolls - 1935-1936   [Pastors


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