History of Religion

Despite the area's frontier-like conditions, Oglethorpe County established numerous early churches. As Indian aggression in the latter part of the 18th century continued to threaten Oglethorpe County's residents, many church congregations chose to meet in private homes for protection.

Baptists came to the county during the early years. During the 1830s-1840s, a schism arose over missions, resulting in the creation of the Primitive Baptists and Missionary Baptists denominations. The early Baptist churches in Oglethorpe County were the Sardis, Bethany, Salem, and Cloud's Creek churches.

Scotch-Irish emigrants from North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania brought the Presbyterian faith with them to Oglethorpe County. In 1785, the Reverend John Newton and a group of Pennsylvanians established Beth-Salem Church, the earliest Presbyterian church in the county and the first Presbyterian church in north Georgia. It was located a few miles southwest of Lexington. The church building was burned in 1817 by the Indians. The remaining members rebuilt the church at the same site and named it New Beth-Salem Church. In 1822, the Reverend Thomas Goulding relocated the church to Lexington and renamed it Lexington Presbyterian Church. The Beth-Salem/Lexington Presbyterian Church is the oldest continuously organized Presbyterian congregation in the Synod of Georgia. Some of Oglethorpe County's most prominent residents are buried in the church cemetery.

Dr. Thomas Goulding established the first Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Georgia and the South in 1828. This institution is now located in Decatur, Georgia.

Lorenzo Dow led the state's first Methodists into Oglethorpe County. The first Methodist gathering in the state was held by the Broad River in 1809. Methodists lived in great numbers in the Broad River area. The Methodists of Oglethorpe County provided missionaries to preach to the slaves. One of the earliest Methodist churches was located near Goose Pond. It was burned during the Civil War for its nails. The oldest and best known Methodist churches in the area are the Cherokee Corner and Mount Pleasant churches.

In 1849, Reverend George White listed the county's religions groups as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Swedenborgian. As of 1989, the principal denominations in Oglethorpe County included Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Christian, Church of God, Holiness, and Presbyterian.