Church Day shows off rich Coweta history
by Bradley Hartsell
The churches of Coweta County got their day to share their rich history on the Court Square in downtown Newnan on Saturday.
More than 20 churches set up tents on the square and inside the former Scott’s Bookstore building, given the rainy forecast, to present facts and artifacts of the extensive early 1800s history in Coweta County. Churches had people ranging from pastors to dedicated congregation members representing their history.
One church – Turin United Methodist – had literature at its booth on its humble beginnings. According to current member Martha Arnold, the church started in 1828 in a log house in Tranquil Cemetery. Known for 10 years as Tranquil Methodist Church, it moved to Turin. Turin United Methodist had difficulties after the move, however, when the building burned down decades ago. In the church’s booth Saturday, Arnold displayed pictures showing the building prior to the fire and how it was rebuilt to look almost exactly the same as the old one.
“We have survived many trials,” said current pastor Scott Ballentine, appreciating the history of his church and the many hurdles it cleared in order to be around nearly 200 years later.
Ballentine explained how Turin United Methodist was in a Coweta four-point charge. In the Methodist system, a pastor is assigned to a charge that may include more than one church. Ballentine spoke about how the small congregations in the 1800s led Turin to be in a four-point church, but even today, Mt. Carmel and Faith Creek share a pastor.
Of the early 1800s four point charges – Turin, Bethel, Cokes Chapel and Mt. Gilead – three are still active, all with the exception of Bethel. In fact, all three active churches participated in Saturday’s Church Day on the square.
Cokes Chapel was established in 1833, and the building it still congregates in today was built in 1850. According to member Jennie Underwood, the land was deeded to the church in 1842 for only $25.
Among Cokes Chapel’s biggest draws in its booth were posters containing photographs of the church building throughout the years. According to Underwood, Cokes Chapel had segregated seating before the days of the civil rights movement, and in the photographs on the poster, the structural posts inside the church still stand where they once segregated races.
The pictures also show a rock stepping stone left at the church, kept for commemoration. The stepping stones used to help people get onto their horses and is still shown as a way to honor history.
“I used to play on those as a kid,” said Underwood with a laugh.
Jan Bowyer, co-chairmen of the Coweta County Civil War Sesquicentennial Centennial Committee, was pleased with her turnout given the clouds and rain sprinkles that had several churches flocking to the old Scott’s Bookstore building for safety.
The event Saturday paves the way for Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s Oct. 10-12 Battle of Brown’s Mill reenactment. Bowyer says events like Church Day on the Square give Cowetans a chance to sample the county’s life from the 1800s.
In a program the week before, the committee highlighted 1800 businesses in Coweta County. Saturday and Sunday had Church Day and Sacred Harp Singing to show church life in the 1800s. This Saturday, NCHS is holding A Window into the Past, a battlefield tour.